Nobody's Boy

Overview

 

A work of historical fiction, Nobody’s Boy is loosely based on the real-life story of a slave named George Kirkland. George’s owner, Hugh Garland, the lawyer for Mrs. Emerson in the Dred Scott case, brought him to St. Louis at the age of about five. George’s mother, Elizabeth Keckly (dressmaker for and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln), bought his freedom and, in about 1860, sent him to college in Ohio. Like the main character in Nobody’s Boy, the light-skinned George ultimately joined a Missouri regiment ...

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Overview

 

A work of historical fiction, Nobody’s Boy is loosely based on the real-life story of a slave named George Kirkland. George’s owner, Hugh Garland, the lawyer for Mrs. Emerson in the Dred Scott case, brought him to St. Louis at the age of about five. George’s mother, Elizabeth Keckly (dressmaker for and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln), bought his freedom and, in about 1860, sent him to college in Ohio. Like the main character in Nobody’s Boy, the light-skinned George ultimately joined a Missouri regiment in the Civil War, enlisting as a white man on the Union side. Not long after, he died in the battle of Wilson’s Creek.            The early 1850s was an important time in Missouri—a turning point in the buildup to the war and the beginning of the historic Dred Scott case. The story of George’s short life is an intimate look at race and life in Missouri at this time, seen through the eyes of an African American boy who grew up on the color line.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Patricia Moore
A work of fiction based on historical data, nobody's boy is the story of a slave boy, George, and his mother Elizabeth, living in St. Louis in the late 1850s. Elizabeth Keckly, a skilled dressmaker, works hard to buy their freedom. Light-skinned George, a child born to Elizabeth after she was raped by her white owner, feels as if he belongs to no one. Helping another slave boy to escape, he gets to Illinois and safety, but returns to St. Louis to be near his mother. When the Civil War begins, George is a student at Wilberforce University. Passing for white, he enlists in the First Missouri Volunteers and is killed very early in the war. Skillfully and sensitively written, this work should appeal to all younger teens.
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old George is a slave who is coming to hate his condition. He also realizes that his mother and a slave named Chap are finding ways to fight their oppression. Chap is helping slaves escape; George's mother, Lizzie Keckly, aims to be "an upstanding citizen" and buy her freedom. George, who is fair-skinned enough to pass as white, realizes he can use his color as a weapon against servitude. Chap liked the "irony of George using his white skin against the white slaveholder." George's first act is to help a friend escape, acting as the white owner traveling with his slave. Based on the true story of a slave whose owner was involved in the Dred Scott case and whose mother became the dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln, this is a good story hobbled by a flat, scholarly tone, with too little dialogue or dramatic tension. Fleischner's biography of Elizabeth Keckly, Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship between a First Lady and a Former Slave (2003), will reward older readers who want to know more. (Fiction. 10+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883982584
  • Publisher: Missouri History Museum Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

 

Jennifer Fleischner is Professor and Chair of the English Department at Adelphi University in New York. She is the author of Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The Remarkable Story of the Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave.

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Table of Contents


Foreword     6
Family Tree of George Kirkland     8
Garland's George     11
The Stowaway     19
Returning Home     26
The Auction Block     31
Escape     41
Helping Fugitives     50
Household Tragedy     55
The Price of Freedom     64
A Surprise Visitor     74
Making Plans     81
Crossing the River     90
Saving a Friend     95
Epilogue     101
Timeline     106
Glossary     108
For Further Reading     110
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