The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery

Overview

When John Price took a chance at freedom by crossing the frozen Ohio river from Kentucky into Ohio one January night in 1856, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was fully enforced in every state of the union. But the townspeople of Oberlin, Ohio, believed there that all people deserved to be free, so Price started a new life in town-until a crew of slave-catchers arrived and apprehended him. When the residents of Oberlin heard of his capture, many of them banded together to demand his release in a dramatic showdown ...

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Overview

When John Price took a chance at freedom by crossing the frozen Ohio river from Kentucky into Ohio one January night in 1856, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was fully enforced in every state of the union. But the townspeople of Oberlin, Ohio, believed there that all people deserved to be free, so Price started a new life in town-until a crew of slave-catchers arrived and apprehended him. When the residents of Oberlin heard of his capture, many of them banded together to demand his release in a dramatic showdown that risked their own freedom. Paired for the first time, highly acclaimed authors Dennis & Judith Fradin and Pura Belpré award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez, provide readers with an inspiring tale of how one man's journey to freedom helped spark an abolitionist movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Fradins (Zora:! The Life of Zora Neale Hurston) bring into focus an incident that solidified the reputation of Oberlin, Ohio, as a place that welcomed and aided runaway slaves in this detailed picture-book account. In the autumn of 1858, a large group of residents, now known as the Rescuers, defied the Fugitive Slave Law (which made it legal to capture runaway slaves anywhere in the U.S.) and dramatically freed former slave John Price from armed slave hunters. Though the Rescuers were eventually tried as criminals and served jail time, their unwavering belief in freedom for all people helped spark disagreements that led to the Civil War. The narrative reveals the authors’ thorough research, though readers may have some difficulty keeping straight the large cast of characters. Velasquez (My Uncle Martin’s Words for America) sets a tense tone from the outset, with striking, inky paintings of Price’s initial escape under cover of night. His realistic portraits of Price and the townspeople of Oberlin convey powerful emotion and capture the clothing, architecture, and dangers of the era. Ages 7–9. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This beautifully-illustrated book will give younger readers a strong sense of a little-known but important event leading up to the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. The story focuses on the people of Oberlin, Ohio and their resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1950. When two escaped slaves arrive in Oberlin after a desperate escape from their masters in Kentucky, they are taken in by the people of Oberlin, many of whom are connected to both the Underground Railroad and Oberlin College; in fact, by the 1850s, many of the African-American citizens of Oberlin were escaped slaves. After a group of slave hunters capture a fugitive named John Price, the people of Oberlin spring to action, successfully reclaiming him from the slave hunters. Their success results in 90 days of jail time for the Oberlin Rescuers, but this is not cause for despair. Upon their return home, the people of Oberlin celebrate by reaffirming their belief that no fugitive slave will ever be taken forcibly from Oberlin. The illustrations for this text are realistic and add to the human element of this story. This is a beautiful and necessary book for any school library. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
In a collective act of protest and heroism, an Ohio community successfully defied the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. In 1856, John Price and two other Kentucky slaves crossed the Ohio River to freedom in Oberlin. Like many other runaways, Price stayed there. Two years later, when slave hunters tracked him down and captured him, the citizens of the town banded together to defend him. The Fradins recount the confrontation, known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, with its manifold legal and moral repercussions in a minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour narration. Words and illustrations combine in a fast-paced, breathless, cinematic flurry that stars genuine action heroes armed with rifles and large doses of courage and principle. Velasquez uses mixed media and oil paints to portray his characters as living and acting, never posing. Many illustrations are framed by wood strips, an effective period touch. How wonderful, too, that a double-page photograph of the Rescuers, as the Oberlin citizens came to be known, concludes the saga. Judith Fradin and her late husband, Dennis, were frequent collaborators; his Bound for the North Star (2000) is also about runaway slaves. History made immediate and meaningful. (author's note, bibliography, further reading, websites) (Informational picture book. 8-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—In 1856, John Price escaped from slavery in Kentucky by crossing the frozen Ohio River. Two years later, slave hunters arrived in Oberlin, Ohio, and attempted to take him back at gunpoint. Shopkeepers, farmers, teachers, and college students formed an armed group of Rescuers to release Price. Some members of the group were former slaves, risking their own freedom. Charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the Rescuers spent three months in jail. They returned home with a new purpose, vowing that "No fugitive slave shall ever be taken from Oberlin either with or without a warrant, if we have power to prevent it." The picture-book format is highly effective in conveying the power of the story. In Velasquez's dramatic mixed-media and oil paintings, determination shows in the stance of the figures and the set of their facial features. The book design is masterful. The front cover highlights John Price, surrounded by some of his champions. The back cover foreshadows a betrayal, with a hand dropping a gold coin into another hand, accompanied by the sentence, "How much is one man's life worth?" On the endpapers, a dark, quiet view of the river sets the stage for the conflict to come. Full-page images and spreads draw readers directly into the action. The final image is an 1859 large-scale photo of the Rescuers taken in the courtyard of the jail. This book could be used as a nonfiction partner to Christopher Paul Curtis's Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007) and as a resource in units about slavery, the Underground Railroad, or the Civil War.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802721662
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 261,787
  • Age range: 4 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

DENNIS and JUDITH BLOOM FRADIN have published more than 150 books for children. They have won many awards, including the 2004 SCBWI Golden Kite Honor book award for The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine. Their most recent National Geographic title 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft's Flight from Slavery was named one of Chicago Public Library's Best Books of the Year, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and received a Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Dennis is also the author of Duel, Let it Begin Here and The Signers: The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence, which won numerous awards, including an ALA Notable, an ABC Choice Award, and an IRA Teacher's Choice Award.

ERIC VELASQUEZ is the author and illustrator of Grandma's Records and Grandma's Gift, a Pura Belpré Award winner. He is also the illustrator of Houdini and The Piano Man, for which he won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. His most recent collaborations with Carole Boston Weatherford include I, Matthew Henson, which received four starred reviews, and Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive, which received two starred reviews.

www.ericvelasquez.com

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