“Come August, come freedom: The bellows, the gallows and the black General Gabriel” Gigi Amateau

Candlewick Press, 2012. 231 pp. Includes “Author’s Research Note.”

Come August come FreedomThe story of Gabriel, a slave born in 1777, is told for the first time in Amateau’s historical fiction tale of his life. Using imagined thoughts, along with primary source documents of the period. Amateau tells of slave life on a Virginia plantation during the height of the Revolutionary War. Everywhere, planters are screaming for freedom from the King of England, yet hold thousands of slaves in bondage. Gabriel was born dreaming of freedom, wanting the taste of having no man own his body, and being free to go wherever and with whomever he pleased.

Gabriel grows up to become a blacksmith and in 1800, through a series of events, learns of a successful slave rebellion in Saint Dominigue Haiti led by Touissant L’Ouverture a slave. Gabriel wants freedom for himself, his wife, his unborn children, as well as friends, family and slaves throughout Virginia. He believes he can lead a group of slaves to freedom, just like Touissant, and sets about finding and making weapons, and seeking men to join his makeshift army of rebellion against the White slave owners.

Despite knowing what eventually happened to Gabriel, readers aged 12 and up will be caught up in his heartfelt plea to be free and will also be drawn into the horrible institution of slavery prevalent in our nation struggling to gain its own freedom from England. As I used to tell my students when I was an elementary school teacher: “Imagine how different the United States would be now if the Founding Fathers had abolished slavery in the Declaration of Independence when they insisted on their own freedom. There would have been no Civil War, and none of the many evil events that occurred in our nation’s history due to the struggle of African Americans to own their own bodies would have happened. America would be a completely different country.”

I’m sure “Come August, come Freedom” will win a Coretta Scott King award at the upcoming ALA Media Awards in Seattle. Stay tuned…


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