3/12/14

Addy Studies Freedom

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda

Plot

Philadelphia is buzzing with happiness and relief. The war is over, and everyone is hopeful about the future. Addy is especially excited because her parents are going to take a train down south (without concern about being forced into slavery again!) to find Sam, Esther, Uncle Solomon, and Auntie Lula. The family will be together again! Everywhere Addy goes, she's smiling: whether it's writing an essay on freedom for her homework assignment, heading to supper, or doing errands for her mother.

But it's on one of those errands that her smile disappears: when Addy goes to pick up meat from the butcher for the church's celebration the coming weekend, she learns that President Lincoln is dead. And not only dead, but assassinated. The war only ended on Sunday, and already there's concern it will restart. The joy is gone from people's faces. Church that weekend is a sermon about Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery to the Promised Land but never entering himself. People dress in dark, somber clothes, preparing for the funeral procession coming through Philadelphia on Saturday. Addy and her father go to the viewing (her mother is sick), and Addy reflects that while Lincoln freed the slaves, he won't be able to continue his work to make them equal; segregation still exists.

The lines for the viewing are enormous, and the crowds get belligerent from time to time. During one bout of shoving, Addy is separated from her father and briefly lost, until a white man gets her out of the way of the surging crowd. He helps Addy get back to father, and for the first time Addy's ever heard, a white man calls her father "sir." Addy and her father finally make it to the State House for the viewing and have a moment to pay their respects. As they walk home, Addy thinks about the man who helped her, and other white people who have treated the Walkers with dignity and respect, like the two people who hired her parents and the woman who helped her and her mother to freedom. Not everyone views her as an equal, but more and more are on the right track.


Looking Back

Five days after the Civil War ended, Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head. Lincoln died the next morning (Booth was shot dead April 26, when he refused to surrender; eight co-conspirators were convicted; four of them hanged). The country mourned their president, and many former slaves feared the war would resume and slavery be reinstated. But aside from the South being too destitute to continue the way--a big reason for its ending--people united in their grief, not only for Lincoln but also for those lost during the war. Only a few years later, in 1870, the fifteenth amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, ensuring that all men could vote, regardless of their skin color or former slave status (women didn't get the vote until the 1920s). That's pretty fast for an amendment. Part of it was fueled by the fact Republican candidate Ulysses Grant--commander of the Union troops in the Civil War--only narrowly defeated Democrat Horatio Seymour, and the Republican party saw that allowing all men to vote would increase the party's power. But people also wanted to honor Lincoln, as it was an important issue to him. In fact, Lincoln's desire for African-American suffrage was one of the reasons Booth murdered him.


Misc

My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006. I'd been married for almost two weeks at that point.

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