Meet Addy

Published in 1993; author Connie Porter; illustrators Melodye Rosales, Renee Graef, and Luanne Roberts


It's the summer of 1864, in North Carolina. America's Civil War has been going on for three years now. Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the southern half of the country has seceded to form the Confederate States of America and has ignored the order to free all slaves. Addy Walker, her mother Ruth, her father Ben, her older brother Sam, and her baby sister Esther are slaves on a plantation owned by Master Stevens. One stifling night, Addy wakes up to hear her parents talking about escaping north to freedom. Her father wants to leave right away, but her mother fears that the family will be torn apart and thinks they should wait until the Union soldiers can free them.

The very next day, before her parents can make any decisions, Master Stevens sells Addy's father and brother. Addy hears him discussing the sale as she serves lunch and tries to warn her family, but it's too late. Addy's mother sits her down for a talk one evening, a week later. She and Addy are going to run away the following night. Only she and Addy: Esther is too young to bring without Addy's father and brother to help. Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon, two elderly slaves who are honorary members of Addy's family, will take care of her baby sister. The next night, Addy gives Esther her rage doll Janie, to keep her company. Although it breaks their hearts to do so, Addy and her mother kiss Esther goodbye, leave her with the couple, and flee into the night.

They leave with a few precious possessions: food, water, men's clothing disguise themselves (including a felt cap for Addy that Uncle Solomon says is magic), a nickel, and for Addy, a cowrie shell that belonged to her great-grandmother, Aduke, who was stolen from Africa. Addy was named for her. Her mother hangs it around Addy's neck on one of Sam's leather shoelaces. After a few nights of traveling, they come to a railroad intersection, a landmark that means a safe house is near. Excited, Addy rushes through the woods right into a Confederate Army camp. In the darkness, the soldier who wakes up mistakes her for the slave boy in their camp. Addy pulls her lucky cap down low to hide her face, gets the water the soldier orders her to, and pretends to go to sleep. When she's sure the soldier is asleep, she creeps off in to the woods again, where her mother is waiting for her, breathless. More carefully, they continue through the forest until they find the house. Nervously they knock on the door, and the owner mistakes Addy for the slave boy as well, until Addy removes her hat. When the woman sees that she has escaped slaves on her doorstep, she ushers them in and springs into action, drawing baths, fixing meals, and getting new clothes for the pair. Very early the next morning, she hides Addy and her mother in a wagon and takes them to the Atlantic coast, where they will take a ship to freedom.

Looking Back

Colonists starting bringing slaves from Africa to the American colonies pretty much right from the start. Some European settlers, like the conquistadors from Spain, had tried enslaving Native Americans, but many succumbed to the unfamiliar diseases that the Europeans brought with them, like smallpox. By contrast, slaves from Africa or indentured servants from Europe were healthier and stronger. Soon the slave trade was established, bringing kidnapped Africans to Europe and the Americas for forced labor. Gradually, slave holders began to realize how very wrong their actions were, and by 1808 it was illegal to take slaves directly from Africa. But the buying and selling of people continued in the southern part of America where business was overwhelmingly agricultural, work that required long hours of back-breaking labor (business in the north was less conducive to slavery; therefore it was easier to convince the people in power to give up free labor).

Tensions between the northern and southern half of the country rose, with the south resisting what it viewed as unfair taxes (agriculture was taxed more heavily that traditionally "northern" trades) and a trampling of states' rights to decide their own laws--namely, the laws regarding slavery. With the election of Republican president Abraham Lincoln, the southern states followed through on their threat to secede. The Confederate States of America was comprised of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia (West Virginia seceded from Virginia; Alabama's Winston County also tried to secede from its state). The Union states were California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin. The Indian, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington Territories were part of the dispute; the north and south wanted them to be free or slave states as would suite their purposes.

The war lasted for four bloody years. Before and during it, slaves made daring escape attempts to get away from the abuse they suffered. Even "kind" slave owners were still forcing people, even children, to work for free. Along the way, escaped slaves were helped by other slaves giving subtle clues (like singing certain songs to warn of heightened security) and by abolitionists (people working to end slavery). In 1865, General Lee surrendered to General Grant, ending the war but not ending the racial tensions, some of which still exist today.


This book is dedicated to "my grandmothers, Adelle Houston and Mary Jemison Dunn, for the way back to my Addy."

Auntie Lula's skin is pale relative to Addy's, and she has grey-red hair and green eyes. Some slave owners had children with their slaves. Sometimes willingly...

The way Addy and her mother have to leave Esther behind really gets to me. The thought of leaving one my daughters like that is just heartbreaking. Especially when Addy and her mother discuss whether Esther, who's only a year old, will remember them whenever it is that they finally reunite.

The advice that Uncle Solomon gives (to go through every body of water they come by, to make their scent that much less detectable to dogs) has always stuck in my head.

The hole in the cowrie shell that Addy's mother uses to place the shell on Sam's shoelace? Good chance it was from a seastar "drilling" into the shell to eat the animal inside. Unless Aduke punched the hole herself with tools.

Fun fact: I'm related to General Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate troops. He was NOT in favor of slavery; instead fighting out of loyalty to Virginia. 

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