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FREEDOM OVER ME, ELEVEN SLAVES, THEIR LIVES AND DREAMS BROUGHT TO LIFE  by Ashley Bryan

What is the value of one human life? Ashley Bryan, author and illustrator, contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of an individual’s hopes and dreams. In this picture book Ashley Bryan brings to life the people behind slave-related documents of the mid-1800’s. We meet Peggy, one of the eleven slaves recently put up for auction, her selling price was roughly $100 about the same price for a good horse.

Peggy was a self-taught expert herbalist and cook for the estate owners. She worked hard and carefully, knowing that everything she created and made went to the estate owners. She dreamed of her own Naming Day ceremony and her parents calling to her, “Mariama! Mariama!” She continued to dream of being free, of having her own life, creating a family, a home, a career of healing.

Each portrait reflects the role of song, call-and-response, ceremony, spirituality, community, and shared griefs in living a double life—doing what was demanded as slaves while keeping close in their hearts the “precious secret,” the constant yearning for freedom.

“When author/illustrator/artist Ashley Bryan acquired a collection of slave-related documents from the1820s to the 1860s he had in his hands a wealth of untold stories. And when he chose to give these people, swallowed by history, lives and dignity and peace, he did so as only he could. With the light and laughter and beauty that only he could find in the depths of uncommon pain. FREEDOM OVER ME is a work of bravery and sense. A way of dealing with the unimaginable, allowing kids an understanding that there is a brain, heart, and soul behind every body, alive or dead, in human history.”

FREEDOM OVER ME is a poignant, beautiful and engaging book that speaks to all – every age – of the value of every single person.  Ashley Bryan, illustrator, author, creator, now at 93 years old is indeed an American treasure, an amazing man who continues to make this world a better place

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