William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad

Written & Illustrated by: Don Tate

For Ages: 6-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Enslavement, Historical Figures, Black Protagonists, Underground Railroad, Own Voices, Black Culture & Identity, Racism.

Summary: William Still was born a free Black man, but his parents liberated themselves from enslavement and unfortunately had to leave several of their children behind. William grew up economically disadvantaged (like so many Black folx still today) and dealt with racism in schooling, as well as many low-paying jobs. William grew up and worked as an adult for the Anti-Slavery Society, but was unfulfilled by the office clerk position. William wanted to be working to write legislation and giving speeches, but instead he worked in the office and the white men did what William yearned to do. Eventually, William is promoted to manager and he spends his time housing and assisting other people fleeing enslavement. One day, someone comes into William’s office and he is shocked to find out that the man is his older brother, also self-liberating from enslavement. From that moment on, William took down details from everyone he helped, tracing their journey and helping to reunite families.

William Still worked tirelessly to help freedom-seeking people, and to keep detailed records of those that crossed his path. He hid his records in a cemetery vault, as they were damning evidence of working actively against the legislation being passed to keep enslaving Black people and to persecute those who worked for their freedom. William eventually started a coal business and was extremely successful, and published a book with collections of stories that he wrote down from the folks he assisted on their journey to freedom.

This book is so important for classrooms, and to ensure that readers understand the complexities of our colonized history. William Still revolutionized how enslaved Black folks had their lives recorded, and he is to thank today for many families being reunited.

This book was kindly sent by Peachtree Publishing and is a contender for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list, but all opinions are my own.

Featured image for this post was gotten from here!

Don Tate

Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. He is also one of the founding hosts of the blog The Brown Bookshelf – a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, with book reviews, author and illustrator interviews. Don frequently speaks at schools, public libraries and writing conferences, and participates in book festivals.

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