Book: Sisters against Slavery: A Story about Sarah and Angelina Grimké by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson, illustrated by Karen Ritz
Genre: children’s chapter book
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
Publication date: 1999
Summary: Sisters against Slavery: A Story about Sarah and Angelina Grimké by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson begins with 5-year old Sarah running away from home, “she didn’t care where she went as long as there was no slavery.” Sarah and her younger sister, daughters of a South Carolina plantation owner, did leave their home when they were grown to become Quakers, abolitionists, and advocates for women’s rights. At a time when women did not speak in public, both sisters traveled and lectured widely, starting with small groups in parlors but, when the audience grew too large, also in larger venues.
They faced confrontation at every turn. Even their abolitionist friends, who originally encouraged the public speaking, were critical when they brought women’s rights into the mix. But for the sisters, the two issues were linked. Angelina countered the criticism in a letter:
Can you not see that woman could do and would do a hundred times more for the slave, if she were not fettered?
Angelina Grimké became the first American woman to speak before a government body when she spoke against slavery at the Massachusetts State House on February 21, 1838.
Thoughts: Near the end of Between Barack and a Hard Place, Tim Wise suggests that white Americans need to know our history better, particularly the stories of white people who allied themselves with blacks in the cause of justice. Of the several names that he mentioned, I only found a couple that had easily accessible biographies — some don’t even appear in Wikipedia! In the case of Sarah and Angelina Grimké, he was certainly correct. This is a story that I should have heard long ago, say when I was about ten. In fact, I would have adored this story when I was ten right along with one of my favorite books, Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry. I’m so pleased to see this book written for that age group so that future generations will learn what I did not.
Appeal: This book will appeal to the young independent reader attempting to understand some of the more challenging aspects of US history in ways that are age-appropriate. The pencil drawings, with expressive faces, fit well with the tone of the story about conservatively dressed Quaker women.
Challenges: I’m going to count this as my first book for the War Through the Generations challenge about the US Civil War.
Reviews: I didn’t find other reviews, but Chris Barton, the author of The Day-Glo Brothers (a book that the kids I read to last summer loved), included Sisters Against Slavery in a list of books about siblings.
Have you read this book? What did you think?