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Monday, May 2, 2011

#BookReview: All Different Kinds of Free - Jessica McCann

First time novelist Jessica McCann skillfully brings the story of Margaret Morgan and her family to life in the historical novel All Different Kinds of Free, based on the Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania.  Though the author takes creative license in some parts, it is done to fill in the gaps in an effort to bring the reader a complete story.

There are conflicting stories about whether or not Margaret was indeed a free woman, manumitted by her master upon his death; or an escaped slave from Maryland living in Pennsylvania, a free state.  According to several public records, including the county sheriff's census, her family was listed as "free blacks."  What is known for sure is that Margaret was married to a former slave that bought his way out of slavery and that they had three children, two boys and a girl, all born free. Finding herself in financial distress, the widow of Margaret's former owner sends a slave catcher into Pennsylvania to retrieve "her property," in hopes that they can be sold and bring her enough money to pay her debts.

McCann does an excellent job of capturing not only Margaret and her family's story, but also that of the widow Ashmore.  She brings the case, which really became less about Margaret and her family and more about state's rights versus federal law, to the forefront and magnifies the showdown between the North and the South.

What did you like about this book?
Before starting this book, I had never heard of Margaret Morgan and was clueless that she sued Mrs. Ashmore for her freedom 20 years before the famous Dred Scott case.

What didn't you like about this book?
Not a thing.

What could the author do to improve this book?
The author's publishing house should do a much better job of promoting it.  It's an absolute must read and very few people I've spoken with have heard of it.





Published: April 2011
274pp


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