Gather Around Children and Let Me Tell You a Story

One of the nice things about Mr. Weeks’s decision to lodge a complaint about me with my school is that I ended up with an advanced copy of Entangled in Freedom.  I am trying to make my way through it, but it has been incredibly difficult.  It is much worse than I originally thought.  In fact, the book is downright dangerous and has no place in a classroom that is dedicated to presenting young children with an accurate view of the past.  Rather than try to put together a formal review, I’ve decided to share passages from the book.  This first one takes place early on the book as Isaac is preparing to leave with his master (Abraham Green) for the war.  In this scene Isaac is talking with an elderly white woman, Mrs. Jessica Fair, about the war and his place within it.  The setting is 1862 and Isaac is the narrator:

So, I asked Mrs. Fair, “What advice do you have for me?  I don’t want any trouble.”

“That’s a good question.  Newton County [Georgia] has been training you for this day Isaac all your life.  We in the county knew that slavery wasn’t going to last always.  I want you to come back a leader.  Help us rebuild this community.  Leaders don’t wait until trouble comes; they strategize for years about how to withstand the worst of circumstances.”  She looked at me to see if I understood what she was saying…. “When President Abraham Lincoln heard firsthand the intelligent words of Frederick Douglass, Lincoln realized that his world had already changed.  We in the Deep South knew all the time that black people are cut from the same board of cloth as whites.  That’s why Sally has been teaching all of your family to read and write, and why Abraham takes you to all of his business meetings.  He has been training you how to conduct yourself.  However; there are people from both the north and the south who still want to keep the slaves oppressed.”

Master Green interrupted and said, “I told Isaac.  It’s because of the laws in the state of Georgia.  That’s why I can’t set you free or I will go to jail…. [Mrs. Fair] “You make us proud in the war.  Abraham might be a farmer.  I believe in my heart of hearts that you will be a rich planter one day.  You remember this old lady.” [pp. 27-29]

I can only imagine what I am in for as Isaac and his master go off to war together.  The list of historical sources used for the book are included at the end and they are pretty much all online references.  They include Kelly Barrow’s books, a video of Edward Smith discussing black Confederates, a Son of the South site as well as an SCV web page titled, “Black History Month: Black Confederate Heritage.”  Surprisingly, they also include a reference to one of my posts on the upcoming Patrick Cleburne movie.  I must assume that their bibliography reflects their understanding of the history of slavery, race relations and the Civil War itself and if this is the case these two authors understand very, very little.

I hope I won’t have to field additional complaints about how I’ve handled this situation.  As far as I am concerned, to do so implies agreement with the historical basis of this story.  Stay tuned for future installments.

15 thoughts on “Gather Around Children and Let Me Tell You a Story

  1. Jeff

    The open biblical allusions are interesting, and I hope someone comments on them, but I’d like to know what is meant by “It’s because of the laws of the state of Georgia. That’s why I can’t set you free or I will go to jail.” What laws are being referenced? As far as I knew, slaves could be freed by their owners at any time

    Reply
    1. Terry Johnston

      Many southern states had laws on the books that either restricted or prohibited manumission. Some, and I’m not sure offhand whether GA was one of these, even required a special act of the state legislature before a master might free his slaves.

      Reply
      1. Marianne Davis

        There were also any number of strictures against educating slaves, but I guess Abraham Green was much too progressive to worry about those. Anyone else have a mental image of Mr. Green bringing his very special apprentice to all those business meetings?

        Reply
  2. Margaret D. Blough

    Kevin-Compared to that, the Flashman books are the scholarly marvels of all times (and I love the Flashman books that I’ve read, but they are openly fantasy.)

    Reply
  3. John

    I enjoy historical fiction. It can make you think about history from a different perspective. It’s also important though that the fiction be based on fact. Judging by the passage you quote, I’m surprised you were even able to make it through ten pages. The whole premise is contrary to history and is thus fatally flawed.

    Reply
  4. J. L. Bell

    The book appears to be suggesting that Isaac is Mr. Green’s son. Why else would the author name the characters “Abraham” and “Isaac,” and have this conversation, which makes little sense in any historical context, but slightly less sense if we assume that Green has been trying to find a way to free Isaac as his own child. Yes, that must be what the authors had in mind.

    (Or perhaps I’m just trying to tweak them even more.)

    Reply
  5. Marianne Davis

    “When President Abraham Lincoln heard firsthand the intelligent words of Frederick Douglass, Lincoln realized that his world had already changed. We in the Deep South knew all the time that black people are cut from the same board of cloth as whites.”
    Let me guess the next sentence —- “That’s why Mr. Green will be taking you through the lines to join the USCTs.”
    No? Really? Hmmm. . .

    Reply
  6. Margaret D. Blough

    >>Marianne Davis says:
    September 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm
    “When President Abraham Lincoln heard firsthand the intelligent words of Frederick Douglass, Lincoln realized that his world had already changed. We in the Deep South knew all the time that black people are cut from the same board of cloth as whites.”
    Let me guess the next sentence —- “That’s why Mr. Green will be taking you through the lines to join the USCTs.”
    No? Really? Hmmm. <<

    Marianne-No, it's "Sorry about selling your wife and child as well as your parents and siblings to those plantations in Mississippi. We had to do that to maintain our cover."

    Reply
    1. Marianne Davis

      Margaret,
      Silly of me to have missed that one. By extension, of course, with those sales the Greens were actually just planting the seeds of future civil rights leadership in Mississippi. How blind we have all been.

      Reply
      1. Margaret D. Blough

        Marianne-And I missed the fact that Georgia was sending agents to form sleeper cells to undermine slavery in Mississippi!!!!! Blindness is epidemic. The next thing that will come out, I predict, is that our hardy band of Georgians were the real sponsors of John Brown and the Secret Six just provided a cover.

        Reply
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