NONFICTION

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

Peachtree. Nov. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781561459353.
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Gr 1-5–In gentle and straightforward prose, Tate describes the extraordinary life of Black abolitionist William Still. Still’s father, mother, and siblings were enslaved on a Maryland farm in the 1700s. Still’s father, Levin, purchased his freedom and headed north. Still’s mother, Sidney, later escaped with her two daughters. After the family settled in Washington Township, NJ, they changed their last name from Steel to Still in order to protect themselves from slave catchers. Their family grew to 15 children. In 1821, Still was born. As a young boy, Still helped enslaved people escape by guiding them through the woods. As an adult, he secured a job as the office clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. He worked hard to earn the respect of his employers and one day became the manager. Still was instrumental in the abolitionist movement. His home served as a “station” on the Underground Railroad, and he recorded the stories of people who were enslaved in order to reunite them with their families. The text recounts the oppression and dehumanization of slavery but is not too graphic for the target age demographic. Near the end of the narrative, readers will be pleased to learn about a surprise family reunion that was the direct result of Still’s work. Tate’s expressive, colorful illustrations work well with the text to convey this important part of American history.
VERDICT This inspirational true story combines fact with a very readable narrative, spotlighting a pivotal figure in the abolitionist movement. A book that deserves a place on school and public library shelves.

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