The summer of 1898 is filled with ups and downs for 11-year-old Moses. He's growing apart from his best friend; his superstitious Boo-Nanny butts heads constantly with his pragmatic, educated father; and his mother is reeling from the discovery of a family secret. Yet there are good times, too. He's teaching his grandmother how to read. For the first time she's sharing stories about her life as a slave. And his father and his friends are finally getting the respect and positions of power they've earned in the Wilmington, North Carolina, community. But not everyone is happy with the political changes at play and some will do anything, including a violent plot against the government, to maintain the status quo.
One generation away from slavery, a thriving African American community - enfranchised and emancipated - suddenly and violently loses its freedom in turn of the century North Carolina when a group of local politicians stages the only successful coup d'etat in US history.
"The expert blending of vivid historical details with the voice of a courageous, relatable hero makes this book shine. (School Library Journal)
"Wright has taken a little-known event and brought it to vivid life, with a richly evoked setting of a town on the Cape Fear River, where a people not far from the days of slavery look forward to the promise of the twentieth century." (The Horn Book magazine)
"Relying on historical records, Wright deftly combines real and fictional characters to produce an intimate story about the Wilmington riots to disenfranchise black citizens. An intensely moving, first-person narrative of a disturbing historical footnote told from the perspective of a very likable, credible young hero." (Kirkus Reviews)
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A True, But Sad Story Come to Life & Remembrance
Getting interested in the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination recently gave birth to curiosity about what life must have been like afterwards for freed slaves and freedmen. Though I really wanted a happier ending, of course, I wanted the truth more. It has made me very thoughtful about how peoples torn from their original homes, shipped to a completely new culture and treated inhumanely have survived, and done in fair part, well.
I'd like to know how they have achieved this success, thus far.
The author does an excellent, no, outstanding job of weaving fictional characters into real events. As the blurb says, this town in North Carolina was successfully integrated
economically, culturally and socially to a positive extent, with even the critical element of
democracy, information, balanced with both black and white newspapers. But, of course,
the anger and hatred of losing the war and the economic dependency of slavery burnt
very hotly and deeply in many an otherwise "civil" Southern breast, so it just took a small
flame to set these feelings brightly alight, setting a whole section of the state back to the
ideological stone ages.
I'm glad to have read it. This kind of story telling teaches me more about history than I
can otherwise learn. Mere linear events are never divorced from people's feelings, their
human needs, their information and belief system, and the decisions they make that help or harm their survival.
- Lanna S. Seuret