Free Boy: A True Story of Slave and Master

Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley. Univ. of Washington, $18.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-295-99271-6
McConaghy and Bentley collaborate on an exhaustively researched account of a boy in Washington Territory who was "the first, last and only known fugitive slave to travel the tiny Puget Sound Underground Railroad." Charlie Mitchell's scant biography is interwoven with the more extensive one belonging to his master, surveyor-general James Tilton. Mitchell runs away from Tilton and his home in Olympia, Wash., on the eve of the Civil War at the urging of free blacks from Victoria, B.C. The recounting of his escape aboard a steamer, capture, and eventual freedom in Canada are captivating, as are the italicized, dramatized scenes that conclude several of the 10 chapters. These fictional portrayals of characters' thoughts and conversations help flesh out their personal sides, especially that of Mitchell, whose slave status didn't afford him the same well-documented history as Tilton. The myriad details of Tilton's life and ancestry can overwhelm the narrative, but the authors' admirable primary-source detective work results in a context-rich story that shines a light on racial attitudes and Civil War politics in pre-statehood Washington. Ages 10–15. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/18/2013
Release date: 01/01/2013
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