Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Freeman Walker-David Allan Cates

Freeman Walker
David Allan Cates
Unbridled Books, Oct 2008
ISBN: 9781932961553

Jimmy Gates is the son of a slave and her master. He receives his "freedom papers" and a copy of the Declaration of Independence from his father who sends him to England to be educated at a boarding school. He adapts to his all white surroundings with ease and is doing well at school.

However, everything changes when his father, coming to England to see his pre-teen offspring, drowns during the Atlantic crossing. Jimmy quits school and obtains work in England making horse saddles; which he does for six years. As the Civil War explodes Jimmy, calling himself Freeman Walker, returns to the States. However, the eighteen years old Freeman opts not to join the army, but instead heads west seeking gold.

Jimmy-Freeman is more a symbol of a relatively forgotten group, the free black, during the years just prior to and during the Civil War. Thus he never fully gets past the role of representative as major events seem impervious to his story. Still this is a fascinating look at somewhat ignored piece of American history as the reader obtains a deep look at what a free black had to do to survive in a world that always assumed he had to be a runaway slave.

Harriet Klausner

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