Thursday, February 24, 2011

All Different Kinds of Free-Jessica McCann

All Different Kinds of Free
Jessica McCann
Bell Bridge Books, Apr 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781453877814

Mr. Edward Prigg of Mill Green, Maryland arrived in York County, Pennsylvania seeking Margaret Morgan a free woman of color. He gets Constable McCleary to assist him in bringing back to her owner Margaret Ashmore a runaway slave, Margaret Morgan; she insists otherwise and that they were neighbors for years. Mr. Prigg also claims Morgan’s children belong to Ashmore. However since she was born free, she has no papers of manumission. Judge Henderson states in accordance with Pennsylvania statue Personal Liberty Law, the bounty hunter must prove with documents the claim. Mr. Prigg kidnaps Margaret and her children with plans to sell them at auction while her husband Jerry was making a delivery in Trenton. This is the beginning of the Morgan family ordeal as Margaret does the unthinkable for a colored person as she fights for her freedom through the court system ending in a decision in 1842.

All Different Kinds of Free is a super timely historical biographical fiction told mostly in the first person by the heroine as she works diligently to regain her freedom all the way up to the Supreme Court in 1842. Margaret makes the story line work as she refuses to give up her quest for the wrongful stealing of her freedom so that she can return to her family. Mindful of the current fervor over documentation vs. profiling, readers will understand why Jessica McCann’s insightful look at the blood, sweat and tears of a family trying to regain what was taken from them won the 2009 Freedom in Fiction Prize.

Harriet Klausner

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