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My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom

Henry Bibb was born in Kentucky in 1814. He was born to an enslaved mulatto woman and a free White man but, according to the law at the time, a child born to a slave was automatically considered a slave. During his early years Henry lived on the same farm as his mother but, by the age of ten, he found himself being hired out to various slaveholders, most of whom doled out atrocious abuse. Henry became a runaway at a young age, but was always caught and returned to his owner. When Henry became a young man he met and married another slave and fathered a child. Not wanting his daughter to live the life of a slave, Henry decided to escape across the Ohio River and head north.

It is at this point that Afua Cooper ends her fictionalized story of Henry Bibb’s early life, but she reveals important historical details of Henry’s later life in the epilogue. Henry Bibb finally escaped to Detroit in 1841, and eventually to Canada in 1850. He founded The Voice of the Fugitive, Canada’s first Black newspaper, was reunited with his mother and three brothers, but sadly never saw his wife and child again.

Afua Cooper writes a moving tale detailing the early life of Henry Bibb. Reading about his early struggles and the horrors of slavery, one can plainly see how this man came to be such a strong proponent of the antislavery movement. Writing the story from Henry’s point of view as a child will hopefully help young people relate more easily to the era of slavery and all its atrocities.

Written for students in the intermediate/early senior grades, this book would be an excellent resource when discussing Black History or for history buffs in general.

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Fall 2009. Vol.32 No.4.

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