Dear America Wiki
Advertisement
Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with "A Picture of Freedom" (film).

"I come to know my ABCs and the sounds the letters make. I teached myself how to read words. Now, I can pick through things I find to read–like throwed away newspapers, letter in the trash, and books I slip off Mas' Henley's shelf. It scares me to know what I know sometimes."
Clotee[2]

A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl is a fictional diary written by Patricia C. McKissack. It is the fourth book in Scholastic's Dear America series. The book was first published in March 1997 and reissued in January 2011. It has also been republished in My Story and translated into multiple different languages. In 1999, a television film based on the book was released.

Clotee is a twelve-year-old girl enslaved on a Virginia plantation who secretly learns how to read and write in 1859.

Dedication[]

"Honoring Lizzie Passmore my great-great-great grandmother who dared to learn and teach"

Book description[]

"Day or two later
Freedom is one of the first words I teached myself to write. Down in the Quarters people pray for freedom—they sing 'bout freedom, but to keep Mas' Henley from knowin' their true feelings, they call freedom "heaven." Everybody's mind is on freedom.
But it is a word that aine never showed me no picture. While fannin' this afternoon, my eyes fell on "freedom" in a book William was readin'. No wonder I don't see nothin'. I been spellin' it F-R-E-D-U-M.
I put the right letters in my head to make sure I remembered their place. F-R-E-E-D-O-M. I just now wrote it. Still no picture....
"

"My name is Clotee. This is my story....
Twelve-year-old Clotee, a slave, has the most wonderful, terrible secret. While doing her job of fanning her master's son during his daily lessons, Clotee has taught herself to read and write. She knows that if she shares this secret with the wrong person, she will face unimaginable consequences. Soon she discovers that the tutor, Ely Harms, has a secret of his own.
In a time when literacy is one of the most valuable skills to have, Clotee is determined to use her secret to save herself and her friends. Her journey to freedom is wrought with the intrigue and disloyalty of spies and traitors, the celebrations of life, the bonds of family, and the anguish of death and slavery.
"

"Day or two later
Freedom is one of the first words I teached myself to write. Down in the Quarters people pray for freedom—they sing 'bout freedom, but to keep Mas' Henley from knowin' their true feelings, they call freedom "heaven." Everybody's mind is on freedom.
But it is a word that aine never showed me no picture. While fannin' this afternoon, my eyes fell on "freedom" in a book William was readin'. No wonder I don't see nothin'. I been spellin' it F-R-E-D-U-M.
I put the right letters in my head to make sure I remembered their place. F-R-E-E-D-O-M. I just wrote it. Still no picture...
"

"In 1859 it's illegal for slaves to read and write, but Clotee is teaching herself in secret. "Freedom" is just another word she's learned to write. Then she finds out about the Underground Railroad, a network of people who help runaway slaves, and discovers that freedom is more than just a word..."

""Freedom is one of the first words I teached myself to write. Down in the Quarters people pray for freedom—they sing 'bout freedom..."
In 1859 it's illegal for slaves to read and write, but Clotee is teaching herself in secret. 'Freedom' is just another word she's learned to write. Then she finds out about the Underground Railroad, a network of people who help runaway slaves to safety, and discovers that freedom is more than just a word... But when the opportunity comes, will Clotee risk everything to escape her cruel owners? And, despite the danger, could she help others to do the same?
"

""For the first time freedom showed me a clear picture. A picture of me."
It's 1859 and Clotee is a slave on a plantation. It's illegal for slaves to read and write, but Clotee is teaching herself in secret. 'Freedom' is just another word she's learned to write. Then she finds out about the Underground Railroad, a network of people who help runaway slaves, and discovers that freedom is more than just a word...
"

"Partage le journal intime de Clotee, et vis avec elle l'esclavage dans une plantation de coton en Virginie.
⸻⸻⸻⸻⸻
"Dimanche de Pâques. Liberté. C'est peut-être le premier mot j'ai appris toute seule. Ici, les gens, ils prient pour la liberté, ils chantent sur la liberté, mais pour pas que Maître Henley connaisse leurs vrais sentiments, ils appellent la liberté cieux. Tous, ils ont l'esprit fixé sur c'mot: liberté. Mais c'est un mot qui me parle pas, que j'ai encore jamais pu voir."
"

Plot[]

Twelve-year-old slave Clotee has learned how to read and write, while fanning William during his lessons with his mother Lilly Henley. Clotee has now pieced together a diary, in which she records her daily life. She was separated from her mother when she was young. An elderly couple, Aunt Tee and Uncle Heb are her surrogate parents, though she still misses her mother terribly. Clotee works in the "Big House" with Aunt Tee, who is Master Henley's cook. Her friend, Hince, who is like a brother to her, takes care of the horses.

In April 1859, Spicy comes to work in the kitchen. Aunt Tee suspects that she may be a spy, but she soon proves to be harmless. Meanwhile, Clotee learns about abolitionists, who help free slaves on the Underground Railroad. A few days later, Henley purchases a racing horse, named Dancer, and pretends that it is a gift for his son. Clotee suspects that William may try to ride Dancer. She informs his mother, but Lilly waves away her concern. Clotee's suspicions are right as William does try to ride him and injures himself. Master Henley goes into a rage, shooting Dancer and beating Heb, who helped saddle the horse.

Following Heb's death, Master Henley sends Aunt Tee and Spicy to the slave quarters. Clotee remains in the kitchen, but dislikes working with Eva Mae and Missy. A few weeks later, Ely Harms, a tutor for William, arrives. Clotee becomes suspicious of Mr. Harms, who appears to have learned her secret. In the meantime, she starts staying with Aunt Tee and Spicy in the quarters. They now have no secrets as Clotee divulges everything. In December, Mr. Harms finally reveals to Clotee that he is an abolitionist.

Master Henley makes a bet with the Campbelles', promising to give them Hince if they win. On New Year's Day, Hince loses the race since his horse was drugged, but he is unable to prove it. Hince tells Master Henley about Mr. Harms in exchange for his freedom papers. Clotee devises a plan to keep Mr. Harms from being hanged, though he is still forced to leave the plantation. Later, Clotee gets in touch with Mr. Harms, who promises to help her escape. Hince and Spicy, however, do not have time to wait, so Clotee comes up with good plan that works. Clotee decides to stay at the plantation and become a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Epilogue[]

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Clotee helped over one hundred people escape slavery. She was a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, Clotee traveled north but returned to Virginia in 1875. There she attended the Virginia Colored Women's Institute and went on to dedicate her life to the education of former enslaved persons. In 1939, she was interviewed by Fisk University student, Lucille Avery. Clotee shared her diaries, photos, and papers with Miss Avery for two months. On May 6, 1941, Clotee passed away. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of her former students.

During the war, Master Henley lost an arm at Fredericksburg while his wife "went mad" when Union soldiers set up a hospital in their home. Aunt Tee's herbal knowledge saved many soldiers. She died in 1864 and was buried next to Uncle Heb. Missy married a soldier out west after her mother died. Mr. Harms moved to Scotland after several failed business ventures. Among Clotee's papers, Miss Avery found letters from William, whom had been disinherited by his father for standing against prejudice. She also found a photo of Hince and Rose with their large family. They celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1910.

Historical Note[]

By the 1850s, slavery was well established in the United States. Wealthy planters in the southern states passed laws, known as slave codes, "that safeguarded their rights as slaveholders." Among many of the laws, black people were not allowed to be educated or hold meetings. Captives resisted slavery in many different ways, including work slow downs, arson, murder, suicide, and armed rebellion. If they had the chance, many would attempt to run away. Most who reached a free state were able to live as a free person until the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed slaveowners to enter free states to reclaim their "property." The case of Anthony Burns brought slavery and abolition to the forefront.

Abolitionist movements dated as far back as 1688. Prominent figures like William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Beecher Stowe spoke out against slavery. Abolitionists formed a network to help the enslaved escape. It became known as the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman became one of the best known "conductors." By 1859, the United States was on the cusp of the Civil War. The cost would be high on both sides, but ultimately the enslaved were "free at last." Eleven photos, two maps, the lyrics to "Go Down Moses," and a recipe for sweet potato pie are included.

Characters[]

Main article: List of A Picture of Freedom characters
  • Clotee, a slave who secretly learns how to read and write. She starts writing a diary, but keeps it a secret from her friends. Clotee works with Aunt Tee in the kitchen of the "Big House."
  • Spicy is Clotee's best friend. She is purchased by Lilly Henley and put to work in the kitchens in the spring of 1859. Spicy develops a crush on Clotee's friend Hince.
  • Aunt Tee, a surrogate mother to Clotee and the cook on the plantation since Master Henley only trusts her cooking. Her husband is Uncle Heb, who takes care of the garden and orchards.

Adaptation[]

Picture-of-Freedom-film

"A Picture of Freedom" on VHS

Main article: A Picture of Freedom (film)

A Picture of Freedom was adapted into a short television film in 1999. The film was produced by Scholastic Entertainment and aired on HBO. It was released on video cassette the same year. Canadian actress Shadia Simmons starred in the film as Clotee.

Author[]

Main article: Patricia C. McKissack

Patricia C. McKissack was an American children's writer. Her work focused mainly on African-American history. McKissack penned three books for Dear America, including Color Me Dark and Look to the Hills, and Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba for The Royal Diaries. A Picture of Freedom was McKissack's first full-length work of fiction. She received inspiration for the story from her great-great-great-grandmother, Lizzie Passmore. McKissack also used her research for her Christmas in the Big House as the setting.

Editions[]

Notes[]

  • The portrait on the cover of the first edition is a detail from the 1876 painting The Cotton Pickers by Winslow Homer. The background is a detail from the 1893 painting The Underground Railroad by Charles T. Webber.[17][18]
  • The portrait on the cover of the 2011 reprint was illustrated by Tim O'Brien. The background is a detail from a 1949 photograph of the Belmont Plantation by Winslow Williams.[19][20]
  • The portrait on the first My Story edition is a 1899 photograph from the Library of Congress. The background is licensed from the Hulton Archive.[21][22]
  • The cover of the second My Story edition was illustrated by Richard Jones.
  • The third My Story edition uses a photograph taken by Jeff Cottenden.
  • Euan Cook illustrated the cover of the fourth My Story edition of the book.[23]

References[]

  1. https://www.amazon.com/Picture-Freedom-Belmont-Plantation-Virginia/dp/0590259881/
  2. A Picture of Freedom, Patricia C. McKissack, page 3
  3. https://book.douban.com/subject/2090460/ (Chinese)
  4. https://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/immagine-liberta-diario-clotee-giovane/libro/9788845125454 (Italian)
  5. https://shop.scholastic.co.uk/products/1701
  6. https://www.amazon.fr/Je-suis-une-esclave-1859-1860/dp/2070570371/ (French)
  7. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Slave-Girl-Story-Patricia-McKissack/dp/1407115162/
  8. https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4774318868 (Japanese)
  9. https://www.amazon.com/Dear-America-Patricia-C-McKissack/dp/0545242533/
  10. https://booktabmarket.com/من-برده-هستم-دفتر-خاطرات-کلوتی (Persian)
  11. https://shop.scholastic.co.uk/products/95108
  12. https://www.amazon.fr/Suis-une-Esclave-Patricia-Mckissack/dp/2075077371/ (French)
  13. https://book.douban.com/subject/27046958/ (Chinese)
  14. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Picture-Freedom-My-Story/dp/070230381X/
  15. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005ES45ZO/
  16. https://www.overdrive.com/media/2241111/slave-girl
  17. A Picture of Freedom, Patricia C. McKissack, page 195
  18. https://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/art/explore-the-collection?id=19760930
  19. A Picture of Freedom, Patricia C. McKissack, page 233
  20. https://thomasbalchlibrary.pastperfectonline.com/Photo/E3A86D78-0F90-4239-821E-617648333641
  21. https://www.loc.gov/item/98517075/
  22. Slave Girl, Patricia C. McKissack, copyright page
  23. https://www.arenaillustration.com/artists/euan-cook/my-story-a-picture-of-freedom/

See also[]

Resources:
File:A Picture of Freedom Discussion Guide.pdf


Dear America
Original

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow

Relaunch

The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken


My Story
Original

The Hunger | Voyage on the Great Titanic | The Crystal Palace | Blitz | My Tudor Queen | Twentieth-Century Girl
The Great Plague | The '45 Rising | Civil War | Trafalgar | The Trenches | Battle of Britain | Mill Girl | Transported
Armada | Crimea | Bloody Tower | Indian Mutiny | Zulu War | Mayflower | Agincourt | Suffragette | Waterloo | Slave Girl
Flying Ace | Anne Boleyn and Me | D-Day | Victorian Workhouse | Spy Smuggler | Desert Danger | War Nurse
U-Boat Hunter | The Queen's Spies

1st relaunch

Princess of Egypt | Pompeii | Road to War | Roman Invasion | Viking Blood | Highway Girl | Sophie's Secret War
The Storm to Come | The Sweep's Boy | The Fall of the Blade | Pyramid of Secrets | Factory Girl | Dodger!
No Way Back | Wartime Princess | London Stories | Berlin Olympics | Lady Jane Grey | Nowhere to Run

2nd relaunch

Codename Céline

3rd relaunch

Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan | Ignatius Sancho | Princess Sophia Duleep Singh | Mary Prince

My Royal Story

Victoria | Anastasia | Cleopatra | Marie Antoinette | Elizabeth | Mary, Queen of Scots | Henry VIII's Wives

My True Story

What If They Find Us? | Hero at Dunkirk | Standing Alone | Give Us the Vote!

External links[]

Advertisement