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Dear America Wiki

"Friend, if I was a brave girl, I'd have asked that Yankee whether I would be punished if I limped on upstairs to Master's library and started reading and writing. Master never did say we was free, but I guess we are. I can't wait until we get a school. I'll be the first pupil there."

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl is a fictional diary by Joyce Hansen; her only book for the series. It was the seventh book in Scholastic's Dear America. The book was published in October 1997 and republished in July 2011 with new cover art. It was followed by West to a Land of Plenty by Jim Murphy.

The book follows Patsy, a newly freed girl, as she discovers her passion for teaching during the Reconstruction era.


"For my dear nieces, Lisa, Tracy, Coughangela, April, and Megan. And my favorite nephew, Austin, III."

Book description[]

"Sunday, August 20, 1865
Dear Friend,
The children were so happy to see me this morning. They ran over when I reached the arbor. I felt as though my soul would rise and fly, as our song says.
We walked together to the spinning house. I will call it a schoolroom—even though it's not a real schoolroom, and I am not a real teacher. I gave each older child a paper with all of the letter, just he way Annie and Charles's teacher used to do....
One of the old women said to me, "You such a quiet little thing, but you sho' know how to teach them letters."
I surprised myself when I said thank you without stammering.

"My name is Patsy. This is my story....
Patsy, an orphaned slave, has taught herself to read and write on the sly. After the Civil War ends and slavery is abolished, Patsy believes her master will keep his word and pay the former house slaves and provide an education for the slave children. But when Master Davis ignores his promise to establish a school, and the Freedmen's Bureau can't send a teacher, Patsy steps in to teach the students, old and young, to read and write.
Patsy's diary is filled with courage, conviction, and hope as she strives toward freedom—freedom from slavery and freedom from the limitations placed on her by others.


In April 1865, orphaned Patsy is given a diary as a joke by Master Davis's niece and nephew who are going away. Unbeknownst to the pair, Patsy has secretly learned to read and write by watching their lessons. Everyone around Patsy underestimates her because of her stutter and her leg which is longer than the other. They treat her like a "dunce" who cannot speak for herself. Later, soldiers from the Freedmen's Bureau come to the Davis Hall Plantation. Master Davis agrees to pay the now free workers a part of the cotton crop. The house servants, excepting Patsy and Nancy, will receive a wage.

As the days go by, attitudes towards their former masters begin changing. Patsy, for her part, begins calling them Mister and Missus (or Sir and Ma'am). Many of the workers begin leaving, including some of Mister's and Missus's favorites. As Cook leaves, she says "If I stay in this house where I been a slave, I'll never know I'm free." Later, Patsy begins attending worship at the bush arbor with the others, instead of the white church with Mister and Missus. She enjoys the service there better, especially when Reverend McNeal comes to speak. He promises that there will be a school on the plantation soon.

With many of the house servants now gone, Patsy becomes closer to Ruth and her son Luke. Eventually, Patsy has the courage to reveal her secret to Ruth. She immediately begins teaching Ruth and Luke the alphabet. Patsy also teaches the other young children on Sundays and occasionally reads the newspaper to their older people at their Union League meetings. Meanwhile, everyone continues waiting for the teacher's arrival. However, when the appointed day arrives, they are sorely disappointed. However, when Patsy later makes a comment about teaching, Ruth instantly agrees that she is the perfect teacher.

In early September, Ruth's husband John returns for his wife and child. Several days later, Mister suddenly passes away from illness. Missus is forced to learn about running the plantation. Later, Patsy's friend Mister Joe begins working there as the cook. He often covers for her, allowing her to go teach the children. In December, he gives her a book from which she choses her name, Phillis Frederick, after Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass. The following January, when the crop comes in, Missus refuses to give or sell land to the workers whom then decide to leave. Patsy makes up her mind to go with them.


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly characters
  • Patsy, an orphan with a stutter who has secretly learned to read and write. After being granted her freedom, she begins teaching the other children and gains confidence.


Main article: Joyce Hansen

Joyce Hansen is an award-winning American children's and young adult author whom primarily focuses on African-American history. Hansen was a teacher in New York City for twenty-two years, before retiring in 1995. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly is the only contribution by Hansen to Dear America. Hansen got inspiration for Patsy's character while reading the diary of Emma Holmes, a real woman who lived in Charleston in 1865. Her description of a servant named Ann as "lame, solitary, very dull, slow, timid, and friendless" immediately struck Hansen, who began formulating questions such as "What if she were actually quite bright?"


  • Narrator: Janine Jackson
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Published: 1999
  • No. of cassettes: 5
  • ISBN: 0439062497[5]
  • Note: Published as a part of Scholastic's READ 180 program.[6]

  • Narrator: SiSi Johnson, Barbara Rosenblat
  • Publisher: Live Oak Media
  • Published: August 30, 2005[7]
  • Running time: 4 hours and 10 minutes
  • No. of discs: 4
  • ISBN: 9781595194763[8]



  • The portrait on the cover of the first edition is a detail from the 1879 painting La Négresse by Abigail May Alcott Nieriker. The background is a detail from the c. 1860 painting Plantation Burial by John Antrobus.[10][11]
  • Tim O'Brien illustrated the portrait on the cover of the 2011 reprint. The background is a reversed detail from Plantation Burial by John Antrobus.[12]


See also[]

Arts & Crafts

Dear America

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


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

External links[]