In the introduction, Mr. Walker discusses his extensive research and different approaches to the project. He decided to write the story in the first person, and I agree that it allows the reader to drop into the life of Mr. Douglass in a more personal way. It is heart-rendering to watch his innocence as a young child stripped away the moment he realized his life was not his own. It is a painful and devastating moment that is executed very well. Using Mr. Douglass’s speeches, autobiographies (He wrote three.), and other resource material, we are taken on his journey from a slave to a free man that reflects the complex person he was, as well as the men and women he dealt with. From Harriet Tubman to Abraham Lincoln to John Brown, all of the men and women are presented as flawed human beings who each had a vision of a better America, but advocated different paths to end slavery.
I was not terribly enthusiastic about the art when I first thumbed through the book. Art is subjective, and my tastes differ from other people; however, as I read the book, I realized the strong brush strokes and lack of detail in some instances were not so much a flaw, but served to emphasize the subject matter and the brutality he lived through as a slave. Occasionally, I found the colors to be a tad dark in a few instances and made it hard to see what was going on, but otherwise they were well done and worked to make the story more powerful.
This book was incredibly interesting and something that should be read in junior high school. If you had the type of American history classes that I had growing up, you were forced to learn names and dates and never learned the stories behind the people. There is only one word for that: boring.
This graphic novel makes history come alive and is accessible to kids (and adults).
Creative Team: Damon F. Walker (writer), Damon Smyth (artist), Marissa Louise (colorist), James Guy Hill (letterer)
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
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