Every nation has its collection of stories replete with heroes, struggles, and accomplishments. That story helps a people to define itself and to take pride in its history and its values. Like other nations The United States has its story and has established its heroes. However, few of those stories are built on the accomplishments of men and women of color. Seldom have brave Black Americans been celebrated. Our children do not read their stories
With greater knowledge of African American history will come greater respect for Blacks among our White citizens. Perhaps even more important is the role that such exemplars can play in helping today’s young Blacks to recognize their own worth and to aspire to greater participation in our society and government. That is why I am particularly eager to recommend Patrick Gabridge’s historical fiction Steering to Freedom.
Not only do I recommend this well written and engaging story of Robert Smalls but I urge that every young American of all backgrounds read it. I hope that every school system in America will make it required reading. His is a story of bravery, action, and intelligence in the face of overwhelming odds. He is a hero whose story should be known and celebrated by all of us.
Smalls was the moving force behind a small group of slaves who stole a Confederate ship and sailed it to Union lines. However, the story only begins there because Smalls then served in the Union navy and became the first Black to command a Unites States naval vessel.
I urge you to read Steering to Freedom and to encourage your children to read it as well. Then take a copy to the social studies teachers and American literature teachers in your community’s schools. While you’re at it, perhaps you can suggest it to your local library.