Book Title: Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story Author: Rita Lorraine Hubbard Illustrator: John Holyfield Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc. Age Range: Grade 1 – 2
In celebration of Black History Month, I'm honored to review Hubbard's inspirational picture book Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story.
William “Bill” Lewis was born a slave on a Tennessee plantation owned by Colonel James Lewis. When Bill was just a young boy, Colonel Lewis put him to work as a blacksmith rather than in the fields.
As his owner, Colonel Lewis owned all the money Bill made from his blacksmith work but he let Bill keep a few coins. Bill knew that if he saved up his money he could buy his freedom. If he bought his freedom, then he could buy his family's freedom too.
“As Bill’s stack of coins grew, so did his hopes and dreams. Each coin he saved brought him closer to purchasing his freedom. Once he was free, he could spend his money on whatever he wanted. And what he wanted was to free his family.”
In 1837, Lewis opened his own blacksmith shop in Chattanooga, where he worked on his days off on the plantation to make more money for his freedom ($350). This alone was a remarkable feat for a black man at this time. He then worked well into his fifties to buy freedom for his entire family; including his wife, mother, aunt, sister and brothers.
“Twenty-six years after Bill’s arrival in Chattanooga, his plan was complete. He had worked, sweated and prayed. Now he finally had his loving family around him, just like when he was a boy. Only now they were all free.”
This is a beautiful book about breaking the chains of slavery; and, the endurance and perseverance of black families.
Masterfully illustrated by John Holyfield, Hammering for Freedom: The William Lewis Story is Hubbard’s debut picture book and also the recipient of 2012 Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Awards which led to publication.