The Freedom Business
Illustrator: Deborah Dancy
Venture Smith's autobiography, a slave narrative first published in 1798, appears on the left-hand pages of this volume. Smith was the son of a Guinean prince, then slave to various American men, and eventually a free man-owner of one hundred acres of land and three houses. Juxtaposed with and inspired by his story are Marilyn Nelson's poems, which appear on the right-hand pages. Watercolor, ink, collage, and acrylic paintings illustrate both the narrative and the poems. Includes a preface to the poems and an artist's note.
JLG Release: Jan 2009
Awards & Honors
Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Book of 2008
Praise & Reviews
Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, The Horn Book Guide^, Kirkus Reviews*, School Library Journal
Junior Library Guild
Nelson expounds upon the themes of hard work, determination, racism, and family that fill Smith's tale. Smith did not reflect much on the events of his life-he wrote to record, not to analyze. Nelson's poetry fills in these gaps, as though her poems are Smith's interior monologue. Smith wrote, "I went and called at my old master Stanton's first to see my wife, who was then owned by him. As my old master appeared much ruffled at my being there, I left my wife before I had spent any considerable time with her." Nelson writes, "Can't take her home with me, where she belongs, / to warm my room with her smile, my pillow with her cheek. / She and our chilfren; owned. (God must bear wrongs / like a strong black man pretending to be meek.)"
Deborah Dancy's earth-toned, atmosperic painting enhance Nelson and Smith's writing, with recurring images-broken lines, blood-like spatters-that evoke elements of the slave experience. Nelson's poetry and Dancy's painting demonstrate how art is often inspired by real events or even by other artwork. Their examples will increase readers' appreciation and understanding of the creative process.
Autobiography; biographical poetry.
6" x 10"
Level 6.9; Points: 2;
Scholastic Reading Counts
Level 11.4; Points: 5;
Potentially Sensitive Areas
Language: Mild Language
Venture Smith (ca, 1729-1805), Polygamy, Marital discord, Guardians, Kindness, Reunions, Invaders, Tribute, Trust, Lies, Capture, Torture, Resistance, Slavers, Names, Small pox, Cruelty, Escape, Double-crosses, Beatings, Swindles, Freedom, Money, Thrift, Death, Trade shipping, Land ownership, Growing old,