Reviews for Liberty or Death : The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided With the British During the American Revolution


Booklist Reviews 2010 January #1
*Starred Review* In too many American history books for young people, the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War begins and ends with Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre. Blair provides a well-researched account of slaves in Virginia who, beginning in 1775, fled to the British. The royal governor of the colony hoped to put down the rebellion in part by offering freedom to slaves of rebels (but not of loyalists) who would flee their masters and fight for the British side. Foraging, fighting, spying, and working as laborers, they risked their lives for liberty, and many of them died. At the war's end, the British transported some 3,000 former slaves to Nova Scotia, and later sent nearly half of those to a new settlement in Sierra Leone. Though told in a matter-of-fact tone, the story is often heart-wrenching: the slaves, offered freedom for strategic rather than moral reasons, died in great numbers, and those who survived were promised benefits that never fully materialized. Colorful reproductions of period paintings, prints, and documents illustrate the clearly written text. Back matter includes a time line, source notes, and lists of recommended books, places to visit, and Web sites. A fine and singular addition to American history collections . Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
During the Revolutionary War, slaves were promised freedom in exchange for fighting with the British. The book examines the truthfulness behind the pledge, in addition to individuals' escapes from slaveholders and their struggles to begin lives anew in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone after the war. Ample reproductions of period art and a map provide additional detail about the Colonial era. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 December #1
Not much has been written for young readers about runaway slaves who sided with the British during the American Revolution, so this fine work is a welcome addition to the field. As M.T. Anderson did fictionally for older readers in the second volume of the Octavian Nothing saga (The Kingdom on the Waves, 2008), Blair tells the story of Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment. Though a slaveholder himself, Lord Dunmore offered freedom to slaves who fought for the British, though the offer only applied to slaves whose masters were in rebellion against the crown. Estimates vary, but at least 15,000 to 20,000 slaves answered Lord Dunmore's call. These black loyalists fought in a separate regiment from white soldiers, while the 5,000 who fled to the patriot side fought in integrated units, a fascinating indication of the complex meanings of freedom in this turbulent time. Clear writing and a lively, if busy, format make this an eminently readable work, and maps, drawings, paintings and sidebars heighten the appeal. The epilogue offers historical perspective and celebrates the determination of the black loyalists to "live and thrive as free men and women." Another solid history from National Geographic. (timeline, resource guide, index, sources) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 March

Gr 5-8--In 1775, when British loyalist Lord Dunmore of Virginia issued a proclamation promising that escaped slaves who agreed to fight for the British could earn their freedom, hundreds of desperate men, women, and children answered the call. Riveting portrayals of famous battles and harrowing sea adventures, along with stories of slaves' ingenuity, the crucial part they played on both sides of the war, their fight to be compensated as they were promised, and, most importantly, their valiant efforts to seize their freedom highlight this little-known chapter of American history. Historical documentation such as certificates of freedom, emancipation proclamations, and reproductions of 18th-century oil paintings and drawings appear throughout. Personal quotes and anecdotes help to reveal the slaves' resolve and hopefulness and explain the difficult choices they made in regard to which side to ally themselves.--Margaret Auguste, Franklin Middle School, Somerset, NJ

[Page 173]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2010 June
Liberty or Death brings to light the irony of Patrick Henry's famous oration. The patriots who wanted "liberty or death" for themselves were not willing to give their slaves the same consideration for liberty. It tells the story of the African Americans who chose to serve in the British military during the Revolutionary War because the British were willing to offer them their freedom. After the war, these former slaves--who were offered property and money in exchange for their military service--had another battle to fight: the promises made to them at the beginning of the war were not willingly kept. This book follows the former slaves from America to Nova Scotia and finally to Sierra Leone. While it is clear that the British were more forward-thinking about the morality of slavery than were their revolutionary counterparts, it is also clear that they were more interested in winning a war than in making any grand statements about slavery in general This book deals with an interesting topic that has not been given much coverage. While attractively packaged it would be better if it contained more information. Full-page graphics detract from the narrative flow and make the reader feel like the illustrations are compensating for a lack of informational content. While this is a worthwhile book to add to collections, it will leave readers wanting more detailed information about the subject. ? Kristin Andersen 3Q 4P M J Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 February
Little information is available on the role of African Americans and their contribution to the Revolutionary War. This historical piece adds a much-needed dimension to the role of African Americans during this time period. Promised freedom and land in exchange for serving with the British, slaves risked their lives in hopes of finding a better life after the war's end. Neglect, deceit, disease, and the continued power struggle by whites led the surviving slaves to the barren land of Nova Scotia. This piece of literature helps give voice to the suffering and struggle many African American men, women, and children faced for the promise of freedom. This book will enhance any historical collection for students in middle school.--Juli Zimmerman Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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