The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which allowed slave owners to capture runaways anywhere in the U.S., not only brought terror and pain to countless people. It presented a daunting challenge to those who listened to their conscience when it told them slavery was evil. The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery reveals the true story of how the people of Oberlin, Ohio, risked their lives and, in some cases, their freedom, to save John Price, who had escaped from Kentucky.
The dramatic picture book, brought to life with gripping, realistic paintings by Eric Velasquez, describes how “rough looking” men keen on getting a reward, pulled guns on John and abducted him. As they drove the wagon toward the nearby town of Wellington, John noticed an Oberlin College student walking down the road. John called out that he was being kidnapped. The student kept walking and seemed not to hear him.
Soon, the kidnapper pocketed his ill-gotten money. The Kentuckian Anderson Jennings, who had paid the reward, squirreled away in the attic of Wadsworth’s Hotel with John Price until they could board the next southbound train.
Back in Oberlin, things were not so quiet. That student had raced to town to announce that slave catchers had their friend John Price. In no time, hundreds of citizens — young and old, men and women, rich and poor, black and white — clogged the road on the way to Wellington.
“Bring him out!” they chanted as they reached the hotel.
Anderson Jennings stood on the balcony and refused, saying the law was on his side. Anyone helping a slave escape could be thrown into jail, he reminded the crowd.
The train arrived, but Jennings dared not board.
Then a dozen bold men entered the hotel and made their way upstairs. The men fought, and one fired a gun (that missed). They rescued John just in time.
From there, the abolitionists’ network of safe homes known as the Underground Railroad led John Price to freedom.
The Price of Freedom, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, presents an exciting, little-known episode in our nation’s history. Highly recommended for ages 9 to 12.
For more thrilling nonfiction and historical fiction, see my post on Carole Boston Weatherford
and these titles …