I requested and received All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann from NetGalley after seeing it advertised on Goodreads. I was especially attracted to the girl on the cover — beautiful and hopeful. Growing up, I’d never been one for history or politics. As I’ve grown older, I’ve taken more of an interest in history, even wishing I’d paid more attention in high school. When I saw the cover of this work, it instantly piqued my interest. So the blurb from Ms. McCann’s website:
A free black woman in the 1830s, Margaret Morgan lived a life full of promise.
One frigid night in Pennsylvania, that changed forever.
They tore her family apart.
They put her in chains.
They never expected her to fight back.
All Different Kinds of Free was inspired by a true story. It is about Margaret Morgan, who was kidnapped in 1837, along with her free children, and sold into slavery. Although she fought hard to regain her freedom, Margaret endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most important yet least-known Supreme Court cases of the era, Prigg v. Pennsylvania.
Text books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.
I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with the blurb. I’m glad I’d forgotten it by the time All Different Kinds of Free reached the top of my list, cause I might have passed it over for another work. In this case, I let the cover reel me in, and didn’t even bother with the blurb before flicking through the pages.
The story started innocent enough. Margaret lived up North where blacks were free despite slavery continuing in the south. When a bounty hunter arrived on the scene, claiming Margaret was a runaway slave but had no papers, even the Pennsylvania laws supported her rights. Then all hell broke loose. Margaret and her children were stolen from their home in the dead of night. When they reached their southern destination, it became apparent Blacks had absolutely no voice in the South. The people in control were willing to do just about anything to ensure nothing changed their way of life. When all was said and done, Margaret and her children were sold into slavery without due process of the law
Despite knowing things like that happened in the past, I tend to stay blissfully ignorant about the harsh realities. This book shattered my rose tinted glasses. I cried… I cannot express to you how heartbroken I was over events in this book. At times, the kind of tears I shed were the rare ones I drown in the shower so no one can hear the accompanying sobs.
It saddened me to think folks would treat others so inhumanely, worse than animals. I’d like to think slaves were too valuable a commodity to neglect to the point starvation or disease claimed them in mass — as if there were replacements waiting around the bend — but I know not everyone is kind or rational.
Over all, this work was a roller coaster of ups and downs. One passage stood out and summarized the stakes well. Before Margaret and her children were sold into slavery, she told her daughter, Emma:
“And, most important of all, don’t lose hope. You were free once. Emma, you were. We all were. We lost our freedom, and it’s not fair. But when something gets lost, it can be found again. Just because we don’t see something anymore, doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Remember that. Promise me you’ll remember that.”
Despite the words of encouragement, it was difficult for Margaret to stay strong. Each time Margaret was given a piece of hope, it was snatched away. Every blow left a chip in her armor, until I questioned if she’d ever recover from all the disappointments.
It’s been a while since a book has hit me so strongly on an emotional level. This is definitely one of the best reads I’ve read this year. If you’re up for a work which will truly make you feel (sadness, outrage, hope, joy), I highly recommend this book.
All different Kinds of Free
by Jessica McCaan
is available at: