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Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States

November 01, 2012 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian

Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States. Patricia & Frederick McKissack.New York: Scholastic Press, 2003.

Patricia and Frederick McKissack's book, Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States, explains early on that there was no single day when slavery ended in the United States.The day a slave was told of his or her freedom was their day of emancipation- their "day of jubilee."

This excellent juvenile book provides readers a solid overview of U.S. emancipation beginning with slaves who were freed following their service in the Revolutionary War. It quickly proceeds to the 1860s and the Civil War and the aftermath of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The book presents the story of the end of slavery as seen through the eyes of those who lived it.  Most of the stories are framed by historical events and persons. Major Civil War battles are discussed as well as Generals Grant, Sherman & Lee. Frederick Douglass also plays a part in the book as does the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and Lincoln's assassination. 

The authors use slave narratives, letters, diaries, military orders and other documents to bring the stories to life. A few of the featured players are Mary Chesnut (a senator's wife) who fears not only of losing the war, but also the possible loss of her slaves. Also featured is Elizabeth Keckley, the former slave who became Mrs. Lincoln's seamstress. In her 1862 entry she writes about the freedmen beginning to flock into the Washington area "…Fresh from the bonds of slavery, fresh from the benighted regions of the plantation, they came to the Capital looking for liberty, and many of them not knowing it when they found it..." 

The McKissacks do a remarkable job explaining the Civil War as it relates to the end of slavery. Their dramatic account presents the war and its consequences in very human terms.



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Did You Know?

Drawing of Dred Scott from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1857

In 1846, a slave named Dred Scott sued for his freedom at the St. Louis Courthouse. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where the verdict set the stage for the Civil War. Today, the Old Courthouse is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Click to learn more about Dred Scott. More...