Journey to a Promised Land (I Am America)


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    From the Publisher

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    The majority of the Exodusters migrated from Tennessee (mostly prior to 1879), Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Far fewer Exodusters came from Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia.

    Most of the Exodusters arrived in St. Louis first. They then traveled to their destination in Kansas by foot, riverboat, or train. Exodusters settled in Atchison, Kansas City, Topeka, Wyandotte, and Lawrence.

    The Exoduster Movement of 1879

    More on the history of the Exoduster Movement, from the author of Journey to a Promised Land:

    “Hattie and her family represent the thousands of former slaves and their families who left Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana for the promise of free land and better lives…The Great Exodus, also known as the Kansas Exodus or the Colored Exodus, had its beginnings long before the spring of 1879…In the Spring of 1879, the idea to go to Kansas really caught fire in many southern African American communities. Tens of thousands of people packed up everything they owned and set off for Kansas.”

    Opening Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

    It was one of those late-spring days when the world is bright and warm, and everything feels possible. Hattie ran the ten crowded blocks from the First Baptist AME Church toward home, her heart pounding hard from excitement or the running, she wasn’t sure which. She expertly dodged the dirty pools of water in the street, weaved past the butcher’s store that always smelled of blood, and ducked into a narrow alley. It was crisscrossed with a web of clotheslines that dipped heavily with the laundry her mother took in for extra money.

    Hattie stopped short, breathing heavily. “Mama!” she called. “I’m home!”

    “In the back, baby,” came her mother’s voice.

    Mama was bent over an enormous black iron cauldron, pushing a wooden paddle back and forth in the bubbling, gray water. The familiar scents of wood smoke, lye soap, and steamy clothes hung in the air. She saw Hattie and paused in her work, smiling.

    Hattie threw her arms around her mother in a quick hug, feeling those thin, strong arms wrapped around her like a comforting blanket.

    “Mama, guess what? Miss Banneker picked me for the recital! I’m going to read a poem in front of everybody!”

    Mama beamed with pride. Her rough hand, cracked and hardened through years of work, stroked Hattie’s cheek. “Oh, baby, I’m so proud of you,” she said.

    “Will you come?” Hattie asked, still out of breath from the run. She knew what the answer would be, but she asked anyway, just to hear it.

    “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” her mother replied. “Papa too. And Abraham, if we can keep him from squirming through the whole thing.”

    Hattie grinned. She knew how much stock her parents put on learning. When they were enslaved, they hadn’t been allowed to learn to read or write. After the Civil War, one of the first things they’d both done was go to school.

    “Speaking of your papa, he needs his lunch, and you do too. It’s on the table.”

    Another hug and Hattie dashed through the narrow doorway at the end of the alley. She took the rickety stairs two at a time up to their small two-room apartment. The front room served as kitchen and dining room. The black iron cook stove took up most of the space, along with a table and chairs. The back room held the big, soft bed for

    Mama and Papa. Hidden beneath it was the trundle bed for Hattie and Abraham.

    Every day when school let out at noon, Hattie came home to take Papa his lunch. Mama always had the food carefully wrapped and waiting. Hattie grabbed the packet and sniffed. Biscuits and sausage, Hattie’s favorite.

    “Bye, Mama!” she called. But Mama was bent over the tub again, wearily wiping sweat and steam from her forehead.

    Papa’s blacksmith shop, a tiny building not much bigger than a shed, was down the street and around the corner. The words JACOBS AND SON BLACKSMITH were painted black above the wide double doorway. Abraham was only three, but Papa had high hopes.

    Hattie was usually greeted with the ring of hammer against iron, but today, the shop was quiet. A horse she didn’t recognize stood quietly in front, his expensive saddle gleaming in the midday sun. Maybe a new customer, Hattie thought. Nashville was a big town, with lots of horses to shoe and wagons to fix. Everybody, black or white, knew Papa was a good blacksmith and an honest man.

    A white man Hattie had never seen before stood talking to Papa in the doorway. He was older, with long, greasy gray hair peeking out from a shapeless hat. Papa leaned against the door jamb, his huge arms crossed against his chest.

    “General Anderson over at Magnolia Run is anxious to have you work for him again,” the white man was saying. “He sorely needs good blacksmiths. He told me personally how much he misses you.”

    “Is that so, Rees?” Papa spoke slowly. “I was his slave from the time I was ten years old until emancipation came to Tennessee in 1864. That was fifteen years ago. I’m not about to go back to that place.”

    Rees’s watery blue eyes narrowed. Hattie held her breath, clutching the packet to her stomach.

    Rees pulled a grubby envelope out of his pocket. “He still wants to hire you, against my better judgment.” He smirked as Papa opened the envelope and began to scan the pages.

    “This is a big order,” he said finally. Rees’s eyes widened in surprise. Hattie realized with a start that he hadn’t expected Papa to know how to read.

    “I require half payment up front,” Papa said, his tone polite. “I think five dollars is fair.”

    Without a word, Papa calmly straightened up to his full height of six foot two, his blacksmith arms like small tree trunks against his sides. Rees sputtered and mumbled curses but handed Papa a handful of crumpled bills and coins.

    “You’re short fifty cents, Rees.” Papa said.

    “You’ll get the rest when you’re done!” he shouted.

    Papa gazed at him. Then he picked up the huge iron hammer resting against the side of the shop. His forearms bulged as he casually swung it up and rested it on one shoulder.

    Illustrations from Journey to a Promised Land


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    Publisher ‏ : ‎ Jolly Fish Press (January 1, 2019)
    Language ‏ : ‎ English
    Paperback ‏ : ‎ 160 pages
    ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1631632760
    ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1631632761
    Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12 years
    Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 670L
    Grade level ‏ : ‎ 3 – 4
    Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.6 ounces
    Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.8 x 0.4 x 7.4 inches


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    • Address: 1928 The Woods II
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