Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Henry's Freedom Box

Title: Henry's Freedom Box

Author: Ellen Levine

Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Reading Level: 3-5

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Click here to learn more about Ellen Levine!

Henry’s Freedom Box is a true story about an African American slave named Henry. Henry was born into a slave family and worked in a factory since he was a young boy. When his master became ill, he sold Henry to his son. Henry was scared to work for a new master because he was separated from his family. With his new master, Henry continued to work hard and do as he was told. Years later something wonderful happened. Henry met Nancy, a female slave on the plantation, and fell in love. After getting permission from their master, Henry and his love got married and had three children. When Henry’s children were old enough to work their master sold them and Nancy to another slave owner. When Henry found the news he was devastated. Henry’s heartache and suffering led him to take action. He decided he would move north, but how? Henry packed him self in a crate and had his kind white friend ship him to Philadelphia. After a long journey, Henry safely arrived in PA and hopes to continue to live a free life.

Element #3: Exploring Issues of Social Injustice
This book is a good example of the heartache and suffering African American slaves went through during slavery in America. It teaches students that slaves never had a choice in any aspect of their lives. This book has good examples of slave trade and how it could affect an entire family. It also shows the role that Northern America had during slavery. It teaches students that North America was free of slavery at this time, and that slaves would go through great struggles to reach the north and get their freedom. The story of Henry was a great story for element 3 and had the right amount of tragedy and emotion to be educational and age appropriate.

Follow up Activity:
            After reading this book, students can predict what Henry did one he was reached Philadelphia. They may predict either that he found his family, or got a job doing what he loved, etc. This can be a great writing prompt in which they can write a sequel to Henry’s journey as an African American slave living in North America. By researching this time period they can learn that although slaves were free in the north, life was still very difficult them.
            You can also extend the lesson and discuss what other slaves did in order to reach freedom in the North. This can be a good transition into discussing the Underground Railroad and the historic legends who risked their lives to travel north. 

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