The Slave Who Went to Congress

Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner

Illustrated by Jordana Haggard

Title Details

Pages: 32

Illustrations: 25 color illustrations

Trim size data not found for this book.



Pub Date: 02/15/2020

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8356-3

List Price: $18.95


NewSouth Books

The Slave Who Went to Congress

Frye Gaillard and Marti Rosner

Illustrated by Jordana Haggard

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  • Description
  • Reviews
In 1870 Benjamin Turner, who spent the first 40 years of his life as a slave, was elected to the U.S. Congress. He was the first African American from Alabama to earn that distinction. In a recreation of Turner's own words, based on speeches and other writings that Turner left behind, co-authors Marti S. Rosner and Frye Gaillard have crafted the story of a remarkable man who taught himself to read when he was young and began a lifetime quest for education and freedom. As a candidate for Congress, and then as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Turner rejected the idea of punishing his white neighbors who fought for the Confederacy—and thus for the continuation of slavery—believing they had suffered enough. At the same time, he supported the right to vote for former slaves, opposed a cotton tax that he thought was hurtful to small and especially black farmers, supported racially mixed schools, and argued that land should be set aside for former slaves so they could build a new life for themselves. In this bicentennial season for the state of Alabama, the authors celebrate the life of a man who rejected bitterness even as he pursued his own dreams. His is a story of determination and strength, the story of an American hero from the town of Selma, Alabama, who worked to make the world a better place for people of all races and backgrounds.
Gaillard and Rosner bring to life the amazing Benjamin Sterling Turner in this beautiful text. The authors’ extensive research into the writings of Mr. Turner results in a book that reads like a journal written by Turner himself. Readers will leave this book with great appreciation for this former slave, who in 1870 became Alabama’s first black member of Congress.

—Lester Laminack, Professor Emeritus, author of Three Hens and a Peacock and many other works for adults and children

Turner's story is a celebration of imagination, hope, determination, and most of all, freedom. Readers will be inspired! A solid choice for home and school libraries.

—Irene Latham, author of Can I Touch Your Hair? and Leaving Gee's Bend

A little-known story of light and hope emerges from a dark period of history. Turner’s courage, hard work, and gifts for oratory reminds us of the strength of the human spirit.

—Robbin Gourley, author and illustrator of Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis

Young readers will be inspired by this unsung American’s story of strength and courage against impossible odds. Battling slavery and racism, Benjamin Turner defied every slave code, every regulation, and every affront to his humanity. In this remarkable true tale, Turner’s spirit talks to us! Thanks to the authors for expressing his story so beautifully.

—Joyce Hansen, author of Which Way Freedom?

Rosner and Gaillard have crafted a remarkable, vivid journey through the hard, often unfair life of Benjamin Sterling Turner and how he used wisdom, hard work, and perseverance to triumph over oppression.

—Jim Murphy, two-time Newbery Honor Book and Sibert Award-winning author

An important African American life confirms for young readers that anything is possible.

—Doreen Rappaport, author of Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass

Here is a book that tells a lesser-known story as powerful as that of Frederick Douglass. The Slave Who Went to Congress is the inspiring account of Benjamin Turner, who after living enslaved for forty years became the second African American to serve in Congress. And it was learning to read that altered Turner’s life! Beautifully written and illustrated.

—Maryann Macdonald, coauthor of The Little Piano Girl

Needed more than ever, now comes a powerful chapter in American history to share with young readers. This book is a gem.

—Rita Williams-Garcia, three-time Coretta Scott King Author Award winner

Explore the life and times of Benjamin Sterling Turner, an extraordinary man with a kind heart and a level head who fought for equality and civil rights, becoming one of the first black Americans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1870. In this illustrated biography with expressive portraiture and moving scenes, Turner's determination, compassion, and intellect shine bright as he moves from his birth into slavery to becoming a free man and a respected leader.

—Foreword Reviews

Striking artwork adds a beautiful touch to this inspirational true story about perseverance, high ideals, and forging history. The Slave Who Went to Congress is a choice pick for personal, school, and public library picture book collections. Highly recommended.

—Midwest Book Review

In a tale admirably illustrated, Marti Rosner and Frye Gaillard engage the mind of young readers by distilling Benjamin Sterling Turner’s complex history into 32 pages. A well-achieved “recreation” of his life.

—Friends Journal

About the Author/Editor

Frye Gaillard (Author)
FRYE GAILLARD is the writer-in-residence in the English and history departments at the University of South Alabama. He is the author of thirty books, including With Music and Justice for All: Some Southerners and Their Passions; Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement That Changed America, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award; The Dream Long Deferred: The Landmark Struggle for Desegregation in Charlotte, North Carolina, winner of the Gustavus Myers Award; and If I Were a Carpenter, the first independent, book-length study of Habitat for Humanity. He lives in Mobile, Alabama.

Marti Rosner (Author)
MARTI ROSNER has been an educator for 41 years. She has worked as a classroom teacher, District Academic Coach serving Title I schools in Cobb County, Georgia, and most recently led writing workshops for teachers and students at her granddaughter’s elementary school. Through the years, she has also enjoyed leading a variety of professional development classes, serving as a Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project, and training teachers across the country as a curriculum specialist for Sundance-Newbridge, an educational publishing company. Her two grandchildren keep her active, as they love spending time outdoors. She keeps herself active by reading, writing, and traveling. When she sits still, she enjoys her home in Marietta, Georgia.