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  • Writer's pictureCate Jen

A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl

The fourth book in our series is A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl. It was written by Patricia McKissack and it was published in March, 1997. The story takes place in 1859 on the fictional Belmont Plantation in Virginia.

We meet Clotee, a clever and empathetic girl who works in the "big house" on the plantation. As she explains, there are definite pros and cons to working so closely to the family that enslaves her

and her fellow comrades. On the plus side, she gets to be in close proximity to William, the son of the house as he learns his lessons. This enables Clotee to eaves-drop on his tutoring sessions, which allows her to teach herself to read and write. On the other hand, Clotee's closeness to the family also allows the mistress to keep a close eye on her and the other enslaved staff--which she uses to pit them against eachother for information.

But despite everything, Clotee remains loyal to her friends, Spicy, Aunt Tee, and Uncle Heb. She also meets new people like the mysterious tutor, Ely Harms. Tune in to our episodes to learn more about Clotee's story and hear our thoughts on how this time period and subject matter is portrayed:

Paul Ringel, American Historian

We wrapped up our discussion on the past two books about race and the Civil War with a discussion with special guest, Paul Ringel: a professor of American History and the author of books such as Commercializing Childhood: Children’s Magazines, Urban Gentility, and the Ideal of the American Child and the upcoming, Kid History, Inc: Selling Children the American Past.

Paul had a lot of great insights into the challenges and responsibilities of writing historical fiction for a young audience. Tune in below to hear his insights:


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