Written by Ann E. Burg
The day nine-year-old Grace is called to work in the kitchen in the Big House, everyone warns her to keep her head down and her thoughts to herself, but the more she sees of the oppressive Master and his hateful wife, the more she questions things until one day her thoughts escape–and to avoid being separated she and her family flee into the Dismal Swamp, to join the other escaped slaves who live there.
Primary Source Pairing:
Grace and her family are slaves. The lives they live are rough and filled with hard work with no return on their efforts. With no freedom, their fate is unknown. When Grace’s Mama is going to be sold, the family makes the middle-of-the-night decision to flee for their lives. Their journey is long and fear is at every turn, but they find their freedom in a nearly uninhabitable place. The Great Dismal Swamp is a real place that provided a safe space for people escaping the brutality of slavery and oppression. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study two images together. The first image is a photograph of the Lake Drummond in The Great Dismal Swamp. Encourage students to imagine living in this environment and what survival skills they would need. The second image is of a Great Dismal Swamp Maroon, a man named Osman who lived in The Great Dismal Swamp by choice. This image was originally published in 1856. According to author Ann E. Burg, this story takes place in the early 1860’s.
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see.
- What do you notice first?
- What people and objects are shown?
- How are they arranged?
- What is the physical setting?
- What’s happening in the images?
- How do these images connect to each other?
- How do these images connect to what you read in the book Unbound?
- Why is The Great Dismal Swamp an important part of the setting of this story?
- Despite its name, discuss how The Great Dismal Swamp was a hopeful place.
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Bald cypress in Lake Drummond, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia:” Wikipedia
“Osman, a Great Dismal Swamp Maroon,” by David Hunter Strother: Wikipedia
“Fleeing To Dismal Swamp, Slaves And Outcasts Found Freedom:” NPR.org
“Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy; Late a Slave in the United States of America:” University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill