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Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery

Review

Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery

On April 15, 1848, 13-year-old Emily Edmonson, her sister Mary, four of her brothers and 70 other people board a schooner called the Pearl for one purpose --- to escape slavery. Unfortunately, salvation lasts less than 24 hours before slave owners catch up with the boat. Returning to captivity, Emily goes from a Virginia slave pen to the New Orleans slave market and back again. Although Emily never ceases to pray for release from her enslaved situations, she has no idea that it will take the efforts of a well-known New York preacher to answer her freedom cry.

Conkling's homey storytelling skillfully captures the incredible story of Emily's trials and tribulations as a slave, her transition into freedom through Henry Ward Beecher and beyond.

In her first nonfiction book for young readers, award-winning author Winifred Conkling recreates a piece of unconscionable American history that has a powerfully optimistic ending. Conkling's homey storytelling skillfully captures the incredible story of Emily's trials and tribulations as a slave, her transition into freedom through Henry Ward Beecher and beyond. PASSANGER ON THE PEARL not only zeroes in on Emily’s life, but also on what becomes of her parents and siblings, pre and post slavery. High on that familial list is Emily's relationship with Mary --- the sisters remain constant companions. (On a personal note, my interest peaked when I read that Mary Edmonson was buried in Westwood Cemetery, which is walking distance from my home!)

Obviously, Conkling's narrative is not limited to Emily's manumission  --- she also writes about Emily's continued educational opportunities, her anti-slavery activism and her eventual marriage to another freed slave. Additionally, Conkling incorporates another fascinating Edmonson account regarding two of Emily's younger siblings who were also allocated for the slave trade. This situation leads Emily to Beecher's sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who miraculously comes to the siblings’ aid. Conkling includes other peripheral pieces to the Edmonson account, such as the men involved in the Pearl escape plans and their trials. Amid the various aspects of Emily's story, Conkling interweaves significant information about topics like slavery, literacy and the second middle passage that further explain what life was like back then. 

Replete with a plethora of wonderful primary sources, a time line, family tree and additional information for further reading/research, PASSENGER ON THE PEARL is not only an essential addition to the African American history collection, but is also guaranteed to be another award-winning book.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on January 21, 2015

Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery
by Winifred Conkling

  • Publication Date: January 13, 2015
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1616201967
  • ISBN-13: 9781616201968