“Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret,” by Freddi Williams Evans, illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks, Carolrhoda Books, $16.95.
The slaves were not allowed to shout in the white folks’ church. While passing the water dipper down the line, a message was whispered, “Meetin’ tonight.”
When they met in hush harbor, they could be themselves, free like, singing and shouting, praying to be free. As they worked in the fields, they started singing, “Steal away, Steal away to Jesus.”
Simmy is proud to be appointed scout because he has sharp ears and fast legs. Despite the danger of being discovered, Uncle Sol insisted they must pray for Mama Aku to peacefully join her ancestors. When Simmy heard the hounds baying, he warned the worshippers to run and hide.
It seemed like their work was lighter even in the hot days after the meeting. White folks considered the spirit-filled worship of the slaves sinful even after they adopted the Christian faith, but they risked severe beatings and being sold away from their families.
This historical story begs to be shared in churches and schools. The author grew up in Mississippi in the same area where her ancestors lived as slaves. Her desire is to share untold and undertold stories of African-Americans. She lives in New Orleans, and her books have received several awards.
Erin Bennett Banks’ art thrives on multicultural themes, and she has won the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Outstanding Book Award.