Title: Hammering for Freedom
Author: Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Illustrator: John Holyfield
Published: September 4, 2018
Theme: Loyalty and Perseverance
Character Origin: Human
Book Type: Picture Book | Pages: 32
Ages: 7-10 | Book Level: 4.6 | Lexile Measure: 870L
Synopsis: The inspirational story of William Lewis. Born into slavery in Tennessee, William Lewis learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer. He proved to be an exceptional blacksmith and earned so much money fixing old tools and creating new ones that he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. With just a few coins in his pocket, Bill set a daring plan in motion: he was determined to free his family.
Winner of Lee & Low s New Voices Award and a Junior Library Guild selection, Hammering for Freedom tells the true story of one man’s skill, hard work, and resolve to keep his family together.
This was truly a heart-wrenching autobiographical story of determination, will, and long term planning. I absolutely loved reading Bill’s story. His ironclad will drove his hammer into every horseshoe, nail, and ax with commanding purpose. It is disheartening that Bill’s story and others like his have been omitted from the telling of African American history. There is strength, dignity, and perseverance in every word of this text and Hubbard captures it all effortlessly.
Holyfield’s illustrations were melancholy but reflective of the time period and subject matter. With his wit and determination, Bill reshaped his life and the lives of his family. To me that is priceless and reveals the essence of his character. His story is not a sinular one, there are many stories lost through the ages that prove that slaves had the ability, knowledge, and will to be much more than servants. We have to do better–but this is a start. I’m definitely adding this to my top 10 list. William “Bill” Lewis is a name I won’t soon forget and neither should you.