Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School

By Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by London Ladd

Hardcover: $20.95


In Mississippi in the mid-1800s, it was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read and write. Getting caught meant thirty-nine lashes with a whip as punishment. But this did not stop Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman herself. She believed in the power of education. To share her knowledge with others, she started a midnight school.

In a small cabin hidden in a back alley, Lilly Ann held her secret classes. Every noise in the dark was a reminder of the punishment she and her students faced if they were found out. But the chance to learn was worth the risk.

Over the years, Lilly Ann taught hundreds of enslaved people to read and write. Many of her students went on to share their knowledge with their families. Some started secret schools of their own. Others forged passes to escape to freedom in the North.

Based on a true story, Midnight Teacher is an inspiring testament to a little-known pioneer in education.

Check out educator lesson plan and activities for Midnight Teacher, a title featured in RIF’s Multicultural Book Collections. To find other free activities that inspire young readers as well as learn more about Reading Is Fundamental, visit us at

Explore the Educator's Guide for Midnight Teacher from the Rendell Center for Civic Engagement, a website created to promote civic education and engagement. Learn more here.

Watch author Janet Halfmann as she talks about Midnight Teacher:


About the Creators

Thumb_janet_5_web_use__8x10 Janet Halfmann - Author

JANET HALFMANN is the author of more than forty books for children, including Lee & Low's Midnight Teacher, which Kirkus called “An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time” in a starred review. When she’s not writing, Halfmann enjoys working in the garden, exploring nature, visiting new places, especially wildlife areas and living-history museums, and watching movies. Halfmann lives with her husband in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Visit Janet Halfmann on the Web at

Thumb_london_ladd_b_w_small London Ladd

graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Illustration. He works primarily in acrylic print in a painterly style, for which his picture book illustrations have been highly praised. He carries a sketchbook and paints with him everywhere he goes. Ladd and his family live in Syracuse, New York. His website is