Midnight Teacher

By Kirkus Reviews

An unsung hero and literacy champion whose teaching changed many lives. Halfmann and Ladd tell the remarkable, true story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman born around 1821 in Petersburg, Virginia. Following the death of her mother, Lilly Ann was sold to a Kentucky slave owner. The master's children would often play school and included Lilly Ann, teaching her to read. They even gave her an "old ragged blue-back speller…to use and keep," which she used to practice in private and teach others on the plantation. However, when her master died, she was sold to a cotton plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, where it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. Though Lilly Ann faced much higher penalties there in restarting her school, she expanded her education efforts. However, when the patrollers caught her leading her slave school—the punishment for which was 39 lashes—the authorities found "no law against a slave teaching a slave." This picture book's detailed, realistic illustrations were created using acrylic paint and colored pencil. Ladd's artwork shows Lilly Ann's determination to improve lives through literacy and will also familiarize readers with the book's historical settings. An informative afterword and bibliography will make this a useful addition to U.S. history lessons. An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time.