2009-11-18 / Book Review

Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl Is Child Slave’s Story


Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl
By Georgia Humphries
Seaburn Publishing Group
ISBN: 98-1-59232-187-1
52 pp.; illustrations by the author

For an 11-year-old just starting middle school, Georgia Humphries displays a remarkable amount of talent and potential. Her first published work, Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl, introduces that talent to the world.

Samantha, the child of a slave woman and her white master, leads a secret existence until someone betrays her and she is sold away from her mother and the plantation that has always been her home. She is stolen from her brutal new master by the legendary Harriet Tubman and begins the long journey to freedom in the North by way of the Underground Railroad. Along the way she is reunited with her mother and discovers a sister hitherto unknown to her. She also learns who betrayed and sold her and finds another new addition to her family.

The bare outline of Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl does not do justice to the descriptions and the excitement of the narrative. Illustrations by the author add in moving the story forward. Humphries possesses insight unusual for someone her age and has a definite gift for dramatic exposition.

The drawbacks to Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl are more likely to come to the attention of older readers and can be attributed to the young age and relative inexperience of the author. There are some emotions Humphries has not yet felt and any adult who reads this book will be aware of it. That said, Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl is still an excellent introduction to the institution of slavery from the point of view of a slave who does not truly realize the extent of her enslaved condition until she begins the journey to freedom. Samantha also demonstrates clearly that slavery dehumanizes masters as well as slaves. While the story is told from the standpoint of a child, the effect that being a slave master has wrought upon Samantha’s father, also her owner is readily apparent.

Young readers will find Samantha: the Life of a Slave Girl a helpful introduction to a subject which is sometimes glossed over in an effort to avoid raising disconcerting questions about who Americans are as a people and how we came to be what we are today. It is a worthy addition to any elementary school classroom embarking upon the study of the causes of the War Between the States and the effect that slavery had on masters and slaves both. We look forward to seeing more of Humphries’ work.

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