Cover image for Stealing freedom
Stealing freedom

Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, c1998.
Physical Description:
258 p. : map ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
870 L Lexile
Personal Subject:
A novel based on the events in the life of a young slave girl from Maryland who endures all kinds of mistreatment and cruelty, including being separated from her family, but who eventually escapes to freedom in Canada.


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Twelve-year-old Ann Maria Weems works from sunup to sundown, wraps rags around her feet in the winter, and must do whatever her master or mistress orders--but she has something that many plantation slaves don't have. She has her wonderful family around her. To Ann, her teasing brothers, her older sister, and her protective and loving parents are everything. And then one day, they are gone. Separated from her family by her master and shipped off as a housemaid, Ann learns something about independence and about love before the opportunity for escape arrives. A white man risks his life for Ann, cuts her hair short, dresses her like a boy, and launches her on her journey on the Underground Railroad to Canada, her family, and finally to freedom. Until she was a teenager, Ann Maria Weems lived in the mid-1800s near the author's home in Maryland. This fictionalized account of her extraordinary life is ideal for students, teachers, and parents hungry for interesting and informative reading in African-American history and the Underground Railroad.

Author Notes

Elisa Carbone lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Ann Maria Weems lived. Carbone is a faculty member at the University of Maryland, lecturer, and author of several books for young people

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a starred review,PW called this novel, based on the life of a slave who disguised herself as a boy and escaped at age 13, "dramatic, often poignant." Ages 10-up. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

This episodic novel is based on the life of a former slave, Ann Maria Weems. Filled with details, the text has a slow pace and endeavors to encompass every facet of slavery, from servitude to freedom, in one person's story. Scattered moments of high drama may not quite satisfy the intended audience. From HORN BOOK Spring 1999, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-10. Based on the true story of Ann Maria Weems, a young teenage slave in Maryland who escaped on the Underground Railroad to Canada in the 1850s, this historical novel combines the appeal of exciting escape adventure with authentic details of the time and place. Carbone's research is meticulous; unfortunately, the local color nearly chokes the story. We really do not need to know exactly what everyone ate at every meal, what they wore, what they did at the county fair. And then, why make up a romantic ending? The boy Ann loved under slavery escapes, and on the last page, he finds her in Canada, and they marry and live happily ever after. The author's note says that part is only "conjecture." Of course, readers will be caught up in the suspense of narrow escapes and daring disguise on Ann's journey with various brave conductors to freedom. The real story is in the characters' personal lives: the sense of how it felt to be a child under slavery and to have your family broken up, your brothers sold away; then the shock of what it meant to be free. The scenes of family reunion are heartfelt drama. --Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-The Underground Railroad takes center stage in Elisa Carbone's story of the Weems family who live as slaves in Maryland in the mid 1800s. John, the father, is a free man, but the rest of his family is owned, mistreated, and sold whenever the master feels like it. After three sons are sold, John buys freedom for his wife and one daughter with the help of the Vigilance Committee, a group of northerners dedicated to helping slaves escape. The master refuses to sell the Weems's 12-year-old daughter, Ann Maria. Determined to obtain freedom for his entire family, John secures passage for Ann Maria on the Underground Railroad with the help of a white abolitionist so that she can join the family in Canada. To survive the journey, Ann Maria is cleverly disguised as a boy who works as a horse and carriage driver. Carbone's historical novel is based on the life of a slave named Anna Marie Weems and much of the information has been culled from primary source documents. Robin Miles's narration is strong, but a bit bland, and utilizes some unusual pronunciations for homographs (primer, short-lived). That aside, this , compelling audiobook t, will be useful in social studies classes serving upper elementary and middle school students.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

This compelling tale of a passenger on the Underground Railroad is entirely populated with historical figures; not since Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn (1993) has the physical and emotional impact of slavery been made so palpable. Child of a free father and a slave mother, Ann Maria Weems grows up in the warmth of a loving family that is suddenly torn apart when her brothers are sold South and money raised by abolitionists arrives, but only enough to purchase freedom for her mother and sister. Knowing that her harsh master will never willingly give her freedom, Ann Marie resolves to steal it when the opportunity'a staged kidnapping, at the hands of an abolitionist, Jacob Bigelow'arises. Only occasionally manipulating actual events, Carbone (Starting School With an Enemy, p. 809, etc.) sends Ann Marie from Maryland to Washington, where she hides for months in a garret, then on to relatives in Canada, where she drops permanently from sight. A richly detailed society emerges, in which the powerless hold their own through quick wit and strength of character, and the powerful, scarred by the fact of slavery, know little real peace. Varying in tone from devastating simplicity (``Master Charles loaded . . . the last of the chickens, five barrels of tobacco, two sacks of wheat, and his son, and took them all to Baltimore to be sold'') to subtle irony underlying scenes in which abolitionists gather to fuss over Ann Marie as if she were some rare animal, this story pays tribute to the power of the very idea of freedom. (Fiction. 11-15)

Table of Contents

The Life and Works of Elisa Carbonep. v
Time Line of Slavery and the Underground Railroad in the United Statesp. vi
The Historical Context of Stealing Freedom--The Underground Railroadp. viii
Characters in Stealing Freedomp. xii
Echoesp. xvi
Illustrationsp. xviii
Chapter 1

p. 1

Chapter 2

p. 8

Chapter 3

p. 19

Chapter 4

p. 27

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 1-4p. 30
Chapter 5

p. 32

Chapter 6

p. 37

Chapter 7

p. 42

Chapter 8

p. 49

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 5-8p. 56
Chapter 9

p. 58

Chapter 10

p. 63

Chapter 11

p. 67

Chapter 12

p. 74

Chapter 13

p. 78

Chapter 14

p. 84

Chapter 15

p. 88

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 9-15p. 91
Chapter 16

p. 93

Chapter 17

p. 99

Chapter 18

p. 105

Chapter 19

p. 114

Chapter 20

p. 120

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 16-20p. 130
Chapter 21

p. 132

Chapter 22

p. 137

Chapter 23

p. 143

Chapter 24

p. 148

Chapter 25

p. 152

Chapter 26

p. 156

Chapter 27

p. 162

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 21-27p. 171
Chapter 28

p. 173

Chapter 29

p. 182

Chapter 30

p. 192

Chapter 31

p. 195

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 28-31p. 202
Chapter 32

p. 204

Chapter 33

p. 209

Chapter 34

p. 213

Chapter 35

p. 218

Chapter 36

p. 223

Respond to the Selection, Chapters 32-36p. 230
Author's Notep. 232
Plot Analysis of Stealing Freedomp. 237
Related Readings
from Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938p. 241
"Harriet Jacob Owns Herself"p. 245
"Many Thousand Go"p. 257
"Song of the Fugitive Slave"p. 259
"I Have a Dream"p. 263
Creative Writing Activitiesp. 268
Critical Writing Activitiesp. 270
Projectsp. 272
Glossary of Words for Everyday Usep. 274
Handbook of Literary Termsp. 281
Acknowledgmentsp. 284