Cover image for Hush harbor : praying in secret
Hush harbor : praying in secret
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Carolrhoda Books, 2009.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 29 cm.
Reading Level:
AD 600 L Lexile
While Simmy watches for danger from high in a tree, other slaves gather in a hidden spot in the woods to sing and pray together in their own way, risking their lives in pursuit of religious freedom. Includes historical facts about hush, or brush, arbors and the churches that grew from them.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY EVA 1 1
Book EASY EVA 1 1
Book EASY EVA 1 1

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In the early nineteenth century, enslaved Africans are not allowed to gather together in groups. for Simmy and his family, that means they must worship in secret. If they are caught, the punishment will be terrible. Simmy's job is to watch for danger while the others pray and sing as the Spirit moves them. Will he be able to keep the hush harbor safe?

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-Enslaved Africans in the antebellum South were forbidden to gather for fear that they would plan uprisings so they met at night in secret locations called "hush harbors" to practice their religion. Evans captures the drama and tension of one such meeting as word is quietly passed through the cotton fields and anticipation builds. Simmy, a child assigned as lookout, describes the meeting, first with its joyful singing and prayer, the behavior of those moved by the Spirit, and the terror when the barking dogs of the "paterollers" are heard. Banks's highly stylized paintings are wonderfully expressive and amplify the deep emotion of the situation. Her palette of yellows and browns shows people who are swathed in moonlight yet avoids the dimness that night scenes sometimes have. An extensive author's note outlines African religion from the arrival of slaves in America to the founding of the First African Baptist Church.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

When enslaved Africans were brought to the United States, they brought with them their cultures and traditions. Slaveowners worked diligently to strip them of both, but the Africans found ways to maintain their history and evolve in their new environment; worshipping together secretly in remote locations was one of them. "When the oil lamps went out in the big house and the overseers' cabin, folks who had a mind to go stole away one by one, with Uncle Sol leadin' the way." A young boy narrates the tale of one such illicit prayer meeting, his joy and fear of discovery both clear in text and illustrations. Banks's oversized, almost muralistic figures reflect the strength of the Africans' spirits and their tremendous physicality. The red outlines used throughout evoke both warmth and danger as the characters steal away to their meeting place. Evans handles the issue with clarity, understanding and pride, briefly touching upon Africans' attempts to escape the slavery system. The author's note provides additional information for interested readers. This is a fine addition to any collection. (Picture book. 5-9) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Meetin' tonight, Uncle Sol whispers to his fellow slaves in the cotton fields. It's going to be down in the hush harbor, where slaves sneak away to pray and praise the Lord. Evans takes a little-discussed topic the faith practices of eighteenth-century slaves and turns it into a moving narrative, if not quite a story. Young Simmy is given the job of lookout as the slaves gather to pray for Mama Aku, who is ill. As the worshippers sing and pray, Simmy spots a rustling in the bushes it's a runaway slave, who warns them about the dogs and guns of nearby slave catchers. Simmy's quick actions allow the slaves to get home, where they learn that Mama Aku has died. Still, they'll continue to pray, sing, and shout in the hush harbor. Illustrated with extremely stylized pictures that don't prettify their subjects, this captures some of the fear and horror associated with slavery. However, it's the detailed author's note that will really give kids insight into the subject. A good choice for both religion and history shelves.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2008 Booklist