Often shocking, always compelling, Afua Cooper’s novel, My Name Is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom, is based on the life of Henry Bibb, an American slave who after repeated attempts escaped in 1841 to become an anti-slavery speaker, author and founder of a Black newspaper. Cooper takes painstakingly researched details about slavery and weaves an intimate story of Bibb’s young life, which is overshadowed by inconceivable brutality.
I seek wholesomeness in not only the outer world but in the inner one as well. Perhaps it is because we are so imbalanced internally why we have such external chaos. Our mind, spirit, soul, and body must be in accord. I seek harmony in all things.
At nine years old, Henry is separated from his mother and brothers and hired out, suffering abuse at the hands of cruel masters so severe he almost dies. Henry’s courageous life is described in intimate detail and young readers will learn about everyday slave life on a plantation and in towns and cities, the coded language of slave escapes and the dangerous routes over land and water to safe houses. As Henry Bibb moves from boyhood to manhood, he knows that one day he will “fly away” as in the old legend of the Africans who flew away to freedom. The first-person narrative convincingly told in Henry’s voice, traces Bibb’s boyhood, marriage, fatherhood and the developing awareness of his bondage and his determination to break free of it or die.