Author Ashley Bryan used the Fairchilds Appraisement of the Estate document dated for July 5, 1828 as inspiration for his poetry collection Freedom Over Me. In this document, eleven slaves are listed for sale along with cows, hogs, and cotton. Bryan brings these eleven individuals to life with poetry. Each person has a pair of poems written from his or her perspective. The first poem describes his or her life on the plantation. The second relates personal dreams and hopes for freedom.
Bryan’s artwork is stunning. A portrait in neutral colors, along with the slave’s price and name, appears on the left with the coinciding poem describing everyday life appearing on the right. When we turn the page, we are captivated by a rich, colorful picture of the individual’s dream life, with the appropriate poem appearing on the left.
The use of poetry is profound in this book. It is a powerful way to connect us with the slaves’ humanity. Freedom Over Me would be a wonderful text to use in supplement to US History studies or in any discussion of slavery.