You are not chained to your chair.

If you want to get up and move, in fact, you can. Get up, stretch, move your toes, shake the knots. Get out and go into the next space or down the street and everything is fine. You’re not stuck in your chair, in this room and even in this building, and in Carol Amberton’s “Walk in Freedom” you’ll get a new appreciation of that ability.

In 1935, at the end of the Depression, the Federal Writers Project (FWP) was created to attract unemployed teachers, writers, and editors to work, in part by collecting oral histories, with the goal of creating a unique American history. Over an eight-year period, FWP staff collected 10,000 interviews, including stories from the Emancipation.

Priscilla Joyner was one of them.

She was eighty years old when two FWP employees, both Black, came to interview her about her life. Wanting to see them, she waited for them on the porch of the house where she had lived for decades. She was ready to talk …

Joyner was born in January 1858, the child of a white mother and a black father – so she was told. She never knew for sure; the white man who gave her his name did so reluctantly. The identity of her black natural father was what her mother took to the grave, but Amberton says there were other ways to explain how Joyner was different from her white siblings and why they were allowed to torture her.

Although she was not a slave in the strictest sense, Joyner lived as one: she was taught housework but not to read and write until she was twelve, and her mother sent her to live with the Black family. which sent Joyner to school. The move was “frustrating,” and she didn’t realize it, but it turned out to be what Joyner needed.

She has learned to love her new home. There she met her husband and found a community …

In other words, “Walk in Freedom” is an exceptional book.

On each page, in each individual story, author Carol Amberton leads readers to learn about things they didn’t know or meet someone new, and this happens between facts of history and public morals presented concurrently with Priscilla Joyner’s story. But Joyner’s life is not the only thing that unites here; other FWP respondents and words of former slaves are added to the common, which adds extra richness to what you will read. Amberton then explains how some FWP interviews were nearly marred by over-editing and additions to “Uncle Remus” made by white writers and editors who insisted on it, and how Joyner’s full story was almost lost.

This is one of those books that will make you lose track of time and surroundings. It will answer questions, raise your pride, and once you finish reading it, you will be dizzy for a few days. “Walk in Freedom” is the book that should keep you in the chair.

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