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Callie knows that one day she will be free like her father, who was granted his freedom by Mistress Catherine, his half-sister. But slavery’s cruel reality has never felt more real than when her brother is sold to an unknown plantation in Alabama only a few months into the war. Callie can hardly bear to think that she will never see him again, even though she knows it is likely. It’s a good thing Master is leaving to fight for the Confederacy, or else Callie might not be able to hold her tongue. Just a few weeks after Master’s departure, unbelievable news reaches the plantation. Since Virginia has seceded from the Union, Fort Monroe has been accepting runaway slaves as “contraband of war” and refusing to return them to their masters. The slaves in the fort are free. The children can even go to school! Embracing the possibility of freedom, Callie and her family head to Ft. Monroe to begin a new life as “contraband.”
Although I was raised in Virginia, I never learned about Ft. Monroe and the thousands of Virginian slaves who found their freedom there. Callie’s story presents a fascinating history as well as a thought-provoking reflection on what it means to be a slave, “contraband,” or free. Although I wasn’t fond of the omniscient narration style, I would highly recommend this book to middle grade historical fiction readers.