The Good Lord Bird
August 20, 2013
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". . .captivates the reader. . ."
The brilliant storytelling of James McBride captivates the reader in his tale of abolitionist Captain John Brown in The Good Lord Bird. The story is told through Henry Shackleford, a slave boy posing as a girl and dubbed the name “Onion” by the Captain. The Onion was known for being the only colored survivor of John Brown’s battle at Harper’s Ferry.
Onion’s story tells of battles against slave owners, his secret as a boy in girls’ clothing and the preferential treatment he received as a colored traveling with John Brown. Onion was introduced to abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman of whom Captain Brown united with to bring freedom to the slaves.
With his planning complete, Brown sent Onion to Harper’s Ferry ahead of him to “hive the bees” meaning to round up slaves for an insurrection against the government. Onion conspired with the Rail Man, a slave leader who agreed to bring slaves to the Captain and join in on the raid of Harper’s Ferry.
During his last meeting with the Rail Man, Onion received all of the final directives to give the Captain for the attack including the place to begin the raid and the password needed to assure his presence. Once free of his meeting Onion would leave for Pennsylvania.
Did Captain John Brown get the information he needed to lead his men to a successful raid of Harper’s Ferry? Did Onion’s behavior change the course of history?
The Good Lord Bird will cause the reader to chuckle, gasp and explore a time in history when helping the oppressed was a dangerous endeavor.
Reviewer: Tammy L. Sanchez, MPW Freelance Writer