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Free Boy: A True Story of Slave and Master

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  64 ratings  ·  13 reviews
"Free Boy" is the story of a 13-year-old slave who escaped from Washington Territory to freedom in Canada on the West's underground railroad. When James Tilton came to Washington Territory as surveyor-general in the 1850s he brought with his household young Charles Mitchell, a slave he had likely received as a wedding gift from a Maryland cousin. The story of Charlie's esc ...more
Paperback, 100 pages
Published March 1st 2013 by University of Washington Press (first published February 1st 2013)
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Nicholas Kristoff
Jul 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Charles Mitchell is a thirteen year old slave who worked for James Tilton, the Surveyor General in Washington Territory just before the Civil War. He arrived with his Master from Maryland and was treated well by the family in the sense that his Master was not cruel to him and even provided him with some education. Many people believed that Washington was a "free" state that supported abolition, however "Free Boy" is the true story of a child who was held in slavery in Olympia. Charlie's owner wa ...more
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Washington State Archives
In the mid-late 1850s, there was at least one child being held as a slave in Olympia. Charles Gibson Mitchell, born into slavery in Maryland in 1847 or 1848 to free white man and a slave to an old plantation family down on its luck. (16-17) His mother died of cholera not long after. (18) The family had no need of a child slave and gave him to a relative, James Tilton. (20)

Tilton was a veteran of the Mexican American war. (6) As a reward for that, and for work on the Franklin Pierce campaign, he
This book leaves me with 2 different opinions. The 1st is that it's just too thin. There's not enough enough here for a book. An extended article in a magazine, perhaps? The other is that I still enjoyed it, and recommend it to anyone interested in a unique perspective on the plight of runaway slaves or the early history of WA territory. It's definitely an important story for us to understand, and to remember. ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This slim volume details the true story of an enslaved boy, Charles Mitchell, who made an escape to Canada from Washington Territory with help from free men and women.
This was a nice change of pace as I have been unaware of the history of the Pacific Northwest and am mostly familiar with the action east of the Mississippi.
The authors stick close to the historical record, so much of Mitchell’s life is unknown. I did enjoy the addition of fictional segments to help flesh out the story.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The subtitle "A true story of slave and master" encapsulates this look into Washington State history and some of the racial attitudes of the territory during the Civil War. By a local author. ...more
David Jensen
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a third-generation Washingtonian and I had no idea that these events took place. This should be read in every Washington State history class and all of us who call Washington home. ...more
Josephine Ensign
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful and accessible narrative history about a too little known aspect of Pacific Northwest history.
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quick read about an interesting moment in Washington history. I do wish that more information was available about Charles Mitchell after he went to Victoria.
Sam Diener
Fascinating, scrupulously somewhat fictionalized account of an enslaved 13 year old who escaped slavery from Olympia Washington in the 1850s. I say "scrupulously fictionalized" because the authors make it clear, by putting text in italics, where they are imagining what might have happened, and where they are drawing directly on the existing historical record. ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Would have liked more depth but the author used was 'fact' were available. Makes me wonder how other slaves were treated in WA territories. Plan to read another book by co-author, Judy Bentley on Hiking Washington History. Great way to tie exercise and family fun with history. ...more
Sep 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Great information, but disappointingly written.
May 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very small biography written by Seattle historians. Interesting commentary on the political and social climate of the times.
great book about the West's Underground Railroad! There is more information about the master than about Charles but that is to be expect given that one was more documented in life. ...more
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Lorraine McConaghy is the historian at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. Warship under Sail is her first book." ...more

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