Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride is about a slave boy, Henry Shackleford, who becomes part of John Brown’s antislavery movement. Henry, the main character, is also the narrator. The story is set in Kansas, 1857, a period in which there was a serious debate regarding slavery. On one occasion, John Brown visits Henry’s hometown. During his visit, Brown disagrees with Henry’s master and the two start fighting. During the fight, Henry’s father is killed. Brown, being the abolitionist that he is, decides to leave town with Henry. They leave together, but Brown thinks that Henry is a girl.
For many months, Henry hides his identity to survive. John Brown calls him Little Onion. The two go on several missions. For instance, in 1989, they were both part of the blitz that occurred at Harpers Ferry. The raid was one of the major causes of the Civil War. Despite Henry now living as a free person, he misses the days that he was a slave. Back in Kansas, he was never mistreated or beaten. He always had a decent meal. Henry regrets leaving with Brown because things were much easier before he appeared in his life.
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