Journey Toward Freedom Critical Essays

Jacqueline Bernard


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Journey Toward Freedom is a biography of Truth, an African-American woman who distinguished herself as a social activist in the nineteenth century United States. In telling Truth’s story, Bernard introduces aspects of nineteenth century American social, political, and intellectual history. Truth knew many of the famous contemporaries who, along with her, helped to form this history. Among others, she knew Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Abraham Lincoln.

Bernard introduces the historic setting in which Truth lived but focuses primarily on Truth’s life. The author summarizes this life to show its broad contours, but she gives this life immediacy by frequently including specific scenes and conversations. Thus, Bernard makes her work more readable by using a novelist’s approach. Not all these scenes and conversations are based on sources. In the author’s note, Bernard writes that “wherever possible, I have used actual conversations as originally spoken and recorded in the primary sources.” Some of the scenes and conversations are true in a broad rather than a narrow sense: They show characters’ relationships and personalities but do not record exactly what was done and said. For example, when John Neely escorts Truth to his home after having bought her, he thinks, “Now, now, no need to worry Mrs. Neely. The girl’ll pick up English fast enough.” Bernard has no way of knowing what Neely thought, but including this comment enriches the scene; the thought is undocumented but true to Neely’s personality.


(The entire section is 654 words.)