Your Most Humble Servant Critical Essays

Shirley Graham


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Graham outlines Banneker’s humble origins and tells her readers from the start that Banneker was destined to be a great individual. She obviously admires the man she writes about—the farmer, the watchmaker, the astronomer, the inventor, and the writer—and wants her readers to take inspiration from Banneker’s life. The title of the book, Your Most Humble Servant, underscores the biographer’s message to young readers, particularly African Americans: They too can be as successful as Banneker.

The book is particularly appealing to young adults, as it combines historical fact with some fiction. The essence of Banneker’s life, however, although long neglected by academics, was recorded during his lifetime, and Graham makes sure that readers are aware of this aspect of her work. She continuously quotes from original sources in her narrative, and she makes a specific point about this with her notes at the end of the book. Graham also cautions her young readers, by bringing so many characters into play, that one cannot make it on one’s own in this world. Like Banneker, one must listen carefully and take advantage of what others have to offer.

The author dedicates almost an entire section to Banneker’s effort to find a suitable mate in life. He fell in love with a slave named Anola, and he wanted to buy her from her master in order to make her his wife. Unfortunately, because Anola was very attractive, her master would not...

(The entire section is 474 words.)