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Hammering for Freedom (A Book Review)

Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield

Publisher: Lee and Low Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: 7-10
Grade Level: 1-2

Born into slavery in Tennessee, William Lewis learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer. He proved to be an exceptional blacksmith and earned so much money fixing old tools and creating new ones that he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. With just a few coins in his pocket, Bill set a daring plan in motion: he was determined to free his family.

Winner of Lee & Low s New Voices Award and a Junior Library Guild selection, Hammering for Freedom tells the true story of one man s skill, hard work, and resolve to keep his family together.

Hammering for Freedom introduces readers to William “Bill” Lewis, born into slavery in Tennessee. Bill learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer.

Once he mastered the blacksmith trade, Bill set a goal to save his money and buy his entire family’s freedom at the age of 26. He knew the slave owners rented to enslaved men and women to make extra money, so Bill asked the slave owner to let him rent himself. Bill paid $350 per year to rent his freedom. After he paid the rent from his savings, Bill still had money leftover to open his own blacksmith shop. He became the first African American blacksmith in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

When Bill paid for his freedom he began saving again to buy his wife’s freedom, his son’s freedom, his mother, aunt, siblings, the whole dang family!

This is a feel good story. It made me cry happy tears to see this Black man overcome the odds, work hard, set an elaborate goal and achieve it all to keep his family together. It took him 26 years to buy freedom for his entire family, but he got it done…like a boss! And then what does Bill do after all that? He pays $2,000 cash for a two-story home for his family to live in. Back in those days most White people couldn’t afford to do that. Bill Lewis is my new hero!

Check this one out if you get a chance. I’m so in love with it and I’m thrilled to now know about William “Bill” Lewis and introduce this story to my kids. Recommended for ages 7-10 and up. 

Your turn: Have you ever heard of William “Bill” Lewis before?  Did you read this story yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Hammering for Freedom (A Book Review)

  1. I have not heard of William “Bill” Lewis but will definitely look into sharing the entrepreneurial and inspirational story to my daughters. What a wonderful reminder to use our gifts for freedom and in my case financial freedom! thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Dear Charnaie, his there, I’m Rita Lorraine. Thanks so much for this lovely review of my book, Hammering For Freedom. I’m not sure why I’m only just stumbling across your site, but I want to tell you that your review really made my day. Thanks again for shining the light, not only on this book, but on diverse books in general. We need you. 🙂

    Take care,
    Rita Lorraine

  3. This book is on Louisiana’s Young Reader’s Choice Award list for 20/21. I am a librarian in south LA and looking forward to sharing this book with my 3-5th graders who all participate in this program especially in light of all that has been going on in our country in the last several months. Many of our students here, I think, don’t fully understand racial equality b/c where we live in south LA, we do not have many African American students who attend our schools. I love reading books to them dealing with different cultures, nationalities/races. I think the African American students whom we do service have learned to appreciate these readings b/c all the books previously read portray the African American race and other races in many positive ways.

    1. Hi Liesl, how are you? I’m so glad you’re looking forward to sharing HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM with your classroom. When I first found William Lewis’ story, I was amazed at the odds stacked against him, and I cheered when he overcame them. If you ever want me to read to your students via Zoom, please let me know (ritahubbard (at) g SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is offering classroom grants to get authors and their books into the classroom. Best wishes to you and your students!–Rita Lorraine Hubbard