Brief Description: Illustrated story about African American slaves gaining freedom with help from Native Americans by crossing Bok Chitto river into Choctaw territory.
Date Range: 1808
Original Publication: 2006
Suitable for Grades: K-2nd
Target Audience: Picture Book
I don’t recall ever learning about the interaction between Native Americans and African American slaves as a student. But the two groups of people, one with long-established customs and social groups for possibly tens of thousands of years, the other more recently forced to the continent, couldn’t be more different and yet share similar fates. For they both faced a common antagonist – while colonial settlers with an insatiable appetite for enterprise and expansion.
Choctaw “storyteller” Tim Tingle’s short story for young readers, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, shows us a Choctaw girl crossing the big river called Bok Chitto to collect blackberries on the plantation side. There she witnesses a forbidden slave church meeting and befriends an African American boy, Little Mo. The girl shows him a secret way to cross the big river, by stepping on a series of stones just under the surface of the water. Many years later, when Mo’s owner plans to sell his mother, he and his father plan an escape via the secret stone crossing. Martha’s whole village helps the runaway slaves escape the guard dogs. Older readers might be interested in Tingle’s retelling of this same story, Stone River Crossing.