As the story opens, we meet Kelsa Colver, her husband Wade sons Paul and Diamond who are living on a rich plantation working for a cruel and evil master. The Mallards live in opulence and enjoy giving parties, eating the best of everything and drinking expensive wines. Treating their slaves with cruelty, embarrassing fathers in front of their sons and using a whip to teach them lessons is not even the half of what these slaves had to endure.
Each parent was required to put in more than a day’s work and each father too. Any deviation or anything but full compliance would result in severe punishment. But, Kelsa was strong minded and as we meet her when speak with her master’s wife, we learn that she knows how to pretend to agree with her words, state she is lucky to work for them and live there and each one learns the true meaning of hate, prejudice and injustice.
A simple request to send someone to help Kelsa prepare for a party would bring to light what many tried to do during this time, gain their freedom. But, plans are not always followed, many cannot be trusted and all too often those that try to escape find themselves facing the barrel of a gun or even worse. Every step of the way we can feel the pain, the frustration and fear within the hearts and minds of Kelsa and her family as a decision is made to gain what so many want their freedom. A young slave girl named Noreen is sent to work with Kelsa talks about finding her way to freedom and her fate is sealed when caught. But, Kelsa is relentless and won’t give up as she finds herself on the road to freedom with her family.
Learning about a group that will help her and starting their journey was dangerous. Hoping not to get caught a miracle in itself as both of her boys embark on this journey but somehow manage to get into all sorts of trouble along the way. As you hear them speak in hushed tones and understand their plight, you begin to hope that someday they too will have a better life. As quoted many times in this novel that in the Declaration of Independence :All men are created equal.” If that is the case and it is, why weren’t black people given the same rights as white people? Why were they forced to work for taskmasters that were cruel? Why did Kelsa have to hide the fact that her sons were learning to read? Why didn’t her youngest son understand the importance of what she was doing and what about him made him different than the other children?
A simple piece of paper stuffed in a loaf of bread with the words GO would start them on chain of events that would place them in danger, give them the courage to go on and show them they kindness of many and the deceptions of some. Murdered slaves, cruel slave owners, corrupt police and some that cared enough to risk their lives and their positions, and abolitionists that helped them along the way, Where Freedom Rings is a powerful novel that reminds us of what so many went through before the Civil War at the hands of those living in the South because they could. Auctioning off family members for money, beating slaves into submission, degrading them in public and not caring about their welfare are just some of the issues brought to light in this novel by author Steven Donahue.
Listening to the couples speak about the slaves and what they think ought to happen to them gives you pause for thought. Someone even thought that Kelsa needed attention But, many situations got out of hand, some of the men tried to approach Kelsa and at times Wade just stood there and said nothing. Maisey, the oldest servant, working for Ms. Virginia learned early on to steer clear of comments, talk, and gossip. When several slaves disappear or escape and the master, Mr. Wilkensen comes to the Mallard house to search and investigate things spiral out of control, fits and guns rise, and the result will surprise readers.
A young Abolitionist named Isabel takes the lead as she picks up the family in her stagecoach, fends off the law, deals with her irate husband who is angered when he finds them in his home and then hands them off to someone else stating that she helped them because it is the “right thing to do.” Diamond is young and has yet to understand what is really happening and often wonders why he is treated differently by the other kids and Mr. Mallard. Having to leave her home they head for a freight train and are helped by a man named Norman as the Colvers once again set off in the darkness of night in search of freedom.
Finding a place to stay, hunting for food and learning how to fend for themselves until they came to a lawman that would try and end it all. But, Deputy Seaver was different, kind and what happens will surprise each and every reader when fighting for their lives, having to use force, possibly killing their foe and then finding themselves hoping to be free. Mildred takes them the next leg of the way, and the boat they go on is their hope to finding their way to the North. But, not everything goes as planned when Paul disappears, a search is on and then the boiler on the boat explodes and everyone has to find safety in a lifeboat. But, Mildred is loyal to the family, pretending they are her slaves, she won’t leave without them, but the end result will bring tears your eyes.
Throughout the novel, we find Kelsa in many different situations and who learns that her will to find freedom, her desire to fight for her family might lead her to do things that she never dreamed. As Isabel can no longer house them, they are turned over to Norman, and then Mildred and finally find themselves in the home of a family that would take them in for a long time. Using different names and hoping not to be discovered they wind up in North Carolina, which is still considered the South. But, when they state that their master no longer exists, they are given their freedom by the authorities even if only for a short while.
Juniper Harris would prove to be more than just someone who takes them in, and her family becomes their’s too. But, the authorities catch wind that they are there, the danger is real and what happens will force them to have to leave one more time. Imagine meeting Harriet Tubman and being part of the Underground Railroad to freedom. Hearing her words, understanding her job and praying for the family every step of the way. Along the way, they learn the true meanings of trust, friendship, loyalty and betrayal and deceit. When leaving the Harris’s they find themselves at a convent and meet Sister Katherine, who tries to protect them, but a corrupt Priest who does not believe in their cause turns them in.
Freedom comes at a high price as the corrupt Priest sends the law to their doorstep, and the Mallard’s will haunt them from far away. A bounty for their heads and they are told they are going to have to go back because their fate is sealed. But, what happens will terrify readers as the family stands tall, the bounty hunters learn their strength and the fate of one young child turns tragic. Outlaws, slave hunters, those that are humane and a hidden truth that will rock their world, Where Freedom Rings sounds a bell loud and clear that many have learned from the past, some are still caught up in the same web in places today and one family named Colver will fight to the finish until they finally hear the bells of freedom ring no matter where they have to go and how far they need to travel.
William Sill and Harriet Tubman helped many who wanted to gain their freedom. As you hear their voices and learn the fate of this family many will remember what so many endured as some will recall family members that lived during this time, others that might have had family that were slave owners and some that would understand the true meaning of the words: Created Equal. As Paul and Diamond learn many hard lessons and their parents try their best to guide them the past will catch up in the present and the result will let everyone know that some dreams come true, and others need time as not everyone even today believe the words: All men are created equal.
A great book for kids to read in Middle School and High School as a starting point to help them understand the Civil War and the differences between the North and South. A country divided. People on different sides and a nation that still needs to mend even today.