Dear Mr. President: Abraham Lincoln: Letters from a Slave Girl

letters from a slave girl

Dear Mr. President: Abraham Lincoln: Letters from a Slave Girl

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

  • publisher and date: Winslow Press, 2001
  • genre: historical fiction
  • age/grade: grades 4-7

Synopsis (from www.bn.com)
The Dear Mr. President series brings history alive through fictitious correspondence between a president and a young person. Although the letters are all imagined, they are based upon meticulous historical research. Elegantly designed in two colors, the books include photographs, maps, primary source material, a presidential biography, U.S. postal history, an index, and timelines. In this latest addition to the series, the United States descends into Civil War, a 12-year-old slave on a South Carolina plantation begins corresponding with the newly inaugurated President Lincoln. Full emancipation, the president writes to her, cannot come easily in so deeply divided a nation. But her continuing appeals prod the conscience of this burdened man, and he drafts the Emancipation Proclamation that sets Lettie on the road to freedom.

Author’s Perspective: 

From the book jacket: Ms. Pinkney was inspired to write about Abraham Lincoln because he is the only president in American history whose actions had a profound impact on African Americans.

Literary Elements:

Character – Abraham Lincoln comes alive in the fictional letters. Lettie Tucker, a young slave girl, asks important questions of the time. Her spunk, thoughtfulness, and intelligence come across in her letters. Historical events (battles, Emancipation Proclamation, slavery, etc.) are seen through the characters’ eyes.

Style/Tone– The entire story is told through the use of the letters back and forth between Lettie and A. (Abraham Lincoln).  Each character has his/her own voice. Historical events don’t just seem like historical facts and dates, but the important events that changed our world.

Illustrations – Period photographs, combined with brief, informative captions add another dimension to the story.

Organization –  After the story, there is a 14 page section on historical notes. After reading about the different events and parts of Abraham Lincoln’s life, it was interesting to read more information about the history behind it. There are 3 lists of books for further reading (1 for kids, 1 for adults, and 1 for both to enjoy). There is information about the Postal Service for the time period. Also, the publisher’s website, Winslow Press, has interactive footnotes that are throughout the story.

Curriculum Connections:

  • Write a letter – Write a letter to our President. What would you ask about the world? Mailing address:

    The White House
    1600 Pensylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC  20500 

  • Field Trip – Take a field trip to Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s  family home in Manchester, VT. This is the only child of Abraham Lincoln to survive to adulthood.
  • Write a persuasive essay – Write an essay to convince Abraham Lincoln that slavery should end.

Web Resources:

Reviews:

Booklist (from www.amazon.com)

Gr. 4-7. In the third volume in the Dear Mr. President series, Pinkney creates a lively, two-year correspondence between Abraham Lincoln and Lettie Tucker, a 12-year-old slave living on a plantation in South Carolina. Lettie respectfully challenges Lincoln, and as she writes about her life and family, the consequences should he fail to end slavery are dramatically revealed. Lincoln’s genial, concerned responses depict both his determination to preserve the Union and his conflicted, gradually changing views about abolition. Lettie emerges as engaging, determined, and empathic, whether chiding or comforting Lincoln, grieving when her father is sold, or rejoicing because of the Emancipation Proclamation and her family’s new life in Philadelphia. The letters are beautifully written and accompanied by numerous photographs, but the book seems cluttered. And with a publisher’s note, an introduction, two pages of ads for the series, three bibliographies, interactive footnotes, an index, and notes linking the text to the publisher’s Web site, it seems more like nonfiction than fiction. Still, the price is right, the premise is interesting, the research connections useful, and the letters thought provoking. Chris Sherman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

School Library Journal (from www.bn.com)

Gr 5-7-This series title presents fictionalized letters between a 12-year-old slave girl living on a South Carolina plantation and President Lincoln, from 1861 to 1863. Lettie Tucker has been secretly taught to read and write by the plantation owner’s daughter, who encouraged her to begin the correspondence. She describes her life and her family’s circumstances and challenges the president on his position toward slavery, urging him to free the slaves. Lincoln describes his life with the First Lady and two of their sons in the White House, the progress of the war, and his evolving position regarding slavery, culminating in the Emancipation Proclamation. The book includes photos, paintings, engravings, prints, reproductions, and a description of the U.S. postal service. This title raises interesting issues about slavery that are relevant to present-day discussions on race relations. It will be useful for supplementary reading for school curricula.-Marilyn Ackerman, Brooklyn Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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