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Book Review: A Man Called Horse: John Horse and the Black Seminole Underground Railroad by Glennette Tilley Turner

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Abrams. Sept. 2021. 112p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419749339.

Gr 6-9–This fascinating look at the complex life of Black Seminole leader John Horse, a warrior, diplomat, and champion for his people, follows his tireless search for freedom, safety, and home. Foundational background is given about Seminole Indians and Black Seminoles (descendants of Seminoles and free Blacks and escaped slaves) as well as the First Seminole War, the Indian Removal Act, and the Second Seminole War. It was during the Second Seminole War that John Horse, a skilled negotiator, interpreter, guide, and advisor, began to rise to leadership. Horses’s life and travels are detailed as he sought peace and security for his people through the southern United States, and eventually Mexico. Escapes, deportations, challenges, promises, possibilities, and perilous situations marked Horse’s quest. He worked determinedly to find a new home for Black Seminoles, who had unresolved and changing statuses during this time of the mid-to-late 1800s. Horse was constantly negotiating to encourage protection, treaties, land grants, and autonomy for his people.

Engravings, photographs, illustrations, and painting adorn most of the full-color pages, with chapters providing just enough information to feel thorough without feeling overwhelming. Well laid-out and engaging, this biography shows the significant impact John Horse had on the rights, recognition, freedom, and protection of Black Seminoles, who were considered slaves by Americans and Seminoles. The volume wraps up with additional information on battles, places of refuge, rescues, and expeditions. A time line, author’s note, chapter notes, bibliography, and index round out the book.

VERDICT An important examination of a historical figure who hasn’t been featured that often in books for young readers.