All rise. Harford County trial docket number fifty-three, the case of Negro Margaret vs. Margaret Ashmore, petition for freedom. The Honorable William T. Archer presiding on this day, Wednesday, August 28, 1837.”
All Different Kinds of Free is based on the story of Margaret Morgan and the case of Prigg v Pennsylvania. Margaret was a free woman, living in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children, until she and her children were kidnapped by bounty hunters and taken to Maryland to be returned to the widow of the man who had owned her family (he had freed them before he died). The man’s widow has some financial issues and she’s convinced by her daughter and son-in-law that she’ll make a tidy profit selling Margaret and her children at auction.
Fact is, he said, the Ashmores don’t have papers saying they own me, and I don’t have papers saying I’m free.”
McCann takes this lesser known bit of history and weaves a tale of what might have happened to Margaret, interspersed with the POV of her husband Jerry fighting to find a way to get his family back and the legal proceedings arguing the legalities of *abducting* Margaret. Needless to say, Margaret’s experiences are horrific, but at the same time I didn’t quite *feel* the horror and felt a bit on the outside looking in, and the ending was a bit too pat. The one thing that really struck me is that all those good white folks in Pennsylvania were darned outraged over someone from another state coming in and taking Margaret away and arguing the legalities of it all the way to the Supreme Court, but did one of them really care about getting Margaret and her children back? No…
Your family is gone, son. You best accept it, and you best be on your way now.”
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