Book: Hurry Freedom

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Hurry Freedom

Author: Jerry Stanley
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers

Here for the first time in a book for young readers is the story of the African American forty-niners who went west to seek fortunes and freedom in the California Gold Rush.

Among the thousands drawn west by the California Gold Rush were many African Americans. Some were free men and women in search of opportunity; others were slaves brought from the slave states of the South. Some found freedom and wealth in the gold fields and growing cities of California, but all faced the deeply entrenched prejudices of the era.

To tell this story Hurry Freedom! focuses on the life of Mifflin Gibbs, who arrived in San Francisco in 1850 and established a successful boot and shoe business. But Gibbs’s story is more than one of business and personal success: With other African American San Franciscans, he led a campaign to obtain equal legal and civil rights for Blacks in California.


The California gold rush of 1849 brought a new kind of freedom to many African Americans. Slavery was illegal in California, and slaves who were brought in by their owners could escape and be freed. And for free African Americans, the gold rush opened up incredible opportunities for financial profit. California’s population grew from 8,000 to 100,000 in one year, and, while prejudice raged in the gold mines as well as everywhere else, it become possible for some men (and women) to take advantage of the riches available. Mifflin Gibbs arrived in San Francisco in 1850 with 10 cents to his name and a powerful ambition to succeed. Within a very few years, he had established a successful boot and shoe business, was working on California’s Underground Railroad, and leading a campaign to obtain equal legal rights by overturning laws that prohibited African Americans from testifying in California courts.

This compelling true story by award-winning author Jerry Stanley (Big Annie of Calumet: A True Story of the Industrial Revolution) recounts the history of African Americans in California during the incredibly complex and dramatic time of the gold rush, while focusing on the life and work of one determined man. Young readers who hope to change the world will be moved by the photos and historical drawings and inspired by the anecdotes and narratives that capture an era. (Ages 12 and older) —Emilie Coulter

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