Submitted by Jessica Trippe
“Grandad, when are you going to write a book for kids?” The question, asked by his five-year-old granddaughter, was difficult for Frye Galliard to ignore. As a journalist, he’d written and published for years, but never with this audience in mind.
During the January Pensters meeting, Galliard related how his book “Go South for Freedom” became a reality. Long before the conversation with his granddaughter, he’d passed many Saturday mornings with his own grandfather’s gardener, “helping” in the manner young boys do, riding in the wheelbarrow and leaping the collard greens. Along the way, Robert the yardman had shared stories passed down through generations. One, in particular, had captivated the author for years.
Fitting the oral history Robert shared of the night his ancestors escaped slavery with historical records and gearing it toward young readers didn’t happen overnight. Though Robert could recount the initial events, passed down from his grandmother who was herself just a baby at the time, the next steps were question marks until the family arrived in Mobile years later. What had happened between their escape into the woods of Georgia and their establishment in the Port City?
“I knew I didn’t have enough with just the oral history, so I did research,” noted Galliard. Maintaining a firm focus on staying true to the original story, he wove in details discovered while investigating the two leading explanations for where the family had gone following that stormy night.
The project may have begun in response to one question from an inquisitive grandchild, but the experience has opened a new avenue for Galliard. Currently, he has two children’s books in the works. When asked about tackling a subject such as slavery with a young audience, he commented: “You can talk to kids about anything. You just have to find the right words.”