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About the book

A young man strives to escape from slavery in this blistering epic from Jackson (Operation Burning Candle), a novelist and civil rights activisit known for his contributions to the Black thriller genre of the 1960s and ’70s who died in 2012. . . . Jackson’s propulsive prose conveys Jubel's urgency and his Odyssean string of obstacles. . . . The steady supply of action and psychological insights makes this a knockout.” Publishers Weekly

“Blyden Jackson’s For One Day of Freedom is a modest classic, fusing a scholar’s energy and an artist’s empathy. As he dramatizes the Southern plantation owner’s indifference to the feelings and souls of Black slaves, Jackson vividly portrays the daring and dignity of the enslaved. A page-turner that isn’t resolved until the very last sentence.” —Sidney Offit, curator emeritus, George Polk Awards in Journalism

* * *

After months of planning, Jubel prepares his escape. In two days, he will embark on a perilous journey to Canada to secure his freedom. And with the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, there will be no safe place for him until he crosses the border. Determined to break the generational shackles—his own parents having been sold and split apart from each other—Jubel will learn the path by forging it, and then return to the Windsor Plantation for Missy, the love of his life. Missy, meanwhile, holds a terrible secret of her own.

To Robb Windsor, the youngest of the clan at twenty-two, Jubel is as much as a friend as he is a prize slave. They grew up together, bonded. Now Jubel must navigate not only the physical terrain of the swampland while being pursued by slave catcher Big Kit and his dogs but also the psychological battlefield of being hunted by his only boyhood friend.

On his run for “the Freedom,” Jubel will meet many characters—some in pursuit of their own liberation, others with far more nefarious intent. At every turn, from swampland to steamboat to the North, he will have to make split-second decisions on who he can trust, and for how long.

This posthumous release of Jackson’s third and final novel includes a foreword by Jane Clark Jackson and an afterword by Dr. Brandyn Adeo.

About the author

Blyden Brown Jackson Jr. (1936–2012) was a civil rights activist who served as a founder of the New Haven, Connecticut, chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) before founding and becoming chairman of the East River chapter of CORE, located in Harlem. In his life he was a husband and a father, a community organizer, a builder, a marine, an emergency medical technician, a coach, and a teacher, among a plethora of other titles. His previous books are the novels Operation Burning Candle and Totem.

Discussion questions

Some questions to kick off your book club, classroom, or individual discussion of Blyden Jackson's novel.

  1. What does “the freedom” mean to Jubel? Freedom from what? Freedom to and for what?

  2. What does freedom look like to you? Is there a radical liberation that you want to live into?

  3. How do the steamboats and brothels described in the novel have similar class structures to the plantation?

  4. Describe examples of how hatred, classism and racism are parts of daily living for the people in the novel.

  5. Do you see any difference in the lives of the enslaved persons who work in the Big House and those who work in the fields?

  6. In the book, how were dogs and even poor white children taught to see enslaved persons as the enemy, and how were they expected to treat them?

  7. What does enslavement do to white people? How does classism determine how wealthy white people treat poor white people within the structure that allows people to accept that they can only take on people below their level?

  8. Poor whites are described as living on a subsistence level. What means were available to them to earn extra money?

  9. Why was Robb so angry at Jubel and personally affronted by his escape, to the point that he would pursue him himself even at the important time of harvest? What kind of friendship could they have had if he “owned” Jubel? Why prevents Robb from accepting that Jubel does not want to be back to the plantation?

  10. Do you see examples of the kind of desperation that led Jubel to escape his life on the plantation and head into the unknown for the hope of something better, in today’s world?

  11. What would motivate the helpers that Jubel meets on his journey, causing them to risk their own safety and wellbeing to aid him, a stranger to them?

  12. What do you think of the role of Abigail, Robb’s wife?

  13. Could the patrollers and slave catchers be seen as precursors to the police officers in the South in years following the Civil War? Do you see reminders of their actions in the treatment of people of color today?

  14. Do you think Jubel goes back for Missy? What would motivate him to do that? Would you do it, given the same scenario?

  15. If Jubel does go back for Missy and is successful, do you think he will do it again?


Resources

Links to Information about the author, Blyden B. Jackson, Jr.

Blyden’s Activities in N.Y. CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in the 1960’s:


Links to Resources on Blyden’s Writing

Historical Resources for For One Day of Freedom

The following links provide background information on the historical timing of the novel.

Events

September 29, 2022 @ 6:30 pm eastern

Join us for an online discussion of the novel, hosted by Rokeby Museum and Treleven Farm, featuring Jane Jackson , Dr. Brandyn Adeo, Aaron B. Jackson, and Gabriel Levinson. Free via Zoom. Click here to register. (Registration is encouraged. More details, including the Zoom link will be emailed to you.)


Jane Clark Jackson married Blyden Jackson in 1975. They made their home in New York, Vermont, and New Jersey until Blyden’s death in 2012. As a nurse-midwife she adapted a British medical dictionary for American usage, The New American Pocket Medical Dictionary and wrote and edited a compendium of resource information for nurses, The Whole Nurse Catalog.


Brandyn Adeo, PhD, is an associate professor of philosophy at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville, New Jersey. He received his PhD in philosophy from the New School for Social Research. His dissertation is entitled “The Revolution Must Be Funny: The Liberatory and Revolutionary Power of Comedy.” He also performs with his band, Universal Rebel, under the name Adeo.


Aaron B. Jackson, son of Blyden Jackson, is a poet who has been published in more than fifty publications, at times using the pen name Middlepoet. He is the former Poet Laureate of Jersey City, NJ. His poetry has been exhibited in Finland’s Pori Art Museum as part of a multimedia collaboration with photographer Chi Modu and motion artist Jan Tompkins, and he has twice been the recipient of grants from the Puffin Foundation.


Gabriel Levinson is the publisher and founding editor of ANTIBOOKCLUB, an independent press. He has taught in New York University’s Center for Publishing and is a senior production editor for Penguin Random House.


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