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Home Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School

Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School

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By Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by London Ladd
Lee & Low Books
ISBN: 978-1620141632 (Hardcover)

Ages 7 to 11, picture book

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Awards & Praise

starSTARRED REVIEW: Kirkus Reviews
Wonderful Reviews in Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist

The Story

Born into slavery around 1821 in Petersburg, Virginia, Lilly Ann Granderson secretly learned to read and write from her master's children. Lilly Ann read everything she could get her hands on. Through newspapers, she learned of places in the North where slavery had been abolished. She longed to have that freedom, too.

As Lilly Ann's reading nd writing skills improved, she shared her knoledge with others by starting a school. After toiling for their masters all day, Lilly Ann's students slipped nervously into the night to attend her "midnight" school. Every noise reminded them of the painful punishment they faced if they were found out. But the students were willing to risk any danger for the chance at an education. Over the years, hundreds of enslaved people learned to read and write under their midnight teacher's patient guidance.

Midnight Teacher is an inspiring testament to an amazing instructor and pioneer in education. Lilly Ann Granderson's steadfast courage in the face of adversity provides an inspiring model for all who attempt to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.


The Story Behind the Story

The existence of laws forbidding enslaved people from learning to read and write has always bothered me a great deal. How could something as basic and important as education be denied to someone, at the risk of a beating or worse. Somehow, I wanted to tell this story. When I learned of a teacher who held a secret school for enslaved people from midnight till two in the morning, I knew I wanted to tell this woman's story. It took years and lots of research to ferret out the details, but I feel so honored to be able to share Lilly Ann Granderson's amazing untold story with the world. I hope Midnight Teacher will be the start of making her name one that everyone will know.

Curriculum Connections

THEMES: African/African American Interest, Biography/Memoir, Courage, Dreams & Aspirations, Education, Heroism, Leadership, Overcoming Obstacles, Slavery, United States History, Discrimination, Families, Geography, History, Kindness/Caring, Persistence/Grit, Responsibility, Sharing & Giving, Women's History



  • starSTARRED REVIEW! "An unsung hero and literacy champion whose teaching changed many lives. Halfmann and Ladd tell the remarkable, true story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman born around 1821 in Peterburg, Virginia . . .  An excellent homage to an African-American woman who taught ahead of her time."  —Kirkus Reviews
  • "Halfmann tells the powerful story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an enslaved woman who 'believed the path to freedom was through education' . . . The painful but uplifting narrative may spark readers' curiosity about other enslaved individuals whose stories have not yet been told." —Publishers Weekly
  • "A winning tribute to Lilly Ann Granderson, the Midnight Teacher . . . A top choice for any library serving elementary school-aged children." —School Library Journal
  • "This inspiring true story . . . provides good context, explaining why owners feared the education of the enslaved, and that, despite the dangers to Lilly . . . and the hundreds of her fellow African Americans she impacted, it was worth risking punishment and sacrificing sleep. The full-page earth-toned acrylic and colored-pencil illustrations depict the full drama, danger, and determination . . . and are followed by an afterword, references, and quotation sources." —Booklist
  • "This story is true and very inspirational. Parents and teachers can open up dialogue and share with kids the trials and tribulations of education in the south and discuss the difficulties of slavery. This is also a great way for parents and teachers to discuss the importance of literacy and its benefits." —Kristi's Book Nook
  • "Midnight Teacher is a suspensful piece of non-fiction . . . Like Janet Halfmann's previous book, Seven Niles to Freedom: the Robert Smalls Story, Midnight Teacher takes the reader, along with the protagonist, through a perilous journey. Based on a true story of a courageous woman who takes risks so that she can accomplish her goal of educating other slaves, this book is the ideal companion to a Social Studies unit on slavery and the Civil War." —golowd: a blog about teaching and writing
  • "The details of how she (Lilly Ann Granderson) managed to not only educate individuals but get them to share their newfound skills with others, as well, are incredible and nothing short of miraculous. Granderson exhibited bravery beyond what most can even imagine, and her story—one that I had never heard in my 42 yares of life—needs to be told." —5 Minutes for Books

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