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Pinkney's earthy, craggy pencil and watercolor illustrations capture both the power and the humanity of this African-American folk-hero. Masterful use of light and shadow portray the strength and mass of the Allegheny Mountains, which match the magnitude of John Henry, while delicate shading and mottled color suggest the detail of a realistic natural setting enlivened with touches of whimsy.
American slaves, runaways, and emancipated people provide a powerful testament of how they felt about slavery and what they endured. The author dynamically blends quotations from published and unpublished sources and presents them in rough chronological order.