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Literature / American Girls: Addy

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Released in 1993, Addy Walker was the fifth historical character of the American Girls Collection, representing the Civil War Era. First, a slave in North Carolina then escapes up north to Philadelphia. Her family is separated and has to reunite, and stories focus on issues faced by former slaves, such as catching up on the education they'd been denied and the fact that "free" black people weren't all that free, even in the North.

  1. Meet Addy, Addy Learns a Lesson, Addy's Surprise — in omnibus format as Finding Freedom
  2. Happy Birthday, Addy!, Addy Saves the Day, Changes for Addy — in an omnibus format as A Heart Full of Hope
  3. Short stories: "Addy Studies Freedom", "Addy's Wedding Quilt", "Addy's Little Brother" (originally published as "The Little Brother"), "Addy's Summer Place", "High Hopes for Addy"
  4. Mystery: Shadows on Society Hill
  5. Other: None

The series includes the following tropes:

  • Alpha Bitch: Addy's classmate Harriet Davis has an arrogant attitude and thinks of herself as better than the other students because her family is rich.
  • Ancestral Name: Addy is named after her great-grandmother, Aduke.
  • Arc Words: "Freedom's got a cost," the last words said by Uncle Solomon to Addy and her mother before they escape the plantation and flee to freedom in the North. Every step toward making a new life is hard for the Walker family—finding a job, learning to read, searching for their missing family members, and dealing with prejudice from white Philadelphians—but as long as they have each other, they can overcome anything.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Changes for Addy. Yes, Addy's whole family is reunited once more, but Uncle Solomon dies before he can reunite with the Walkers, and Auntie Lula dies a few days after reuniting Esther with the family.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Harriet is a black girl from a rich family who acts superior to the other girls in Addy's class. She believes her family has always been free, but Miss Dunn gently reminds her that, at the time, pretty much every black person in America either is a slave, has been one, or is descended from them.
  • Break the Haughty: Harriet's arrogance builds throughout her involvement in the series until she's devastated by her soldier uncle's death about midway through "Saves the Day", whereupon she's humbled and Addy reaches out to her in understanding.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Early in the first book, Addy remembers an incident where she screamed and cried as Sam was being whipped by their master. Afterward, she was upset and yelled at her parents that they didn't care about Sam because they weren't crying when it happened. Poppa gently tells her that just because they didn't cry, it didn't mean they weren't upset—sometimes, they have to keep their emotions on the inside. Later, Addy has to do this while she's escaping with her mother and she finds herself in the middle of a Confederate soldiers' camp. Because it's nighttime and she's wearing boy's clothing, a soldier notices her but just thinks she's one of their slaves and tells her to bring water. Despite being terrified, she holds it in and brings him the water while trying not to give away that she's not who he thinks she is. She patiently waits until he falls asleep, and walks toward the edge of the camp, knowing she can't run (even though she wants to) or it would look suspicious. Once she's out of their sight, she makes it back to her mother, who tells her she saw everything and how proud she is of her.
  • The Chew Toy: Sarah Moore hardly seems to catch a break. She is the daughter of impoverished parents who often have to put off her studies and launder her clothing just to help her mother with the laundry orders, the rich girls snicker at the fact that she attends school in stained dresses, she is falling far behind in her reading and spelling compared to her formerly-illiterate friend Addy, she is often more self-conscious, and has acquired a pair of Jade-Colored Glasses as a result of segregation and the social hierarchy in school, and she finally has to drop out of school just to help her family earn enough money to get by. Addy offers to come over and help her catch up on schoolwork.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Sarah is the daughter of a washerwoman and helps her mother with the wash, they often get so much to wash that they can't clean a lot of her school clothing. Sarah ends up going to school in shabby or stained dresses with wealthier girls that make fun of her.
  • Cool Teacher: Addy's teacher Miss Dunn is one. She's a black female teacher, unusual for her time, even in the North. What makes her cooler is that she's quite perceptive and progressive for her time. For example, she's understanding when it comes to the negative impact slavery has had on educational opportunities for the black community, she never shames Addy for poor reading skills as some teachers would, and she catches on to Harriet Davis' mean girl agenda quickly.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Birthday: Addy was born in the spring, but doesn't know the exact date of her birthday, so she and her parents decide that they'll choose a special day and have a celebration. She chooses to celebrate her birthday on the same day that the Civil War ends, April 9th.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Before the events of Meet Addy, Sam had run away and was caught and was whipped in front of his family. Addy was bawling while her parents looked on with barely a trace of emotion. She tells them how upsetting it was to see they didn't look sad, and her father told her that it's only because they aren't free to express their emotions, and it's only on the inside that they're free.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Addy's snood from her birthday outfit has some.
  • Force Feeding: In the first book, Addy is worming tobacco plants and is distracted by her grief over her father and brother having been sold the previous day. When she misses a few tobacco worms, an overseer finds them and forces her to eat them.
  • Hero of Another Story: Sam reunites with the rest of the family in Addy Saves the Day, having escaped from his owners, become a Union soldier in the Civil War, and lost an arm along the way.
  • Honorary Uncle: Uncle Solomon and Auntie Lula, older folks on Master Stevens' plantation who are said to have helped parents Ben and Ruth Walker even before Sam, Addy, and Esther were born. Ruth leaves Esther in their care, and they take it upon themselves to follow her and Addy to freedom and reunite Esther with her family.
  • Hot-Blooded: Addy's brother Sam is described as having "a hot head and a hot mouth," which is probably why he ends up enlisting in the Union army.
  • Iconic Item: A cowrie shell Addy's great-grandmother brought from Africa, strung on one of her brother's shoelaces to remind her of her family.
  • I Die Free: Upon hearing that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Solomon strutted around his and Lula's cabin, then got down on his knees and thanked God. He helped Lula bring Esther to freedom and died after they reached the last freedman camp on their way to Philadelphia.
    • Lula herself can bring Esther to Philadelphia. Addy stays at a hospital waiting for them and Solomon for a long time, then fails to find them at a local church. She decides that as she is already running late, she might as well check a Baptist Church on the way home and spots Lula and Esther just as they are leaving. Lula would later tell Addy that she thought she would not have been able to go on anymore. She dies a few days after Esther is reunited with her parents and siblings.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: The Walker family. Addy and her mother take their freedom, As Addy remarks at the end of her first book, with the rest of their family gradually joining them later.
  • Inspiring Sermon: In Addy's Surprise, Reverend Drake gives a sermon about how the freedmen escaping slavery and coming to the North need help, and how their fellow people can help them by donating money or welcoming them to the pier. Addy has a dime that she considers using to buy a scarf as a Christmas present for Momma, but ultimately donates it to a freedmen's fund.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the first book, Addy's brother Sam teaches her a riddle, so in Saves the Day...
    Addy: [performing in a puppet show] What's smaller than a dog, but can put a bear on the run?
    Soldier in Crowd: That's an easy riddle! Even my little sister knows that one! It's a skunk!
  • Morton's Fork: When Addy is asleep, she hears her parents talking about the possibility of fleeing the plantation and escaping to the North. There's no easy choice—if they get caught, they'll likely be sold to different plantations, but if they wait too long, they might be sold and separated anyway. When Poppa and Sam are unexpectedly sold, Momma decides to run and take Addy with her, but they have no choice but to leave baby Esther behind with Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon because her crying might get them caught by slave catchers. Her only consolation is that their master is unlikely to sell Esther because he can't make any money selling a baby, but even that doesn't guarantee Esther's safety.
  • It Was a Gift: Before Addy and her mother escape, Uncle Solomon gives her a half dime along with the words, "Freedom's got a cost." Later, she considers using it to buy a scarf as a Christmas present for her mother, but ultimately she ends up donating it to a freedmen's fund to help newly freed slaves.
  • Meaningful Name: Addy is short for "Aduke" meaning "muchly loved," and her family bonds are the core of the story.
  • Missing Mom: Inverted Trope — everyone in Addy's family is missing except her mom.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Addy remembers one time when Master Stevens gave her family a skinny chicken for Christmas. Sam was so mad that he wouldn't eat it even after Momma cooked it, saying one chicken couldn't make up for a whole year of work.
  • Never Learned to Read: Growing up as a slave, Addy wasn't taught to read or write. She learns to do both while attending school for the first time in Addy Learns a Lesson, and gets so good at it that she even surpasses Sarah and Harriet.
  • Pass Fail: Is behind Addy's family's troubles in "Shadows on Society Hill"; Uncle Solomon's niece was passing as white and feared Addy and her family would expose her. Addy ultimately does do this but in defending her family rather than any malice and a part of her understands why the woman did it; the "Looking Back" section discusses this phenomenon and its aftereffects.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Addy Learns a Lesson has Sarah drift away from Addy when the latter is taken in by Harriet's tricks. They patch things up, though.
  • Riddle Me This: Though he doesn't use them to block anyone's path, Sam Walker loves riddles and is often telling them.
  • Sadistic Choice: In the first book, Ruth Walker has to leave her baby daughter Esther behind when she and Addy run away. She can't take Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon with her because they're too old and would slow them down, and she can't take Esther with her either because her crying would get them caught by slave catchers. But she can't stay on the plantation for Esther's sake, because she's afraid the man who bought Poppa and Sam will come back for Addy.
  • Saintly Church: Trinity A.M.E. Church, whose members are active in helping newly freed slaves like Addy and her mother build lives in Philadelphia.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Harriet when she loses to Addy in the spelling competition.
  • Sherlock Scan: M'dear, an old lady who lives in the same boarding house as Addy's family, can tell a lot of things about a person. Despite being blind, she can tell that Addy is a child because her footsteps are light and soft. She also correctly guesses that Addy was formerly a slave when the girl says that she doesn't know her birthday.
  • So Proud of You: In Addy's Surprise, Poppa starts to shed Tears of Joy when he finds out that Addy has learned to read.
    Poppa: I always knew you were a smart girl.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Addy's mother works as a seamstress in a dress shop. Addy herself learns how to sew hems and ends up making a scarf to give to her mother as a Christmas present.
  • Toy-Based Characterization: Addy has owned two rag dolls, both made by her mother. The first, Janie, was made when she and her family lived in slavery. When she's forced to leave her baby sister Esther behind as she escapes, she gives her Janie to hold on to until they're together again. Later, when she and her mother are living in freedom, her mother makes her another doll for Christmas, this one wearing a beautiful purple dress and little hoop earrings, and stuffed with beans. Addy happily calls her Ida Bean. Her love for both dolls is a reflection of her love for her family.
  • Tragic Mistake: In the first book, Addy hears her parents talking about running away from the plantation. Poppa wants to do it as soon as possible, but Momma is more hesitant. She's afraid of their family getting sold and separated if they're caught, and doesn't believe Master Stevens would split them up after she and Poppa served him their whole lives. Unfortunately, she turns out to be wrong when Master Stevens sells Poppa and Sam to another white man.
  • White Sheep: Despite racism and slavery being the norm in 1864, the Walkers can find several white people who treat them kindly or help them, including an old woman who shelters Addy and Momma during their escape, Mrs. Ford the dress shop owner who employs Momma, a shopkeeper in Philadelphia named Mr. Delmonte who is friendly to Addy, and a carpenter willing to hire Poppa despite his skin color.