Give Me Wings Share this with a friend

How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World

by Kathy Lowinger

Independent Publishers Book Award, Gold Best Books for Kids & Teens, *starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre Skipping Stones Honor Book Gelett Burgess Award Nautilus Book Award Montaigne Medal finalist, Eric Hoffer Award Red Cedar Award finalist, B.C.’s Young Readers’ Choice Awards Indiefab Book of the Year Awards finalist, Foreword Reviews Cybils Blogger Literary Award finalist Golden Oak Award nomination, Ontario Library Association

Changing minds one song at a time.

The 1800s were a dangerous time to be a black girl in the United States, especially if you were born a slave. Ella Sheppard was such a girl, but her family bought their freedom and moved to Ohio where slavery was illegal; they even scraped enough money together to send Ella to school and buy her a piano. In 1871, when her school ran out of money and was on the brink of closure, Ella became a founding member of a traveling choir, the Jubilee Singers, to help raise funds for the Fisk Free Colored School, later known as Fisk University.

The Jubilee Singers traveled from Cincinnati to New York, following the Underground Railroad. With every performance they endangered their lives and those of the people helping them, but they also broke down barriers between blacks and whites, lifted spirits, and even helped influence modern American music: the Jubilees were the first to introduce spirituals outside their black communities, thrilling white audiences who were used to more sedate European songs.

Framed within Ella’s inspiring story, Give Me Wings is narrative nonfiction at its finest, taking readers through one of history’s most tumultuous and dramatic times, touching on the Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction Era.

Click here to listen to the Publishers Weekly KidsCast: A Conversation with Kathy Lowinger.


“Recommended for all libraries, this excellent title will be especially useful in collaboration with school curricula.”
—School Library Journal, *starred review, 08/15

“An impressive book that takes a clear look at some very complicated subjects.”
—National Reading Campaign, 11/05/15

“An engaging tribute.”
—Quill & Quire, 07/15

“A distinctive offering in the array of issues surrounding the history of black slavery and civil rights in American history . . . a welcome addition to a school library collection.”
—CM Reviews, 12/11/15

“Well-written . . . lavishly illustrated . . . a treasure-trove of potential primary sources which intermediate and high school aged students can analyze.”
—Canadian Teacher, 02/17

“Could also be used as a supplement in the study of United States history and is a great addition for Black History Month.”
—Resource Links, 02/16

“Beautiful, informative, and inspiring.”
—The Literate Quilter, 08/16/15

“Lowinger did diligent research before penning this fascinating history of slavery.”
—Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 08/19/16

“A story of triumph.”
—The Pirate Tree, 08/04/15

“Occasional sidebars illuminate the issues and culture of the times, while the main narrative is inspiring yet clear-eyed about the bigotry—also the kindness—these young people encountered.”
—World News Group, 04/29/16

“A truly inspiring story.”
—Amy Rae’s Reviews, 07/14/15

“Beautiful, informative, and inspiring.”
—Goodreads, 04/29/16

“Hopeful and inspiring yet clear-eyed.”
—Redeemed Reader, 02/12/18