Today is the release day of Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School, a picture book about the little-known story of Lilly Ann Granderson, an African-American teacher who risked her life to teach others during slavery. To celebrate, we interviewed author Janet Halfmann to find out more about the story behind Midnight Teacher.
Many of us have not heard of Lilly Ann Granderson’s story. How did you find out about her legacy? What inspired you to write about Lilly Ann Granderson?
I learned about it in bits and pieces. I have long been interested in early black educators, partly because so many books about teachers in the early schools for African Americans are about white teachers from the North. I wanted to shine the spotlight on an amazing early black teacher. The first mentions I found about Lilly Ann Granderson were under the name Milla Granson, the name used by a northern abolitionist who met this teacher and wrote about it in her book. Once I started researching, I learned that Lilly Ann Granderson was known as the Midnight Teacher because she held her secret classes from midnight until two in the morning. That fact made the story all the more intriguing to me, and I thought it would be for kids too. All accounts I found about this teacher ended shortly after the Civil War, so I am honored to have had the opportunity to flesh out Lilly Ann Granderson’s amazing and inspiring story and share it with the world.