Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill

Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill

mollybannaky_bcIn 18th century England, Molly Walsh is dairy maid accused of stealing milk from the lord of the manor. Molly is not the culprit. The obstinate cow she milks each morning kicks over the frothy pail most mornings. The harsh lord turns 17 year old Molly over to the authorities to face the penalty–certain death–she escapes because of a loophole in the law. Her ability to read the Bible prevents her from being executed for her “theft,” but recompense must be made. Molly’s sentence is seven years of labor in the New World where her American story begins.

Exhibiting true grit, determination, and sheer will–all the qualities of a frontier person–Molly forges a life for herself in this new land after working off her debt using the mule and the parcel of land given to newly freed debtors. In need of assistance to work her land, she navigates the peculiar institution–slavery–that provides human labor for purchase. Uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the act of buying a person, Molly does choose to purchase the African male whom she notices as a “tall, regal man who dared to look into the eyes of every bidder.” Instead of owner/slave, Molly and Bannaky develop a friendship, allowed during a time before slavery becomes an entrenched institution. It is Molly’s intention to set him free after the work is done. They later marry and start a family in a community that accepts their union. Molly Walsh becomes Molly Bannaky.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that their oldest daughter had a son with her husband–an African man– whom she names Benjamin Banneker, the famous scientist and mathematician. This puts Molly’s story into perspective.  She and Bannaky pass down their determination and persistence to their grandson. This story is so uniquely American.

Illustrator Chris Soenpiet is just as much the storyteller as author Alice McGill. His visually stunning depictions of Molly’s journey brings the story alive.  The detailed drawings are historically authentic–the tobacco leaves, the livestock. On first sight, the cover is arresting–Molly’s visage–communicating that she has a complex and multifaceted story to tell.

This book is a great choice for a lesson on the differences between indentured servitude and slavery in North America.


One Comment on “Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill

  1. My name is Brian Deese and I have been studying Banna-Ka and Benjamin Bannaker with Robert Lett, the direct male descendant of Banna-Ka. I found what most expert says is a Dogon Duge Stone of legend. Through my study we have not found Molly’s story as a English woman to creditable, more so we have found that she might have been a Scottish women directly related to the Sinclair family.

    Has any of your research ever made that connection?

    I have images of the Banna-Ka Stone I would like to get to Alice and yourself; it was found on Martha’s Vineyard.

    Please do not hesitate to call me at 720-335-0874 to discuss our research so we can cross reference to yours!


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