In Chariot on the Mountain, Jeopardy winner and journalist Jack Ford paints a picture of Kitty Payne, who was a slave and also the daughter of the plantation owner. When the master died, Payne ran away. After being captured, beaten, and returned, instead of further punishing her, the master's owner's widow helped her run away a second time. She also assisted Payne in mounting a precedent-setting legal case in which she was ultimately freed.
Ford does a good job spinning this (fictional) account of actual circumstances leading to the 1946 trial. While some scenes depict very difficult circumstances, the book surely glosses over the pain and depth of hardship both women faced in a country so different from today's United States.
Unfortunately, things haven't changed as much as many (white) people (like me) would like to think.
Jodi Piccoult's Small Great Things tells a different story set in a different time, but it's packed with most of the same problems. I'm not qualified to unpack them, but I can recommend both books.
It's a pretty-well-accepted fact that public school curriculums don't cover a lot of history - and in many cases, one being slavery in the United States and other countries, it's not covered accurately or adequately.
I'm also not qualified to analyze educational curriculums. I think I'm qualified to recommend books, though, in particular, these two. Historical fiction isn't the best way to learn history, but it's not the worst way to start, and starting is a whole lot better than not starting.
About the authorsIf you've read many of my reviews, you've probably noticed I prefer books by journalists, doctors and lawyers...not necessarily in that order. Jeopardy winners is a new category for me. Ford's writing, in my opinion, is not entirely up to the story itself. That said, I would read another book by the author if the story appealed to me. Piccoult, the more popular/successful author, is formulaic, but in a good way. That said, having read three of her books, I'm moving on to other authors.
Because both of these books are about race, it's worth noting authors of both books are white, while the main characters are black. In other words, if you read these books, know that they may be a place to start, but understand where you're starting from. And go far from that point, thinking all the way.