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Ben Walker is the father of Addy Walker. She refers to him as "Poppa."

Facts and Personality

Ben Walker is, at the start of the series, enslaved along with his family. He is descended from an African brought to America in enslavement, Aduke (thus partially Yoruba) and gave the name to Addy as her full name. He works both in the fields and as a carpenter, which Ruth brings up when she things that Master Stevens won't sell their family and separate them due to their skills. He reminds Addy that freedom is in her head and heart, even as she is being enslaved, and it is seeing how her spirit is being crushed under enslavement that makes him determined to run away with his family. He is sure Addy is a smart girl and is upset that the burdens of enslavement are wearing her down.

Ben is a strong, brave, proud, and determined man who works hard to protect and care for his family, both when they are enslaved and after they are free. He knows what he wants and sticks to it. He cannot initially read or write, but with his daughter;s help has learned how to do both by the time of Shadows on Society Hill.

Ruth says that while Ben doesn't do sweet talk, he does sweet things, which counts more in a man.[1]

In The Books

Meet Addy: An American Girl

Ben is first seen talking with Ruth about the plans to run the family north to freedom. Among the reasons to run include how he is watching Addy suffering and the pain she is going through realizing she is enslaved hurts him, and he feels that they cannot wait for the end of the war to be freed and need to take their freedom for themselves soon.

He and Sam are sold before their escape plan can come to fruition. Addy clings to him desperately before they are taken while he does his best to soothe her.

With him and Sam gone, Addy and Momma can't take Esther when they run away as they can't carry her.

Addy's Surprise: A Christmas Story

Addy is at the Christmas shadow play when she recognizes Poppa's silhouette near the door and runs to him.

When they return home, he cries when Addy reads the note Mrs. Ford leaves on their lamp because she can read now and he always knew she was smart enough to learn. He is also happy to see the sweet potato pudding they left behind, saying it was like Ruth knew he was coming. He lets Momma and Addy know that shortly after they were taken, Sam and he were separated the next day and he doesn't know where Sam was taken, but it was probably further south. He was bound all the way to the new plantation, but shortly after his arrival, the enslaved people were freed two months later.

When he hears of Ruth and Addy having to leave Esther behind, he says he'll do his best to get her--and Sam--back so they can be together and that the freedmen's societies will help. When Addy wants to stay up now that he's there, he teases that she's like a little ol' owl and promises that he'll be there when she gets up in the morning and she'll see him when the sun comes through the window.

Ruth points out the window of the garret has been stuck open for a month now, and when Ben examines it, he hits the frame in two places which lets him pull it closed. He says it needs a new sash and he'll repair it further later on.

Happy Birthday, Addy!: A Springtime Story

Poppa has been back with the family three months now. The family has moved to The boarding house, and Ben and Ruth sometimes work late enough they don't get home in time for supper. He's found employment as a ice cart driver--Addy and Sarah see him driving the ice cart at the start of the book. He gives Addy and Sarah ice chips to suck on and Addy gets up to ride back towards home. As they ride, Poppa and Addy talk about how Sarah must work so hard with her family and how they didn't expect things to be so hard in freedom and how change takes time--but they have the opportunity here to do so, unlike back on the Stevens plantation. Ben is not pleased with his job; it pays, but displeases him as it takes nothing but muscle, and he's a good carpenter with a good mind and wants to use that. However, every carpenter job he's applied to has said they don't hire colored folk. They make two more stops, one to Natkin's Confectionery Shop; when Addy bursts out that she'd love some, she feels shame because not only does the shop not serve black people, but they can't afford to buy any. Behind the shop Ben finds a busted ice cream maker in the trash that he'll fix up to make their own ice cream, and later states that he'll make it once she picks a day for her birthday as he's working on fixing it up.

After Addy's incident on the streetcar and her talking bout it to M'dear, Ben picks up Addy to take her with him on his last stops. Ben had gone to the see about getting a job for a warehouse going up near the docks and heard the same old story of the foreman saying he didn't hire colored folks. When Addy sees a sign for carpenters wanted and encourages Ben to try to apply, he says he knows what they'll say but will try anyways. He explains to the owner, Miles Roberts, that while he can't read or write yet, he can work wood and do anything asked of him with the knowledge in his head and wants a chance. Mr. Roberts asks about his tools and then says to come in Monday morning at six. Ben is happy enough to whistle a song of hope.

The next night, when the boarding house is woken up by loud noises, Ben recognizes it as cannon fire from the harbor. When Addy states she thinks the war is over, Ben thinks she's right and cries with joy. Once Addy picks the day as the near-perfect day for her birthday, Ben says it's a fine day. He then, at the boarding house. gets on a chair and announces that today is Addy's tenth birthday and they're invited to a party for it where he will make a freezer full of ice cream, which he serves.

Addy Saves The Day: A Summer Story

Changes for Addy: A Winter Story

Addy Studies Freedom

Addy's Wedding Quilt

Addy's Little Brother

Addy's Summer Place

High Hopes for Addy

Shadows on Society Hill

Addy: An American Girl Story

Ben's role is not changed majorly through the story; however, he arrives during the spelling bee at the school on Christmas day rather than at the church, and hears Addy spelling and winning the contest.

In the Seattle production he was played by Lance Spencer McQueen.

  1. Shadows on Society Hill