Advance Praise

“Cheryl Wills’ emotions are strong and her voice is grippingly honest as she paints a portrait of the experiences of the men and women in her family. Die Free is thus a testimony to the legacy left by Cheryl’s great-great-great grandfather Sandy Wills and a memorable read for those who want to bear witness to a true and heartfelt rendering of the lives of African Americans over the last 170 years.”

Dr. Brenda M. Greene
Professor of English, Executive Director of the Center for Black Literature, Medgar Evers College, CUNY
Director, National Black Writer’s Conference

“History is personal. Anyone who has difficulty making this connection should read Die Free, Cheryl Wills’ chronicle of her ancestor’s African American journey from slavery to freedom. The stories are so deeply engaging that readers will quickly realize that in telling her personal story, Cheryl Wills is also telling ours.”

Warrington Hudlin
President, Black Filmmaker Foundation (BFF)
Award Winning Film/Television/Internet Director & Producer

“Some 200,000 black men fought in the American Civil War, yet their struggle for the right to fight and their heroic accomplishments are largely ignored. Cheryl Wills’ compelling narrative Die Free clearly illustrates that sacrifice and the distance mankind will travel in pursuit of freedom.”

Frank Martin
Producer/Director, For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots

Die Free is an amazing book. Cheryl Wills’ account of her ancestors’ struggle for freedom over the last two centuries is a powerful reminder that the battle for liberty and equality is a constant one.”

Carmen Marc Valvo
Acclaimed Fashion Designer
Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) Ambassador

Die Free is both confrontational and graceful. An epic family story that needed to be told. If you read this book while riding the bus or train, be prepared to miss your stop!

Derrick Adkins
1996 Olympic Gold Medalist, World 400 Meter Champion
Motivational Speaker

Die Free is a significant contribution to the body of literature that traces the experiences and family heritage of Africans in the diaspora, a journey that is all too familiar. This book is another critical milestone in exploring the cultural dimensions and necessary ties between Africans from the continent and our brethren, the African Americans in these United States.”

Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai
President and National Spokesperson, United African Congress

“The discovery of Cheryl’s great-great-great grandfather has been a fortuitous and unexpected find—tracking down slavery ancestry is never easy as slaves were treated as property, bought and sold, and rarely referred to by name.”

Craig Rice
Association of Professional Genealogists

“Die Free is a mesmerizing journey traveled by Cheryl’s ancestors as they endured the dehumanizing experience and brutality of slavery. The author captured the essence of the chaotic, disorganized and disruptive nature of family life after the Civil War. She tells the story with brutal frankness but with courageous grace. Unlike many authors of memoirs, Cheryl Wills didn’t skirt the issues and certainly didn’t sugar coat what may be described as unpleasant truths of life in the Wills households.

I strongly recommend this book as essential reading for those who wish to learn about the sacrifices and the successes of victims of the abhorrent debilitating system of slavery, Jim Crow laws, lack of education and religious misinterpretation of the Bible, all of which relegated Blacks to non-person status.”

Dr. Marcella Maxwell
Brooklyn College, 2nd V.P. Greater New York Links

“ is proud that Cheryl Wills used our comprehensive website to make such a fascinating discovery. Die Free is a perfect example of why we do what we do! Cheryl Wills skillfully worked to uncover her family’s past; she learned the story of her ancestor Sandy Wills including details of his sale into slavery, his noble service in the Civil War and how he used his new-found freedom to carve out a new beginning for generations to come. The author’s deep love for her family shines through on every captivating page of Die Free. In the mingling of sweet and painful memories, she finds a certain freedom of her own. She reminds us that her ancestors and our ancestors did not live in vain. Their strong spirits will continue to inspire us – if we let them.”

Loretto “Lou” Dennis Szucs
Vice President,
Author, “They Became Americans”
Co-editor “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy.”

Die Free is a compelling American story as Cheryl Wills traces the lives of her forefathers and foremothers. She highlights a critical part of American history that puts into perspective where we have come from to get to where we are. Cheryl writes with the creative flair of a novelist but is, in fact, documenting history. This is a must-read book for all members of the family, young and old alike.”

Rev. Al Sharpton
President, National Action Network

Die Free is a testament of courage. My friend Cheryl Wills’ unselfish memoir is a history lesson for us all. She boldly goes where few authors have gone before. She gracefully shares her family’s history over the last two centuries and unabashedly proclaims their victory in surviving slavery and Jim Crow in the United States of America.”

Hazel N. Dukes
President, NAACP NYS

“Don’t let the smooth and mellow news anchor delivery fool you. Get NY1 news veteran Cheryl Wills talking about the suffering and sacrifice of her enslaved African ancestors, and there’s a passion unleashed that you wouldn’t believe.”

Nayaba Arinde
New York Amsterdam News

“Finally, we get the stories through our eyes, through our interpretations and from our memories. It is indeed time for us to remember, to record, and to honor all of the people who make up the stories in our African-American narrative. They are heralding loudly today even as others call them unsung. We hear them clearly on the wings of the Sankofa and we will continue to testify. Cheryl Wills’ Die Free most certainly is quite a testimony.”

Marva Allen
CEO, HueMan Bookstore, Harlem, N.Y.

“In Die Free, I believe Cheryl has excised her own anger at a world that enslaved Sandy, took her father too soon, and did so much damage to the generations in between. Though it has taken her more than twenty years and a dozen starts and stops for this storyteller to share her own, she has done the work. She is and we, as a whole are, better for it.” From The Foreword …

Terrie M. Williams
President and Founder, The Terrie Williams Agency and The Stay Strong Foundation, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting

“Cheryl Wills has used her journalistic gift by taking her pen in hand to write the story of her family life and she presented it in a colorful and fascinating way; which is, indeed, the foundation for an electrifying movie. I hope that all who read Die Free will be inspired to put in writing their family life’s journey.”

Dabney N. Montgomery
Tuskegee Airman, World War II, Great Grandson of Joe Montgomery, U.S. Colored Troops