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To Be a Slave

A book by Julius Lester

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An excellent primer on slavery in America for young people

  • Oct 27, 2010
 Slavery will forever be a blight on the United States, born as a nation of free men based on radical political ideals; those ideals were not initially applied to all men. The phrase, “that all men are created equal” was not applied to black slaves. While some would rather this dark chapter be ignored or rationalized, sunlight is still the best disinfectant, so openly explaining the consequences of slavery is without question the best policy.
 This book is an excellent primer on slavery, written from accounts of actual slaves; it explains some of the darkest aspects of the effect slavery had on the social structure.  In general, the slave owners did all they could to dehumanize the slaves, yet they were often in fear of a rebellion as a consequence of what they had done. These accounts of the inhumane and sometimes barbaric treatment of other humans may reopen a painful sore, but that is the first step in a healing process. Young people need to know the role slavery had in the United States and this book will open their eyes to the historical reality of slavery.

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January 25, 2011
Excellent points made in this review. @TheAnicentReader wrote a really compelling review on the same book you have got to read: http://community.cafelibri.com/reviews/book/...UNG_AND_OLD_ALIKE_.html
October 28, 2010
Thanks so much for sharing, Charles.  This book sounds difficult to read, but it also sounds like a real eye-opener.  By the way, if you're interested in other readings on this subject matter, you might appreciate @drifter51's list of Great Reads For Black History Month
October 28, 2010
Seems like an interesting read! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review!
October 27, 2010
Thanks for sharing this. Because I'm biracial, I sometimes struggle with the painful nature of these topics and avoid them at times, but you're right that it's key to healing that we try to understand. Sounds intense - and I'm sure the first-person accounts are potent. Interesting to put it in the category of a primer too, as I wonder how I'll one day begin to help my daughter understand this aspect of our country's history.
More To Be a Slave reviews
review by . January 28, 2010
As noted in the description of this work, "To be A Slave" was a 1969 Newbery Honor Book, An ALA Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Smithsonian Magazine Best Book of the Year. Seldom have I read a book that was actually deserving of these awards more than this work, and in my opinion, so many, many more!    I must note right up front that even though this work was and is targeted for the 9 to 12 age group, it is applicable and fitting for just about …
About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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About this book


To be a slave. To be owned by another person, as a car, house, or a table is owned. To live as a piece of property that could be sold...

This book is about how it felt. The words of black men and women who had themselves been slaves are here, accompanied by Julius Lester's historical commentary and Tom Feelings's powerful and muted paintings,To Be a Slavehas been a touchstone in children's literature for over thirty years.

"It is rare to find a book that enables children to identify as compellingly with slaves as this one does." -Publishers Weekly

"From history-and for our time-there's nothing better thanTo Be a Slave." -The New York Times Book Review


A 1969 Newbery Honor Book
An ALA Notable Book
ASchool LibraryJournal Best Book of the Year
ASmithsonianMagazine Best Book of the Year
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ISBN-10: 0141310014
ISBN-13: 978-0141310015
Author: Julius Lester
Genre: Children's Books
Publisher: Puffin
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