Day of Tears

Day of Tears

In 1859 in Savannah, Georgia, the largest slave auction in American history took place. This is the story of fictionalized characters who could have been at the auction as slaves for sale and prospective buyers. It's one thing to read a date and see the name of the city to fill in the blank on a test and it's another thing to get to experience the horror of this event through the eyes of fictional participants. When you hear the stories and get to know the people, you feel the power and the depth of the tragedy and betrayal that occurred at this travesty of an event. The characters speak to each other and speak in monologues. Sometimes they are looking back on what happened and sometimes you are in the thick of the moment with them. The story reveals the dark side of humankind and the use of the N-word flashes through a jolting force. Heart-wrenching and powerful.

192 pages 978-1423104094 Ages 11 and up

Recommended by: Barb Langridge,


On March 2 and 3, 1859, the largest auction of slaves in American history took place in Savannah, Georgia. More than 400 slaves were sold. On the first day of the auction, the skies darkened and torrential rain began falling. The rain continued throughout the two days, stopping only when the auction had ended. The simultaneity of the rain storm with the auction led to these two days being called "the weeping time." Master storyteller Julius Lester has taken this footnote of history and created the crowning achievement of his literary career.

Julius Lester tells the story of several characters including Emma, a slave owned by Pierce Butler and caretaker of his two daughters, and Pierce, a man with a mounting gambling debt and household to protect. Emma wants to teach his daughters-one who opposes slavery and one who supports it-to have kind hearts. Meanwhile, in a desperate bid to survive, Pierce decides to cash in his "assets" and host the largest slave auction in American history. And on that day, the skies open up and weep endlessly on the proceedings below.

Using the multiple voices of enslaved Africans and their owners, Julius Lester has taken a little-known, all-true event in American history and transformed it into a heartbreaking and powerfully dramatic epic on slavery, and the struggle to affirm humanity in the midst of it.---from the publisher

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