The Old African

The Old African

Opening this book you are faced with an illustration of a black slave running through his life across a shallow stream with the anger, energy, power and hatred of a pack of dogs and some horses just a few feet away and intent on capture. The scene is set. The slave is caught and returned to the plantation where he is tied to a great oak tree and whipped before the other twenty slaves so they will know Master riley means business. As the blood appears in the stripes on the boys' back the gathered slaves minds are free from the agony, from the pain, from the degradation. Instead of seeing the boy, in their minds they are looking at "a picture of water as soft and cool as a lullaby." Unbeknownst to the white master, the Old African is standing plain as day in the midst of the slaves and he is using his special spiritual gift to bring this picture of peace and calm to the minds of those around him. As the master finishes his job, he turns his attention to the care of the whip he has just used. No concern for the humanity before him. Julius Lester tells a true story of slavery with all its subtle and flagrant horrors and Jerry Pinkney's illustrations seem superhuman in their ability to transport us back in time. We are there. Now, the Old African, Aja, takes us back to Africa to his Ibo tribe and his beloved wife. We experience the upheaval and the kidnapping and the courage it has taken to survive this long in this dark world on the plantation. The story completes itself with a twist of old African legend as the Old African gathers his past and his present together to lead all to a future of hope and dignity. They return to Africa across the seas in a magnificent spiritual journey. Phenomenal. Graphic. Passionate. Ages 9-12 80 pages

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