To Be A Slave

To Be A Slave

When Julius Lester was a boy, his family got a letter in the mail inviting them to pay someone to trace their family tree. Julius' father laughed and said he knew exactly where his family tree led them....to a bill of sale. Lester was the last name of the family that owned their forebears. This left Julius with a feeling that haunted him and nagged at him "like some illness." It attached itself to his soul. Fifteen years later he read a book by B.A. Botkin called LAY MY BURDEN DOWN. It was a compilation of interviews done by a group of writers working on the Federal Writer's Project of the Depression to record the lives of slaves. The book was a disappointing stereotype of happy go lucky black people rather than telling the truth. Julius Lester began to search for true narratives of slaves and he found them. This book is a compilation of the stories of real people and real events. It's about not knowing your name, about washing backs with the scars of whippings, and working cotton fields half-clothed. There are snatches of a voice here and paragraphs of voices there. But it's the real story told from first hand experience and therefore to be treasured. 1969 Newbery Honor Award 160 pages Ages 9-109

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