To Be A Slave

To Be A Slave

Winner of the 1969 Newbery Honor Award

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 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 is an American treasure.

160 pages 978-0141310015 Ages 9-109

Keywords: slavery, African American, African American author, American history, diversity, diverse books, Diversity: Oppression and Resilience, injustice, prejudice, discrimination, racism, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, Black Lives Matter


What was it like to be a slave? Listen to the words and learn about the lives of countless slaves and ex-slaves, telling about their forced journey from Africa to the United States, their work in the fields and houses of their owners, and their passion for freedom. You will never look at life the same way again.---from the publisher

"The dehumanizing aspects of slavery are made abundantly clear, but a testament to the human spirit of those who endured or survived this experience is exalted."—Children's Literature

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