Top positive review
A history of slavery told in the words of former slaves. An important look at slavery and its lingering effects today.
Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2015
When Julius Lester was nine years old, his father told him, "Our family tree ends in a bill of sale. Lester is the name of the family that owned us." This was the defining moment that set young Julius Lester on a search of the past to understand his family history and the indignity of slavery. In the early 1960's, Mr. Lester's wife introduced him to black history. He discovered a book by B. A. Botkin called Lay My Burden Down, which told the story of slavery through the words of people who had been slaves. Soon Mr. Lester was pouring over documents from the Library of Congress to find stories of slaves in hope of finding a record by his own great-grandparents. His search would lead to passion that would spark several books on slavery. To Be A Slave, is the history of slavery told by actual slaves in their own words. The stories begin with the capture of blacks in Africa and their transport to America. The stories continue to after slaves are given their freedom at the end of the Civil War and relate the obstacles that continue until the time their stories were collected in the 1930's. Theses stories tell of the hardships of slavery, from poor housing, insufficient food and clothing, ill-treatment, and the separation of families. They show the hero like worship of white owners by some slaves, and the hatred of white owners by others. Some stories tell the ingenuity of slaves to do what was required, but often manage to outwit their owners by playing dumb. Other stories show the jubilation and celebration of their freedom from slavery by Northern soldiers. Ending stories tell of the disillusionment of suffering of former slaves when they are forced to depend on former white owners to physically survive after the Northern soldiers go home. How they are often forced to become sharecropper and often cheated of their crops or wages, instead of being provided with opportunities to own their own farms and become independent. Former slaves also tell of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the horrors and misfortune of being treated as an inferior race. This is an important book with the stories of former slaves that you will not soon forget. These stories help us as Americans to understand some of the reasons and frustrations that lead to today's misunderstandings and difficulties with black and white relations.