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Celia, A Slave Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380803364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380803361
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 3.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This moving and masterfully told true story details the abuse and execution of a female black slave in antebellum Missouri. Melton, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, provides vivid portraits of the teenaged Celia and her owner Robert Newsom, who repeatedly raped her in the five years following her purchase in 1850. Finally, Celia's love for another slave led to a confrontation during which she killed Newsom. Melton's account of her trial documents the hopelessness of a slave's plight; though many whites sympathized with Celia, she was put to death because slaves had no legal right to self-defense against their masters. Melton's rich narrative reads like a fine novel; his scholarship makes a vitally important contribution to understanding this chapter in American history.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA-- A remarkable biography of a young woman who at the age of 14 became the working and sexual slave of her widowed Missouri master. After bearing two of his children, and falling in love with a fellow bondsman, Celia tried to sever the sexual relationship with her enslaver. He raped her; she killed him while try to defend herself. She was convicted of murder and hanged at the age of 19. McLaurin has masterfully researched judicial, historical, and contemporary materials in preparing this compelling and thoughtful narrative. Enhanced by its sensitivity and brevity, this book is a provocative starting point for discussion of its many ethical, legal, historical, and social issues. It should be required reading for high school students.
- Catherine vanSonnenberg, San Diego Public Library
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Reading the book for that alone is well worth it.
Sally T
In this short book, Melton McLaurin has accomplished more than many historians accomplish in hundreds of pages.
E. Blanck
I read this book after a history professor mentioned her casein class.
Katie (k8enmatt@aol.com)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By E. Blanck on May 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
In this short book, Melton McLaurin has accomplished more than many historians accomplish in hundreds of pages.
In this book the reader is drawn into the complicated world of antebellum America. In lucid prose, he simultaneously shows the ideology behind antebellum mastery, the connection between seemingly insignificant individuals and national politics, the hypocritical facade of the justice system, one woman's struggle to live under brutal oppression, and offers a compelling story that has a bit of mystery in it.
He accomplishes this monumental task with clarity and transparency despite substantial holes in the documentary evidence. His work is a model to show how historians can write for a popular audience and not oversimplify, nor fictionalize, the past.
We cannot forget that America enslaved more than 4 million black people, tortured them, raped them, and stole their wages, then, after "freeing" them, forced them to live in apartheid-like conditions for nearly one hundred years. Every American must read books like Celia to confront their past. Even those who came more recently need to recognize that the wealth and the freedoms of the United States that drew millions to our nation, rests upon the back of four million unvoluntary laborers.
Read more, learn more, do more.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By L. Mintah on July 16, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Celia, A Slave, is a short yet powerful and sobering book. Suitable for age 15 and up, it is for anyone interested in women's/human rights, African-American History, and even Civil War buffs. It is a true story that is difficult to read in some places. Yet it is an important, very different book. I wish everyone would read this book.
The story of Celia, a slave without even a last name, is the story of how impossible justice was for the African-American slaves of the antebellum South. Despite the valiant efforts of her defense attorneys, Celia's trial was a farce; she never had a chance at a fair trial. The judge had determined her fate before the trial commenced. Why did the trial take place even though it was predetermined? The answer lies in the instituition of slavery itself.
At the time of Celia's trial in 1885, slavery was tearing the country apart. In Missouri, where Celia killed her master, pro-slavery forces fierily debated abolitionists over whether or not the Kansas Territory would be settled as a slave or a free state.
The individual players in Celia belonged to the culture of slavery as much as Celia herself. Robert Newsom, Celia's master, was the patriarch of his household. His two adult daughters possessed more legal rights than slaves: albeit not much more. They depended upon their father for their support and survival. If the women felt any sympathy for Celia, who had approached them personally for help, it was likely surpassed by fear of being thrown out by their father.
Rather than point fingers and shake heads in regret of the travesty of justice to Celia, we should think of the present-day inequities that need our attention and commitment. Will we have the courage to see the cause through to the bitter end? Hopefully our efforts will not also be in vain.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I was forced to read this short book in college. As I turned each page, I became more connected to the protagonist, Celia and her struggle to escape the control and degradation emposed on her by her master. This story sheds light on the antebellum South's lifestyle and mentality toward "Negroes" as property versus percentages of persons. A MUST READ, especially for African American youth seeking a personal understanding!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jenn H. on September 8, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel that the story of Celia is better than the book. I say that because the book can be very vague and too narrow at the same time. The author will go on and on (for pages at a time) about an irrelevant political issue in great detail and frequently makes statements like, "it is possible that..." and "it is unknown what happened..." about Celia's story. To me, it felt like the author was trying to fill the holes left by Celia's lack of historical evidence with other, well-documented events of the time period. I understand some background information is important but that was too much and it happened too often. Despite some of the issues with the book, the story itself is great. I was completely sympathic to Celia and wished that things turned out differently.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bish Denham on January 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a very well researched account of a female slave in Missouri. She was bought at the age of 14 and on the journey to her new *home* was raped by her new master. She spent the next 5 years being sexually abused by him and bore him two children. At 19 she murdered her master, was arrested and stood trial for the crime.

This is not so much Celia's story as an account of what was happening in Missouri and Kansas at the time of her trial in 1855 and its (the trial's) significance and importance. Her attorneys really did work hard to give her a good defense and challenged certain aspects of the law.

In interesting read, thought a bit dry.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have to wonder if "charlesreads", a history teacher, has ever studied the theory of history. You can't fault McLaurin for not "nailing jelly to the wall." In fact, he should be praised for maintaining his integrity by not attempting to make assumptions about what happened to Celia without clear evidence. As any historian knows, it's not easy to document what really happened, and speculation opens one up to criticism. I also think it would be difficult to make a movie, because a movie-maker would have to make a decision about what version of history they would want to portray. I was riveted by the majority of the book, with the exception of the chapter on the "backdrop." I felt it was a little heavy on political detail.
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