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To Be a Slave Mass Market Paperback – February, 1986

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Scholastic (February 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590414690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590414692
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1939, Julius Lester spent his youth in the Midwest and the South and received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.Since 1968 he has published 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. Among the awards these books have received are the Newbery Honor Medal, American Library Association Notable Book, National Jewish Book Award Finalist, The New York Times Outstanding Book, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, Caldecott Honor Book, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a National Book Award Finalist. His books have been translated into eight languages.He has published more than one hundred essays and reviews in such publications The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times Op-Ed Page, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, The New Republic, Katallagete, Moment, Forward, and Dissent.He has recorded two albums of original songs, hosted and produced a radio show on WBAI-FM in New York City for eight years, and hosted a live television show on WNET in New York for two years. A veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, his photographs of that movement are included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and are part of the permanent photographic collection at Howard University.After teaching at the New School for Social Research for two years, Mr. Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in 1971 where he is presently a full professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department, and adjunct professor in the English and History departments. He also serves as lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.He has been awarded all four of the university's most prestigious faculty awards: The Distinguished Teacher's Award; the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship; Distinguished Faculty Lecturer; and recipient of the Chancellor's Medal, the University's highest honor. In 1986 the Council for Advancement and Support of Education selected him as the Massachusetts State Professor of the Year.Mr. Lester's biography has appeared in Who's Who In America since 1970. He has given lectures and papers at more than 100 colleges and universities.His most recent books are John Henry, And All Our Wounds Forgiven, a novel about the civil rights movement, and Othello, a novel based on the Shakespeare play.

Customer Reviews

The artwork for this book is beautiful as well.
K. Spangler
I highly recommend this work but do be prepared to be shocked if you have neglected your readings in the past addressing this subject.
D. Blankenship
This book will give the reader a first hand experience of what it was like to be a slave.
A Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
1968 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year In an intensely personal new introduction written for this thirtieth anniversary edition, Julius Lester states that at age ten, when his father told him his family's history went back to a bill of sale and no further, the words were one of the defining moments of my life. Approximately fifteen years later he began compiling the words of ex-slaves--a good portion of which had never been previously published--and establishing the structure for To Be a Slave. The ease and speed with which this structure came made him realize that this book was one of the things [he] had been put on earth to do. In an equally eloquent, new introductory note Tom Feelings expresses a similar sentiment regarding the personal impact of his work for To Be a Slave and his belief in doing work that mov[es] us so emotionally, it makes all of us feel its truth way down deep inside. For thirty years American readers of all ages and walks of life have been affected by the truth of To Be a Slave, which remains one of the few works to present what it felt like to be slave in America in the words of black men and women who lived it rather than filtered through the eyes of others. Paired with Mr. Lester's historical commentary and powerful and soulful paintings by Mr. Feelings, To Be a Slave makes the clear and moving distinction between the generalizations made about slaves and what the emotional reality was for human beings [whose] condition was slavery. I am grateful to the parents, teachers, librarians, and booksellers who have found [To Be a Slave] to be of value. Most of all I am grateful to all those who have read it, to all those who read it. History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart, and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own. -- Julius Lester The truth can stretch children's minds, stimulate their imaginations in a creative way, and strengthen their spirits.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on January 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
As noted in the description of this work, "To be A Slave" was a 1969 Newbery Honor Book, An ALA Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and a Smithsonian Magazine Best Book of the Year. Seldom have I read a book that was actually deserving of these awards more than this work, and in my opinion, so many, many more!

I must note right up front that even though this work was and is targeted for the 9 to 12 age group, it is applicable and fitting for just about any age group over the age of 9. I strongly suggest that this age group, or many in it, may not be ready for this particular read. In my opinion the age grouping probably should start at about 15 or 16 at the earliest. Younger readers should probably have some adult guidance. Folks, we are talking pretty brutal here. Rarely have I read an "adult" work covering this subject which held the dignified impact this book offers. It is profoundly upsetting, and rightfully so. The author, Julius Lester, pulls no punches throughout the entire work and gives his readers a dreadful dose of reality. I must admit that many passages in this work; many of the firsthand accounts (more about that later) of former slaves in the United States, made me literally physically ill. This is a good thing as it is like a cold splash of water (or more accurately...acid), in the face, bring the reader from a compete state of sleep into full and painful wakefulness and awareness.

Many of the stories told here were either suppressed or more or less ignored until the 1930s when the Federal Writers Project was organized. One of their tasks was to interview as many former slaves as possible and record as accurately as possible their story.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jordon Hargrove on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I was in seventh grade. I had been in history classes for five years and untill I began to read this book, I did not know what realy happened. I am now 21 years old and have a even better understanding of the subject, yet I still continue to read this book time and time again. It not only contains a wealth of knowldge, but is brought to you in a way that is understadable. When I first read this I was 13 years old and had a learning disibility. Not only that but I also had Atention Deficit Disorder. I did not read much or want to read much. I first found this book because I had to do a report. It hooked me right away. It is something in the way it is writen and what it is about that even at the tender age of 13 I colud understand and even think about. I recomend that parents let their children experience this book. But only after you have read it your self.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Charnock on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Here is a collection of the memories of ex-slaves, ranging in subject from capture in Africa to plantation life; and from early resistance to life after freedom. We learn about the hierarchy of plantation life and come to understand that the black slave fought against enslavement through music, religion--and in every way possible" (from book).

This informational black history book will grab and keep your attention from beginning to end.

The Creative Teacher: Activities for Language Arts (Grades 4 through 8 and Up)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bookloverintexas on March 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
A book of letters, personal testimony from slaves, interspersed with editorial comments from the author. The narratives are prefaced with a fascinating note on how sources were obtained, and how that information was used, both before and after the Civil war.
There is nothing more powerful or educational than experiences told in a person's own words. I was often stunned at how effectively the horrors of the slaves' reality were brought home by their words, understated and matter of fact:

One letter told how they had to take their babies to the field with them so they didn't lose time walking back & forth to nurse. All the babies were deposited in a long wooded trough at the end of the field every morning. There was a sudden heavy rain and when the mothers were able to go to the end of the field the trough was filled with water and every baby in it was floating round in the water, drowned. When this story is told, you are able to grasp some of the horror of how uncaring and cruel the situation was...their grief was not only of no concern to the master, but was not allowed, being forced to continue to work as if nothing had happened, any hesitation in work being a serious cause for a brutal whipping..

Over and over again their stories emphasized that they were things, possessions, like a table. Again and again after each account I wondered how a human body and mind could possibly survive having to endure what they had to endure. Imagine having to walk across 2 states in the snow without shoes, sleeping on the ground scarcely clothed.

This book has won numerous children's awards, including "Newberry Honor", however it should be emphasized that this is a book for every age. It touched me profoundly, much as "Night", Elie Wiesel's account of his imprisonment in a concentration camp. I very highly recommend.
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