Day of Tears

Day of Tears

by Julius Lester


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On March 2 and 3, 1859, the largest auction of slaves in American history took place in Savannah, Georgia. More than 400 slaves were sold. On the first day of the auction, the skies darkened and torrential rain began falling. The rain continued throughout the two days, stopping only when the auction had ended. The simultaneity of the rain storm with the auction led to these two days being called "the weeping time." Master storyteller Julius Lester has taken this footnote of history and created the crowning achievement of his literary career.

Julius Lester tells the story of several characters including Emma, a slave owned by Pierce Butler and caretaker of his two daughters, and Pierce, a man with a mounting gambling debt and household to protect. Emma wants to teach his daughters-one who opposes slavery and one who supports it-to have kind hearts. Meanwhile, in a desperate bid to survive, Pierce decides to cash in his "assets" and host the largest slave auction in American history. And on that day, the skies open up and weep endlessly on the proceedings below.

Using the multiple voices of enslaved Africans and their owners, Julius Lester has taken a little-known, all-true event in American history and transformed it into a heartbreaking and powerfully dramatic epic on slavery, and the struggle to affirm humanity in the midst of it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781423104094
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: 03/20/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 95,891
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Julius Lester turned to writing after spending time as a photographer, musician, and political activist in the 1960s. His more than forty books for adults and children have garnered many awards, including ALA Notable citations and a Coretta Scott King Honor. To Be a Slave was a Newbery Honor Book, and John Henry received a Boston Globe-Horn Book award and a Caldecott Honor.

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Day of Tears 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
IsaiahG More than 1 year ago
Day of Tears, a historical fiction novel by Julius Lester, was an amazing read. It followed a man named Master Butler's slaves as they are being sold during the biggest slave auction in American history. The book followed the slaves as they were separated from their family members, and showed how rough life was like for slaves during the pre civil war era. It showed how tough slavery was on african americans during that time period, and made the reader understand how much our country has changed in the past 150 years. I would highly reccomend this book if you are interested in american history. The book was emotional, but very interesting and a overall great read.
laxer13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tony DeLeo5/23/12Have you ever wondered how it would be to be a slave and be owned by someone? The book Day of Tears, by Julius Lester is about a slave auction. It was published by Jump at the Sun/ Hyperion Books for Kids in 2005. This book was good because it talks about slavery and how slaves were treated by plantation owners. The book takes place in the south. It takes place mostly in Georgia, on a slave plantation. It also takes place at a slave auction. The setting also moves to Kentucky, on another plantation. The book is told by slaves and other people. Emma is the most important character, because the book centers around her the most. Mamma is Emma¿s Mom who stays at the plantation, Sarah is one of the Masters daughters who is friends with Emma, Master is the owner of all the slaves and is nice to them, Joe is one of the slaves that goes to war.The book is about slaves and how they lived. Also the good things and the bad thing about being a slave. Emma was treated really good compared to other slaves. She enjoyed it because she said in the book that she doesn¿t know why black people hate white people they keep a roof over are head and give us food. But she doesn¿t know how other slaves are treated. Most slaves get beat by their owners.A girl, and her family are slaves, they live in a little house and she is treated good though compared to other slaves. Her name is Emma and she ends up getting sold from her family and she didn¿t know it was going to happen she never got to say goodbye to her mom before she left. Another slave that she lived with got sold to the same person she got sold to his name was Joe. He ended up going to the war and died. The author achieved his purpose because it went very in depth in detail about slavery and how bad it is. The book is very powerful and sad. The author demonstrates this by a quote on page 90, ¿At least the other slaves knew what was going to happen to them they had time to say goodbye but my mama is at the plantation expecting me to come back and help her prepare supper and serve the table tonight. She don¿t know she ain't ever going to see me again." This is what the character, Emma said when she was in line at the auction. It shows how they had no choice in what was happening in their life. Day of tears was a really good book I enjoyed it a lot. I was a sad book though. If you didn¿t know it rains through out the slave auction which the rain stands for the crying of the slaves. I would recimend this book to someone that enjoys history.
mmallark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Day of Tears Book Review¿This ain`t rain, this is God`s tears.¿ said a young slave. The book Day of Tears by Julius Lester was a very sad book. It explained the terrible events of one of the biggest slave auctions in pages. Published on and it is now one of my favorite books. The Book Day of Tears takes place at Master Butler`s house. Master Butler was a slave owner/plantation owner who then held one of the biggest slave auctions ever. Master Butler owned many slaves of all ages. One very important slave was Emma. She was a young slave girl who the story was mostly based off of. The book shows the points of views of many. Including, slave owners, slaves, and auctioneers. All of them have a sad story to share from this time period. Although their stories aren¿t as important as Emma`s.Emma was the slave who took care of Master Butler`s two daughters. She was one of the most important slaves according to Master Butler. Master Butler`s daughters loved Emma because she practically raised them. The master had promised that when it was time for the auction he would not sell her. But that promise was broken. She ended up going to a nice white women`s plantation along with a few other slaves. As nice as the women was it didn¿t keep Emma from thinking about running away. Will she run away or will she stay?Day of Tears, by Julius Lester, was a book that changed my point of view. It made me realize how cruel people really were. It was a great book in the sense that I was really able to feel how those slaves felt. I would like to recommend this book to anyone who is willing to be amazed.
kfrauel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine living in a world where you work all day for almost nothing, have no rights, and are a piece of property to someone. The book Day of Tears by Julius Lester is a great historical fiction book about a girl¿s life in slavery. Day of Tears was fantastic because of the tragic story it told and the hardships people faced.The main characters in this book were Emma, Sarah, Joe and some others. It took place mostly in the South. The book was told very differently than others, it was told from each character¿s separate point of view. Sometimes it went back to the past or up to the future also. The characters in the book go through a lot. Like when Emma got sold to a place very far away from her family, or when Emma¿s husband died. Everything they go through makes this book very sad, but also adventurous.Day of Tears is about a girl named Emma who grew up with her family in slavery. Her family was very close to their master. Emma ended up being sold at a slave auction. She never saw her family again. At her new plantation, which was very far away from the one where her family was, she and 3 other slaves escaped from the plantation and survived. She ended up having 2 kids, and her husband died fighting in the Civil War.Day of Tears left a very strong impression on me. It made me realize how hard slave life was. I would lend this book to anyone who loves a good tear jerker. It also is good for anyone that likes a quick read. The only thing is, it may be a bit confusing for some people because of the point of view change.
mdrumgold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slavery is a thing of the past, but we should all know about it. This book takes you into the world of slavery from the eyes of an acutral slave. This is a great novel that all students should read.
RosanaSantana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book discusses the largest selling of slaves in the history or the United States. It is told through dialogues and monologue. Although the book is about an interesting and sad period in history the book it self is not incredible. The rain metaphor is done to death and the format is awkward.
bmhgananda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being one of the 900 slaves in the biggest auction in history didn¿t just separate her from family, it changed her whole life. Emma was a prized slave; she raised Sarah and Francine and was seen as a mother to them until she was sold away by her master Pierce Butler. The book Day of Tears was sad because many people were separated from family and had loved ones who died in the war. Emma was a slave to the Butlers but was seen as family. Emma was separated from her mother and brother when she was sold to Mistress Henfield to take care of her daughter. Emma missed the Butler family and her own but she knew she would never see them again. She soon escaped to go up north where she would be free. It was hard but she managed there with Joe, her lover, and two others whose baby died along the way.Emma had many troubles after she was free as well. After she and Joe settled down in the north, Emma ran into Pierce Butler¿s wife who helped move them into Canada where she would be permanently free. Soon after they were free, the Civil War started. Joe went off to fight and he died. Emma kept in touch with Sarah but never saw her. They even named their kids after each other because they were so close and proud of each other. Emma was sold in the biggest auction in history. She went through many hardships such as losing her family and friends. By creating a relationship with Sarah, she knew that not all whites were evil. This book clearly showed how hard it was to be a slave and get separated from family and friends which I felt made the book sad. Though it is sad I recommend this book to all ages.
dee_kohler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Liked this book, day in the life of slave girl being auctioned off in one of the biggest slave auctions in the south right before Civil War. Shows the repracussions of slavery on down through the years.
clik4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story is told from the perspectives of the characters in the book, alternatively. It surrounds the happenings and circumstances around what is known as the world¿s largest slave auction. It tells a story in a short form, and easily readable of the economic and social elements that come to past because of the auction.
HilAVer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love the way that Day of Tears is written from many different perspectives. Not only does it speak through the words of African Americans that are varying ages and with different viewpoints, but it also speaks through the words of white people as well. One important fact that can be learned from this book is that in the days of slavery, the color of one's skin did not always dictate their views and emotions regarding slavery, which is an amazing lesson for all. Although it is written in a dialogue format as another reviewer noted, each dialogue was longer than that of a play, which made it easier to read for me. It was more of narrative viewpoints than a conversation.
kewpie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written in the form of a play, this book is a fictional perspective on a real historical event; the largest slave auction in the history of the United States. Hundreds of families were torn apart. Slave owners and their families seemed to be disturbed and affected by it in a very negative way. This book beautifully demonstrates how the chains are heavy for both the slave and the slave owner. While many books focus on the physical abuse or hard labor of slavery, this book focuses on the emotional trauma and some of the more subtle ways slavery dehumanized both the master and the slave.
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I must admit that I have no idea how I feel about this book. It was written as a play which made it a little different. The play tells the story of a pre-Civil War estate owner, his daughters, and his slaves. In an interesting twist, the wife divorces the estate owner because she is against slavery, while he is happy to be a slave owner. Unfortunately, he has gambling debts to pay and is forced to sell his slaves. Actually, this part of the story is based in a true auction. The author provides the historical background at the end of the book.So far, so good. Having studied both the pre and post Civil War South, I found this book to contain every opinion or angle ever expressed about slavery. If one were to use this book as a stepping stone for a lesson on slavery (as it occured throughout the United States) perhaps that would be the greatest value. And perhaps that was the author's intent.
monajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This fascinating historical fiction novel depicts an actual event, one of the largest slave sales in history perpetrated by Georgia slave owner Pierce Butler, an event that came to be known as the "Weeping Days" because of the torrential downpour that drenched the two-day proceedings. Written in dialogue, the book tells the story in the voices of several different characters: A slave family who is greatly impacted by the sale, their white owners (not all of whom condone slavery), an older slave who is content with his lot in life, and several others. Hearing the story from so many different perspectives is a wonderful way to get a bigger picture about what was happening at that time. It's a vibrant novel that really brings these characters to life through the words they say.Julius Lester has done a terrific job of reminding us about this terrible moment in history, and, unlike most histories (which tend to stick to the facts), Day of Tears gives us a look into the very harsh and real emotional toll slavery took from both slaves and sympathizers. A deeply moving account, and a reminder of our inglorious past.
santli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've never read a book presented in the format--a novel in dialogue--like Day of Tears. In a way, it felt very similar in tone to the verse novel, The Watch That Ends the Night, in that there are numerous voices speaking individually to portray feeling, character and background. While there's more of a dialog feel to Day of Tears, the format makes you feel as if you are really entering into the mind and feelings of the individual speaking. While you may not like Master Butler for what he does to his slaves, you can certainly empathize with him to a degree. I thought Lester's flashes forward, to when many of the characters were much older, was a stroke of genius, because you have learned to care for the characters and want to see what their futures hold. This would be a brilliant piece of literature for a teacher to read aloud to a class for a curricular connection--in English with say, Huckleberry Finn, or in history for the Civil War/Antebellum eras.
baxterclaus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. I thought it was told in a believable, frightening, morally complex way, that is sure to snag the reader's attention. I appreciated the scenes of families being broken apart at the giant slave auction; this is often mentioned as one of the most wrenching aspects of slavery, families being sheared apart. This book humanizes and dramatizes this horror. Day of Tears is a novel written in dialogue. But in fact we get more than dialogue from each character, we get their deep thoughts and emotions, straight from the source. This conceit/format makes the book very emotional, considering the harrowing, soul-scorching plot content. It's a thoughtfully compassionate book.
HMP11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked that this book was written in first person dialog. This brought the characters to life. Although the story is about a true-life tragic event, the largest salve auction in US history, it was not as emotive as I thought it should have been. It was hard to feel the sorrow that was described over and over in relation to the weeping sky or anger for the slave owner/auctioneer. The dialog is very matter-of-fact, and at most, the characters only seem to feel slight annoyance that their families are being separated and sold off. I feel that this book would be properly marketed to a younger teen crowd because it isn't overly graphic. I think that Lester does a wonderful job of making a little-known historic event interesting by adding the human element. Young school children would benefit from the moral of the story which is goodness is colorblind.
laruby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a very emotional and moving fictional account of the horrific selling and mistreatment of American slaves. Written as a script for a play, readers will envision the events playing out on stage. Readers will feel as if they are present as the emotional events unfold.
tonawandagirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a great book! I¿ve always loved Julius Lester and remember reading How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have to my kids when they were little.The structure of the dialogue was a bit confusing at first until I knew who all of the characters were. Once I had them straight in my mind, it was easier to follow and very effective in portraying each person¿s perspective of the events as they unfolded. The conflict in the story was personified in the opposing characters of Pierce Butler and his daughter, Frances who represented a total lack of it and complete disregard for the rights of Negroes. Their polar opposites were Pierce¿s wife, Fanny and their other daughter, Sarah, who hated slavery and wanted to do everything they could to improve their lot, since they were not able to free them. In fact, Fanny felt like a failure in spite of her efforts to improve their lives (p. 164). The story hearkened back to another book I ready recently, Elijah of Buxton as both stories include the settlements of freed slaves in Canada in the 1800s (p. 163). Though the background of the story was about one day in history, based on an actual event, there were several subplots with plenty of action taking place at the same time. The characters seemed very real and the pain that they felt during these times as they had no choice but to watch their families being torn apart was shared by this reader.
erinlmc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent historical fiction novel about slavery written in dialogue. I picked up the book not wanting to read it. I don't usually enjoy dialogue books or plays, and having a daughter with the same name and the same age as the main character I was really reluctant at first. However, I was sucked into the story right away. Although the slavery circumstances were awful, the actual violence wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. Lester left enough details out to let you mind know what he was saying about the horrible auction and the way some owner treated their slaves without going into gory details.I would have this on a reading list for US slavery history and the Underground Railroad. For young adults who are reluctant to read nonfiction, this would be a great way for them to get information through a short fiction novel. I would also suggest it to be used for drama teachers, or English teachers willing to have students take on the roles and read it aloud in class.
VisVitaVeritas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the unique format of this book (written entirely in dialogue and inner monologue) was a challenge at first, I found myself liking the story more and more as it progressed. I think the author did a masterful job of portraying a terrible situation from many perspectives. I did wish that it was longer and more detailed- the short glimpses into the characters' lives didn't feel like enough, but I can see that the length and format really added to the authenticity of the storytelling. This book left me wanting to learn more about the actual historical events behind it, and thinking about what I'd read long after I put it down. I think it would be a great classroom book, and would also recommend it to teens interested in historical fiction and that period of American history.
hardya29 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of any other literature I've read conveying the slave situation, this one may have been my least favorite. While the story is certainly tragic and awful, the dialogue technique in the book did not allow me to really connect with the characters. I think the book was too short and each character's story was glossed over too quickly. Each set of dialogue was much too short and succinct to get the real emotional experience of the tragedies that occurred. It may appeal to a teen who does not want to read a long in depth novel, however, I don't see a teen wanting to read this literature unless it was assigned in school or for a project. I may be comparing it to Beloved which is the most horrifyingly traumatizing novel written about slavery and the affects of it and because of that, this book just did not have the same impact that Beloved did. I think it touched on the basics of what happened which I think does not give any kind of justice.
brittney_reed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I was apprehensive about the format of this novel, which is written purely in dialogue, similar to a play. As I read, I thought that this method does limit the author somewhat because it forces some measure of clunkiness into the writing. Facts that in a more conventionally-written novel would have been expressed in narration must be included in dialogue, resulting in language that actual people in that time and in those situations would not actually use. However, the more I read, the more engrossed I became in the characters' stories. Lester's depiction of slavery is unlike many in literature I have seen in its lack of fear of complicated and disturbing emotions. In addition to stories of slaves braving death to run away north to freedom, Lester includes characters who are content with their positions as slaves to "good" masters. Lester's white characters also are far from one-dimensional, with even slaveholders having complex motivations and thought processes.This book would be a wonderful addition to Black History Month or Civil War curricula, but it would also be valuable for teens to read year-round. The afterword, in which Lester discusses the real people and events that inspired his book, would also make rich material for class discussions not only about the history, but about its presentation. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Day of Tears is an amazing book. It was difficult to read about the period of American history filled with slavery and privileged slave owners, but the story is told in first person dialogue, which gives the reader multiple perspectives on the accounts of what is known as the largest auction of enslaved people in US history.
sexy_librarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of a slave, as told from the point of view of multiple slaves, masters, and slave auctioneer, this book takes the reader back to our nations past. With so many points of view this is a good way to introduce kids into this very touchy area without plunging them into the more horrific aspects of slavery. It's also a fairly easy read that will hold kids attention.
mummybattle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Day of Tears by Julius Lester recounts the harrowing true story of the largest slave auction in American history. A novel in play format, Day of Tears is an absolute stunner, and I think the overall impact of the work rests largely on how directly this particular format allows the characters to speak to the reader. The characters are so vivid and utterly convincing, I felt as though I was eavesdropping on private, whispered conversations. What is perhaps most striking about Lester¿s work is his unwillingness to draw a clear line of demarcation between good and evil¿all people are born with the capacity to engage in both, and in great measure. Emma, a former slave on the Pierce plantation, reminds her granddaughter of this many years after her escape to freedom:You be sure to write in that report of yours that a lot of people, white and black, died because of slavery. I¿m thinking about them what died in slavery and them what died to kill slavery. And you be sure and put in there what I told you: all white folks back in that time wasn¿t evil¿And you be sure to put in that report of yours that I named your mother Sarah for a little white girl who hated slavery, too. She hated wrong and that¿s because she had a good heart (p. 170).Although Day of Tears would be a perfect novel to read in honor of Black History Month, I hesitate to recommend that it be read only during a special time of year; a novel this important and moving should simply be read.