To Be a Slave

To Be a Slave


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To be a slave. To be owned by another person, as a car, house, or a table is owned. To live as a piece of property that could be sold...

This book is about how it felt. The words of black men and women who had themselves been slaves are here, accompanied by Julius Lester's historical commentary and Tom Feelings's powerful and muted paintings, To Be a Slave has been a touchstone in children's literature for over thirty years.

"It is rare to find a book that enables children to identify as compellingly with slaves as this one does." -Publishers Weekly

"From history-and for our time-there's nothing better than To Be a Slave." -The New York Times Book Review


A 1969 Newbery Honor Book
An ALA Notable Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Smithsonian Magazine Best Book of the Year

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142403860
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 12/15/2005
Series: Puffin Modern Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 83,718
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.46(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Julius Lester is a celebrated author whose accolades include a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award. He is also a National Book Award finalist, a National Book Critics Circle nominee, and a recipient of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. In addition to his critically acclaimed writing career, Mr. Lester has distinguished himself as a civil rights activist, musician, photographer, radio talk-show host, and professor. For 32 years he taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Tom Feelings has received numerous awards for his art in books. In 1972, he was the first African-American artist to win a Caldecott Honor, for Moja Means One: Swahili Counting Book, and in 1975 he won a second Caldecott Honor for Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book, both written by Muriel Feelings. Mr. Feelings taught art at the University of South Carolina. It was during that time he published perhaps his best-known work, The Middle Passage, which won the 1996 Coretta Scott King Award. Mr. Feelings was working on finishing his last picture book, I Saw Your Face, a collaboration with the poet Kwame Dawes, not long before his death in 2003.

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To Be a Slave 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book does a good job of explaining learned behavior and why it is so hard to change from one generation to the next. Must read for bigots and racists as it gives insight into helping instead of hating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has made me realized what an awful time slavery was. It was a great and powerful book that I couldn't put down until I was finished, much more interesting than what we learn in school.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a great book, had great depth in how it described what a slave really went thru, its very easy to read, no complicated vocabulary, which made everything easy to understand, adn really page by page made u want to read more and more everytime, you really cant put it down, hte pain well described by the real slaves made you feel how cruel people can really be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I teach at a racially mixed, private school that actively promotes racial reconciliation. Although this book contains poignant and insightful narratives from people who experienced slavery first-hand, I was extremely disappointed that the finaltwo entries portray extreme biogtry and racism toward whites as they discuss the slaves' missed opportunity to 'have had thousands of whites slaughtered' and the closing outlook that 'the white folks have been and are now and always will be against the Negro.'This book missed a powerful opportunity to open dialogue and promote understanding between blacks and whites. Unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience use the book in my classroom or recommend it to others, for the final outlook of the text encourages animosity.
BrendaLove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting insight on individual slavery
Graziella_Dal-Bon More than 1 year ago
To Be A Slave is the heartbreaking and intense collection of stories from those who were slaves themselves. The book is written by the slaves who experienced the horrible and torturous journeys through slavery. The stories take place anywhere from the start of slavery in 1776 to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The majority of the stories take place in the southern colonies as they were for slavery until it was abolished in 1863. To Be A Slave is written by Julius Lester, a slave whose life was completely changed as he was separated from his family at the age of 10. The book is written from the point of view of slaves and organized in letters from the slaves with occasional explanations from the author. Written completely by slaves themselves, To Be a Slave really pulls at the heartstrings from its vivid descriptions of the slaves being whipped and the horrible shelter conditions to the sad stories of those who were separated from family at as young as the age of three.   The letters are written by those who experienced slavery. Just a few of these people include Josiah Henson, a young boy separated from his brothers, sister, and mother at the age of five. Another was Charles Ball; a plantation worker owned by a very wealthy man but yet was forced to sleep in a shack with many other slaves. Another author of the letters included Solomon Northup, a plantation worker that was whipped unless he had picked at least 200 lbs. of cotton daily as well as many more.  To Be A Slave really shows you what slavery really was like in the words of black men and women who lived through slavery rather than sugar coated through the minds others. As said by the Julius Lester, “History is not just facts and events. History is also pain in the heart, and we repeat history until we are able to make another’ When you think of slavery you feel the sense of gloominess, but as I read this book it made you feel more than that. Sympathy, horror, and anger. To Be A Slave was an extremely enjoyable book to read, I happen to be learning about slavery in history class and the way the information from the personal events tie into the facts of it all is very interesting! I 100% suggest this book to everyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher assigned us a project  So we where supposed to select a book  And write about ( just paraphrasing). So I selected to be slaves. I really had a second  Hand experience because most of the stories In this book came from real slaves. I don't like reading to much. But this book moved me. And if it moved me it will move everyone out there interested in a book of history and inspiration.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book makes me feel like im actually in the setting. I would recomend this book to any whose's into slavery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To me slavery is a big inpact on american history. This book was a rather great. Why to here directly from a former slaves mouth is a good experience. I would reccomend to anyone that enjoys a good book to read this one. It helps you to better understand slavery by hearing it from an real former slave rather than from a book of ideas of it. In other words I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book cause it taught you about life as a slave and everything they had to go through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'To be a slave' is a moving, inspring story told from a collection of slaves' point of view. I think anyone who reads this book can agree with me: 'To be a Slave' gets you into the feel of what being a slave was like 150 years ago.