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To Be a Slave
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To Be a Slave

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,148 ratings  ·  177 reviews
The actual words of slaves and former slaves are interwoven with Julius Lester's historical commentary and Tom Feelings's dramatic paintings, bringing to life what it meant to be someone else's property -- to be a slave, no better than a table or chair. The standard text in schools and universities.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published December 18th 2000 by Puffin (first published 1968)
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Community Reviews

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Jason Koivu
This is a Newbery Medal winner. This is a children's book. This is essential reading.

I was ready to move beyond the biographies of Frederick Douglass and others to search for more depth into the day to day existence of the American slave, and yes, in this book for children, I found it.

To Be A Slave delves into the archives of ex-slaves' accounts, occasionally dry memories of daily life transcribed word for word. It details their capture in Africa and those horrible, confined passages across th
"To be a slave" by Juluis Lester was a book about slavery and how the slaves were treated, everything that they had to go through. They suffered from torture, starvation, and working too hard. It's so sad knowing that people were owned just like an object in a house, and were ordered to do things that they didn't want to do. There were some really sad parts in this book that I read. Children and parents were seperated from eachother, they couldn't see eachother ever again. The children were sol ...more
Sheena  at Hot Eats and Cool Reads
Let me start off by saying, this is a great historical children's book, and it should be required reading in schools across America. Where I grew up, we didn't learn much about slavery, the civil rights movement, or any African American history for that matter. This is such an important part of our history.

I loved that the book has different chapters based on each time frame throughout slavery, including how they made it to the slave ship, their horrible journey to America, plantation life and t
May 26, 2010 Nikki rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: books
To Be A Slave, by Julius Lester, was one of the most moving books I have ever read provided with many detailed, first hand accounts of slaves captured in Africa by the English and Europeans and then taken to the new colonies in America. Full of greed, anger, frustration, sadness, horror, and pain, this book will set even the toughest heart aching for those slaves who went through so much sorrow. What I thought really made this book so amazing that I would recommend anyone to read, was the autho ...more
Julius Lester's "To be a Slave" was a great book that taught me a lot about slavery. What surprised me the most about this book was how emotional it could be, especially when the slaves were talking about how they were treated by their masters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

When I first started reading this book, I was worried it was going to be a boring historical fiction book about slavery. After I read the introduction, I learned that it was written by a descendant of slavery who
Guo Hui
I felt that this book really took the definition of quoting to a whole new level. Not only is this book made entirely of quotes, the author also connected and organized the quotes in a way that made sense to the "story" he was trying to tell. Reading this book not only made me realize the styles novels can come in, it also made me realize that slavery was more devastating than it seemed. Not only were the slaves treated as property, there were even slaves that were treated as animals for breedin ...more
Erica Freeman
Oct 12, 2007 Erica Freeman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I read this when I was in 6th grade, maybe earlier...and read it several time afterwards.

This book terrified me, disgusted me, haunted me.

To read the words of people who'd actually been slaves...not of their grandparents...or great-grandparents...but the words of slaves themselves made a huge impact on me.

To read of the degradation and horror of slavery was incredibly difficult, especially thinking of my own "ancestors" (as if they were that far removed from me) suffering that way was so painful
This was a monumental book that I would love to incorporate into a middle school or upper elementary classroom. The format is a massive collection of personal anecdotes collected from journals, etc of slaves and as such can feel jumpy and hard to follow at times. This is especially true with the very short stories. I would have liked a little more narration to keep it flowing and provide more information about events.
That said, I think this would be a great book to keep in a classroom library a
I got this from my mom's to let my 9 yr. old read, but I wanted to read it first, to see if she could or not... I was somewhat surprised at the content, it is a very sad book! I think I will wait to introduce it to Lexie. The author does a good job compiling letters of ex-slaves, beginning at capture and going through daily life and then to freedom. I was surprised at the letter he chose to end the book on though, the person who wrote it is very bitter and angry, while the rest of the book is a ...more
The author Julius Lester went through 6000 pages of manuscripts stored at the Archives of Folksong in the Library of Congress to find primary sources of slave narratives. The book was eye-opening and intriguing, but after reading horrific event after horrific event, I found that at times the book was almost "too much" to take in. Some facts were especially eye catching and worth pondering.

Thomas Jefferson was noted as the most humane slave master. He treated his slaves to rather nice small bric
Logan Erdmann
This book is a compilation of written letters and notes by slaves. It is a very intresting book, simply because there is a new story about an event that happened every few pages. This book will help you see the way slavery changed and you will see a difference in this book and any high school history textbook. This book has real life experieces that are written down by those who experienced them. I would recommend this book to young adults, escpecially those who are intrested in the history of s ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Samantha rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people with good attention spans
Recommended to Samantha by: Mr.Otte
My english teacher assigned this book to the class and gave us 2 weeks to read it. At some parts, it made you cry, and at other parts, it bored me to tears. Either way, you'll end up crying if you read it. But no it was a pretty good book, not the most interesting through some chapters, but it really made you question life back then in history, and life today. You decide how much you think things have changed.
I wish that there were more illustrations because I wanted to get more a visual picture of what they were going through.I like this book because actual slaves were telling their stories.I rate this book a 4 out of 5 because they used real slaves interviews.If i were the author i would have put in more pictures because like i said before i think it's better to get more of a visual picture.
Sebastian Urena
This is a very good source of information. This book tells you the point of view from many different slaves. It discribes how they felt about their jobs, they feel as though they can move up a bit. This book puts you in the shoes of a slave. For example,a moment in the book tells you how the slaves didn't get knifes to cut their meat, so they used an Axe.
If you were hoping on finding a primary source for some information on slavery this is a really good choice for you. The book is a collaborat
This should be required reading in school. It details life under slavery by giving some brief background material interspersed among actual accounts. These accounts are fascinating and sometimes, riveting. The author drew them from two basic sources. The first are 19th-century abolitionist writings which took the escaped slave's account and wrote it for a white audience with the intent to convince the reader to abhor slavery. These accounts are formal and stylized but contain interesting account ...more
Bish Denham
To Be a Slave was a 1969 Newbery Honor Book. It is a heartbreaking collection of narratives that were taken from slaves and ex-slaves in the years before the Civil War and again in the 1930s. Julius Lester gives a brief explanation of situations slaves were experiencing and then uses their own words to bring those experiences into sharp, unblinking focus. He takes the reader through the whole journey from capture and the horrors of the Middle Passage through to the Civil War and Emancipation. It ...more
Robyn Severe
There should be nothing but stark reality surrounding this subject, so none of us delude ourselves into thinking the slavery was just part of the romance of the south as in Gone With the Wind. The life of a slave, told by slaves.
Review originally published on My Blog. Check out all my reviews there.

In this small book are tales of slavery told by the slaves themselves. Tales of heartache and pain and subjugation that I never read in any of my history books. Slavery is awful and that is something that I've always felt in my bones but reading what they went through, in their own words with just the narrative of Julius Lester to weave the tales together is gutwrenching. Families broken apart we knew but infants torn from th
Kate Madigan
What intrigued me about this book was the first hand accounts of what life was like as a slave in the United States. Excerpts were taken from two main sources, one that kept the dialect of those telling the stories and one that was translated into an more formal English of the period. I preferred the version that stayed true to the original dialects of the storytellers because it gave the piece a certain authenticity. I think this would be an excellent companion resource for students reading nov ...more
In this book I've learned something in slavery. At first I didn't know White People had Indian as slaves. They were dying of disease and hard work in the fields. The Whites couldn't find any servants, so they thought of using africans as slaves. They started building ships to go across the seas to the Country of Africa. When they arrived at African they used slave traders to catch africans from tribes. If some wars was lost during the attacks, they would capture some of the africans and chain th ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Sandie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: For kids in 4th grade up to adults
Shelves: young-adult
My son (5th grade) read this book for a non-fiction history book report this year and it looked a bit interesting so I thought I would give it a try. My son didn't find it very interesting. I had a hard time getting into this book, it took me a long while to finish it. The words from the slaves themselves I had no problem with. Lester did a good job compliling everything, though I would love to know why he chose the final words that he did for this book. As I said, I found the words of the men ...more
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.

Lester spent long weeks researching documents in the Library of Congress, assimilating first-person accounts of runaway slaves, former slaves and descendents
To Be a Slave is written by Julius Lester. It is a nonfiction novel about experiences in slavery.
The author’s purpose in To Be a Slave is to educate readers about slavery and prejudice. The purpose is directly stated by the author. He wants to inform readers about the challenges slaves went through and inform readers prejudice is still here today.
The theme of To Be a Slave is not directly stated. Through the information provided, I think the theme is to let the past influence the way we are
Julius lester includes various accounts of entries written by former slaves in order to explain slavery. He begins with the slave trade and ends with the reformation and the defeat of the South in the civil war. For many, slavery was just the way of life and for others, there had to be a way out. Almost every slave was beaten/whipped for something their master considered "wrong." Some slaves lived in the master's houses while others lived in slave quarters on the plantation. But they slaves alwa ...more
Sam Burrow
To Be a Slave is brilliant, disturbing and powerful novel. There is a collection of interviews of slaves who reveal the truth about what their thoughts were during their captivity. Many slaves wanted to revolt from their owners to escape to freedom. Trying to hurt your owner, would be taking a huge risk, because if the slaves aren't successful, the consequences may lead to the death of the slave/s. Hardships, such as not being fed, or being beaten were pretty common for slaves, as well as getti ...more

This book should be required reading for all Black History classes. Lester spent long weeks researching documents in the Library of Congress, assimilating first-person accounts of runaway slaves, former slaves and descendents of slaves in order to reconstruct a shameless timeline of slavery in America. Each quotation is followed by a literary acknowledgment of one of his three main sources. Interspersed among the abundant personal recollections by long-desce
To Be A Slave
by Julius Lester

I would highly recommend "To Be A Slave" to anyone interested in the historical factors of the lives of slaves or what life was like to be a slave during the development of America.
"To Be A Slave" was a very interesting but heartbreaking read. So many people of today have lost the understanding of what torment and torture took place during the African Slave Trade. Much of America and Other countries were built on the backs of African slaves some which were sold by t
Dan M
Dan M.

Outside Reading Book Review
Julius Lester: To Be a Slave, Dial Books for Young Readers, Copyright 1968, 160 pages, non-fiction.

In the non-fiction book, To Be a Slave by Julius Lester, the reader is brought into the entirety of the lives of slaves, ranging from being brought to America, to after emancipation. The purpose of the book is to convey to ordinary people what it was like to be a slave, as well as to educate people who knew some information about the topic. This book brings the rea
This is a book about slavery times. These include the stories of slaves while their time in slavery. They share experiences of working for someone else, being called hurtful words, being beaten, and being in captivity. It shows how cruel this was and how early settlers treated people who just looked different then us. Many families separated, many slaves dying everyday. Over 1,000,000 slaves were captured and brought into the misery we all know as slave trade. It was horrible and wrong.

This book
This book is so depressing but it just shows you what went on during the time that slavery was a big thing. Slaves weren't treated like human beings. They were killed if the masters wanted them killed. They were given no luxuries of any kind; they were given just enough to keep them alive. They were overworked and had no break whatsoever during the day. On the way to North America from Africa, they were only fed yams. Yams, out of all things they could have been given to eat. Even them, the slav ...more
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I was born on January 27, 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. From 1941-1954 I lived in Kansas City, Kansas, and from 1954-1961 in Nashville, Tennesse. I received a B.A. in English from Fisk University in 1960.

In 1961 I moved to New York City where I had a talk radio show on WBAI FM from 1966-1973, hosted a television talk show on WNET from 1969-1971.

Since 1968 I have published 43 books. Among the awards
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