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4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,490 Ratings  ·  213 Reviews
Here is the classic--and true--story of Vyry, the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress, a Southern Civil War heroine to rival Scarlett O'Hara. Vyry bears witness to the South's prewar opulence and its brutality, to its wartime ruin and the subsequent promise of Reconstruction. It is a story that Margaret Walker heard as a child from her grandmother, the ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published January 21st 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1966)
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The Color Purple by Alice WalkerTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm XBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Best African American Books
43rd out of 591 books — 743 voters
Roots by Alex HaleyUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher StoweKindred by Octavia E. ButlerIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet JacobsThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Books about American slavery
14th out of 225 books — 258 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 03, 2013 Yvonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Completely heart-wrenching. I am still so much under the effect of this book that I can hardly verbalize what makes it so powerful.

The heroine, Vyry, is one of those who stays with you forever. I feel like I lived through all of Vyry's horrors and joys with her and she will always be someone whose example of fortitude I will remind myself of when I experience horror of my own.

The writing is not ornate, not overly complex. It's written in a style completely appropriate for the subject matter and
Apr 10, 2011 Margaret rated it really liked it
Imagine waking up each morning, knowing that your life was not yours to live, that you were under someone else's control. Imagine waking up and knowing that you had a hard day's labor, and you weren't getting paid. Imagine if you tried to "quit" this job, you would be whipped mercilessly.

For Elvira "Vyry" Brown, this wasn't anything to imagine, it was her life. Born a slave to her white master and his black slave mistress, fate was not on her side from the get go. Oh her early life, up until age
Jan Marquart
Apr 27, 2011 Jan Marquart rated it it was amazing
I picked up Jubilee at a time when I was horribly sick from the effects of toxic mold. Since toxic mold spits out toxins I became chemically sensitive. At the time I was living in a small room, no kitchen, no furniture, sleeping on the hardwood. I had nothing but a crock pot and four pieces of organic clothing fiercely wondering how I was going to survive in a toxic world. I was attracted to Jubilee and it saved me from collapsing into my own life. It is a courageous story of a Black American wo ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Babydoll rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent novel that author Margaret Walker developed depicting the pre and post antebellum life of a mulatto woman living in the South. Walker does an amazing job presenting the reader with the main character Vyry, who is born a slave and eventually experiences freedom after the conclusion of the Civil War. Vyry is shown as a strong willed woman with unwavering integrity, faith, and ambition. This book is definitely a classic within African American literature, which continues to re ...more
Jul 10, 2008 Margi rated it it was amazing
Jubilee holds the true story of Vyry, the daughter of a plantation owner and his slave mistress. What made this book one of my new favorites is how well written it is...a combination of history that I never knew and this personal story of a great heroine. Vyry is like no other. She refuses to judge or hate but remains strong in the face of injustice. She loves, works, experiences loss, works, loves, experiences inhumanity over and over again. This book rivals Uncle Tom's Cabin for me...but allow ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Jazmine rated it it was amazing
I will never forget this book. Not only is it well-crafted and written, but it is thoroughly enjoyable, vivid, and engrossing. I am so glad I got to read it and I feel it is a great choice for ap us history summer reading as it was mine. I feel it is an accomplishment in history to have such an account of that time period's history not just from the slave's vantage but others as well. It is so nice to have a real account of what people went through and what the times were really like as that is ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Chrisl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf-usa, 1960s

At first glance this Houghton Mifflin Prize Novel seems to travel the well worn sweet persimmon trail of Civil War novels--sparsely faceted characters bolstered by research into the vagaries of General Sherman's bristling and ragtag hordes. However, it is perhaps just because of the shades of the old Scarlet sagas, that this book achieves its peculiar poignancy, for the gallant South is reconstructed here through the living of Vyry, a young Negro woman, born a slave, natural, unclai
Aug 04, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
What a wonderful character Margaret Walker developed with Vyry. She was real and admirable in the way she dealt with her struggles about who she was and how she was called to live her life. I appreciated the real, historically accurate conflicts that were depicted both between whites and blacks, as well as within the black community in the South. To top it off, the book is very readable, the story is interesting, and it's tough to put it down. This book was recently challenged at our local high ...more
Xondra Day
Dec 04, 2013 Xondra Day rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keeper
WOW! This book blew me out of the water. I found it through 'Recommendations' right here on Goodreads, and I'm so glad I did!

The book is centered around Vyry, a mulatto slave on a large cotton plantation in Georgia. We get to know her and her life before the Civil War, and working in the big house throughout the war years, and beyond.

What I really liked about this book was that the author immersed you in the lives of the characters. The history contained within these pages is deep. I was totall
Jean Kelly
Feb 28, 2011 Jean Kelly rated it really liked it
A fasinating story - the author took what she knew of her great-grandmother born of a white plantation owner and a black slave who was really his mistress a sense. She married a black free man but then the Civil War erupted and years went by before she saw him again.
Not just did she develop a novel from this but all the research she did of that time really made me feel that this could in fact have been the biography of this strong, upright woman.
Megan Spears
My all time favorite book. It was assigned reading when I was a Junior in High School. Absolutely fell in love with this book. My brother who is a Junior now is required to read the book as well. I recently read it again when I dug it out of the box for him. I fell in love with the book all over. It is rather thick but such a easy read. Once you start you just cant stop.
Apr 21, 2009 Ruth rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 28, 2008 Bonnie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical fiction lovers!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 08, 2013 Barb rated it really liked it
Shelves: slavery, read-in-2013
Elvira "Vyry" Dutton was born a slave. Her mother Hetta was her father John Morris Dutton's slave. Vyry grows up on her father's plantation, never being acknowledged as his daughter despite the fact that the daughter he has with his wife looks so much like Vyry they are mistaken for twins. Margaret Walker created this novel based on her grandmother Margaret Duggans Ware Brown's life.

This story is rich with vivid details of what life was like in Georgia and Alabama in the 1860s and after the end
May 01, 2011 Kris rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Kris by: Robin
Shelves: book-club
My sister recommended this book, and I'm glad she did! It's an amazing true story of the author's great-grandmother, who was a slave in the south. The story follows "Vyry" (short for Elvira) from before the Civil War, during the war and afterwards. It's kind of the black version of "Gone with the Wind", and an important read for anyone who thinks GWTW tells the whole story!

We first meet Vyry's mother, who was one of the favorites of "Marster". She becomes pregnant & Vyry is born. Even though
Dec 27, 2012 Ebookwormy rated it it was amazing
This book was a "this is why i read" experience for me. Excellent character development and plot. Some topics are painful to read (slavery, violence, racism, etc.) though tastefully addressed. The spiritual content was inspiring, as the main character seeks Jesus to help her overcome the pain she and her family are experiencing.

There is also something unique for women here too. Vyry is a strong woman facing difficult, even impossible circumstances. She is criticize by both whites and blacks for
Margaret Walker's novel Jubilee (1966), based on the life story of her great-grandmother, follows Vyry (This name is short for Elvira, which I only mention because her name puzzled me for 75% of the book until her full name was revealed.) from her birth as a slave in pre-Civil War Georgia through the Civil War and into the Reconstruction era in Georgia and Alabama.

Walker uses Vyry to represent African American experience in the generation or two before the twentieth century begins: Vyry is a sl
Aug 25, 2008 Mitch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mitch by: My Mom
I read this book when I was 11. It had a profound impact on me, and lead me on a lifelong study of the Civil War. It was also responsible for my eventual History Minor in college.

Walker must have been influenced by "Gone With The Wind," as the story structure parallels that novel, but told from the view of an enslaved woman whose mother was made pregnant by the plantation "master."

From reading this book, and then reading GWTW, I came to realize the root of the country's racial tensions comes d
Jubilee is my favorite kind of book. It is based on a true life story and given to us by her great-great granddaughter, the award winning author Margaret Walker. It depicts the horrors of slavery on the plantation and describes life after the Civil War when poor whites begrudged the negro his efforts to obtain land or get a job or just to live in peace.

Southerners had lost most of the good men of marriageable age and many of those left were rabble who agitated for power. After losing lives, home
Nov 28, 2011 Ana rated it really liked it
I've read many books in the slave-narrative genre, starting with Toni Morrison's Beloved when I was in high school. Jubilee, written in the 1960s, has a different feel from many of the more recent books I've read. It contains long stretches of pure history, mainly about the Civil War and Reconstruction. I enjoyed the element of the story about the main character's marriages and the conflicts that come from her unusual situation there. I was especially intrigued about how the author seemed to be ...more
Tessa Rose
Mar 18, 2012 Tessa Rose rated it it was amazing
I read this book for a history class at San Francisco State. It is one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read. Captivating and beautiful it will remain one of my favorite novels I read during my time in school. My professor explained that Margaret Walker wrote it to earn her Ph.D. or Masters (I can't remember which). It is based on the story of her great grandmother. The book jacket describes, "Weaving her family's oral history with thirty years of research, Walker has brought the ...more
Feb 06, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys historical fiction, anyone who read Gone With the Wind
Shelves: fiction
I can't believe I had never even heard of Jubilee until now. I loved so much about this book: that it's not only a wonderful historical novel, it's also a record of this family's oral history; that it's written by Vyry's great granddaughter; that Vyry is the most tenacious and loving kind of heroine; that it offers a glimpse into not only the horrors of slavery, but also what were often, heart-breakingly, the horrors of reconstruction. And I love that it's a book about love: a mother's love; com ...more
Karen Hartshorn
Oct 20, 2011 Karen Hartshorn rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
This book was very hard to get into at first. I didn't really like it much, the wording is very much like the slaves and the people in the south might have really spoken. It takes a little getting used to. But that was only part of the problem. The last few years we have seen a rise in racial problems in the US and I do get tired of it! I think this book really shows the beginnings of the racial problems we see today on BOTH sides,when I started the book I really didn't have much sympathy as I h ...more
Jasmin Reed
Dec 16, 2009 Jasmin Reed rated it really liked it
A book written about a young female slave, tells how her family came to be and how hard it was to survive before, during and after the civil war. Vyry the daughter of a rich plantaion owner is born into slavery only because of her mother. She is brought into the big house only to be sent to the kitchen after "big missy" almost kills her. As time goes by she learns more about the horrors of being a slave. When the war comes Vyry watches as the family her father had is destroyed after the death of ...more
Apr 06, 2010 Kim rated it did not like it
This is the story of a young slave girl named Vyry. It takes place before, during, and after the Civil War in the United States. It tells of all the struggles, hardships, and trails she had to go through and somehow managed to have hope. I had to read this to get into my honor English 11 class. It wasn't too exciting. It was one of the many Civil War books that I've had to read in school. The basics were the same: the whites were mean, the blacks always were doing the best, and no matter how har ...more
I read this for the library book group and it was a great selection. Initially, I wasn't that into it and assigned myself to read two chapters per night, which would have me finishing right before the book discussion. It took me a bit to warm up to Vyry, the slave who is the main character. Eventually though, I got caught up in the book and raced ahead of my reading schedule.

I haven't read a slave narrative in years. They seem to have fallen out of fashion, though I'm not sure why. There's plent
Mar 05, 2014 gaudeo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a reread for me, but I hadn't read it since junior high school. It's no less powerful than it was then. I'll reread Gone with the Wind at some point, too, but it won't provide as full (or accurate) a picture of slave life before the Civil War or life for free African Americans after the war as this book does. Margaret Walker could not have honored her great-grandmother more than by writing her story in this book. It achieves that pot of gold of being both specific and universal at the s ...more
Apr 03, 2012 Pam rated it it was amazing
I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend. I started it, got angry, put it down but couldn't stay away. This is rich historical fiction that provides details of both the everyday lives of slaves on a plantation and the lavish lives of the wealthy landowners. This is a tale of the antebellum era told through the eyes of the family cook. Vyry is no mammy {as in, "Gone With the Wind"} She's multifaceted and the reader is hopeful because she is. The Civil War changes everything and the writer ...more
Jan 22, 2014 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hfu-2014
This is a compelling story of slavery in its last years before the civil War, during the War and the story as former slaves grasp the meaning of freedom and the reality of what that means for former slaves in the South during the years of Reconstruction. It is the fictionalized story based on the author's ancestors. It is also the story of one special character who has an indomitable spirit and is determined to live, forgive, survive and triumph against all odds, all rules and all those people w ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Gracie rated it really liked it
Written from the point of view and vernacular of a slave right before, during, and after the Civil War, this book is a phenomenal example of historical fiction. It is Gone With the Wind from the other side. A strong and amazing heroine, a series of hardships that we, in modern america, can't even imagine, and the overcoming of obstacles to make oneself more, better. Based on Margaret Walker's (the author) great grandmother's story, this book has a ring of truth and history and pride. Don't miss ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Jubilee - Margaret Walker 1 6 Jul 15, 2014 01:33PM  
jubilee 3 20 Aug 07, 2011 12:59PM  
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Dr. Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander (July 7, 1915 – November 30, 1998) was an African-American poet and author born in Birmingham, Alabama. She wrote as Margaret Walker. One of her most known poems is "For My People".

Her father Sigismund C. Walker was a Methodist minister and her mother was Marion Dozier Walker. They helped get her started in literature by teaching a lot of philosophy and poetry
More about Margaret Walker...

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“Keeping hatred inside makes you git mean and evil inside. We supposen to love everybody like God loves us. And when you forgives you feels sorry for the one what hurt you, you returns love for hate, and good for evil. And that stretches your heart and makes you bigger inside with a bigger heart so's you can love everybody when your heart is big enough. Your chest gets broad like this, and you can lick the world with a loving heart! Now when you hates you shrinks up inside and gets littler and you squeezes your heart tight and you stays so mad with peoples you feels sick all the time like you needs the doctor. Folks with a loving heart don't never need no doctor.” 10 likes
“I'd rather make a good run than a bad stand.” 9 likes
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