To Be a Slave by Julius Lester

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“To Be a Slave” Review

The non-fiction book “To Be a Slave” is a compilation of excerpts from various resources about slaves and their life under slavery. Essentially this book is about the slaves’ work, living conditions, religious lives, resistance efforts, and how they viewed slavery. This novel brings to life slavery and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions that come with it. The characters were slaves themselves; their stories told from themselves and no other. Set in a time period where slaves were beaten for crying at another’s death or killed for going to get a better life, this story is touching because it is raw and true.


Julius Lester’s novel, “To Be a Slave” also outlines the suffering endured by slaves. Slaves were forced to clean and work, with no advantage. White masters seemed heartless and vindictive. Bending over rows of crops from sunup to sundown was no way to live for whites, so it was forced on blacks. Captured over from Africa and brought over to the United States, for most slaves the only way to fight back was with religion. Music and dances at sundown on Saturdays and secret religious meetings also made life endurable. “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,” an excerpt from “To Be a Slave”.

The stories display the true cruelty of the white race during the Civil War. Mostly taking place in the South, these slaves all have one thing in common: freedom is one thing that they are all willing to die for. The true theme of the book was however terrible the suffering is, there is always a way to fight back.





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