Slavery, Narratives

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Freedom Struggle The Anti-Slavery Movement in America 1830-1865

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In 1860, slavery in America was older than the country itself. At that time, nearly four million black people were slaves in the United States. Slavery's morality was rarely publicly questioned. A small but determined few began an anti-slavery movement that would eventually change the face of the nation.In taking on slavery, abolitionists fought a deeply ingrained system of slavery. Learn about the hidden force of the Underground Railroad, how slavery divided a nation, the path to war, and the experiences of determined men and women black and white, such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The early African-American struggle for equality created a starting point for a system of justice in American society -- Freedom Struggle is the story.

My Folks Don't Want Me to Talk About Slavery

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In the midst of the Great Depression, the Federal Writer's Project assigned field workers to interview ex-slaves. More than 2,000 former slaves contributed their personal accounts and opinions, and their oral histories were deposited in the Library of Congress.

The former slaves describe the clothes they wore, the food they ate, the houses they lived in, the type of work they did, and the treatment they received. They tell their impressions of Yankee soldiers, the Klan, their masters, and their new-found freedom.

Because the interviews were conducted during the Great Depression, some of the narratives provide insights that are at times surprising. These interviews have preserved a valuable source of information about the institution of slavery in the United States and the effect it had on the people involved.

"One day Grandpappy sassed Miss Polly White, and she told him that if he didn't behave hisself that she would put him in her pocket. Grandpappy was a big man, and I ask him how Miss Polly could do that. He said she meant that she would sell him, then put the money in her pocket. He never did sass Miss Polly no more."--Sarah Debro

These eloquent words come from former slaves themselves--an important but long-neglected source of information about the institution of slavery in the United States. Who could better describe what slavery was like than the people who experienced it? And describe it they did, in thousands of remarkable interviews sponsored by the Federal Writers Project during the 1930's

Over 2,000 slave narratives that are now housed in the Library of Congress. More than 170 interviews were conducted in North Carolina. Belinda Hurmence pored over each of the North Carolina narratives, compiling and editing 21 of the first-person accounts for this collection.

These narratives, though artless in many ways, speak compellingly of the joys and sorrows, the hopes and dreams, of the countless people who endured human bondage in the land of the free.

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Night Boat to Freedom

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When Granny Judith asks twelve-year-old Christmas John to row Molly, cook's daughter, across the river from Kentucky to the Free State of Ohio, he's terrified. Bravely, he begins the first of many journeys. Each time he returns, Granny Judith asks what color clothing his passenger wore, for she's had a dream-vision and is making a quilt from squares of these "freedom colors." When there are only two squares left, she tells him, "Dream says we got to get ourselves over the river, 'cause the danger's gonna grow awful."
This compelling story, powerfully and poignantly illustrated, is a memorable celebration of courage, hope, and unselfish love. "Night Boat to Freedom" is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
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Under the Freedom Tree

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Taut free verse tells the little-known story of the first contraband camp of the Civil War--seen by some historians as the "beginning of the end of slavery in America." One night in 1861, three escaped slaves made their way from the Confederate line to a Union-held fort. The runaways were declared "contraband of war" and granted protection. As word spread, thousands of runaway slaves poured into the fort, seeking their freedom. These "contrabands" made a home for themselves, building the first African American community in the country. In 1863, they bore witness to one of the first readings of the Emancipation Proclamation in the South--beneath the sheltering branches of the tree now known as Emancipation Oak.