Courage Against Cruelty: Life as a Slave in the Americas

"In most of us colored folks was the great desire to [be] able to read and write. We took advantage of every opportunity to educate ourselves. The greater part of the plantation owners were very harsh if we were caught trying to learn or write. It was the law that if a white man was caught trying to educate a negro slave, he was liable to prosecution entailing a fine of fifty dollars and a jail sentence. We were never allowed to go to town and it was not until after I ran away that I knew that they sold anything but slaves, tobacco, and wiskey. Our ignorance was the greatest hold the South had on us. We knew we could run away, but what then? An offender guilty of this crime was subjected to very harsh punishment."

So reads an excerpt from Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938. For more than just a slice of slave life, delve into these fictionalized accounts of slavery in the United States and the Caribbean. There's cruelty, sadness, despair, and tragedy, but there's also hope, courage, perseverance, humor, and dignity.

Kindred

By Octavia E. Butler

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Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South.
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Roots

By Alex Haley

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"The monumental bestseller! Alex Haley recaptures his family's history in this drama of eighteenth-century slave Kunta Kinte and his descendants." The family story continues with Haley's Queen.

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Home Across the Road

By Nancy Peacock

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Peacock's acclaimed second novel centers on the centuries-old secrets that bind together two families --one white, one black--on an old Southern plantation.

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Fragments of the Ark

By Louise Meriwether

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A group of resolute runaway slaves attempt to steal the gunboat Swanee and deliver it to the Union army and are united in their fight by love and history.

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Crossing the River

By Caryl Phillips

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Several narratives of African American history, including that of a former slave repatriated to Africa in 1834, another of an elderly woman freed after the Civil War, and a third of a British slave trader.

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Beloved

By Toni Morrison

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It is the story--set in post-Civil War Ohio--of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked death in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad: a woman of "iron eyes and backbone to match." Sethe lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing intruder who calls herself Beloved.

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All Souls Rising

By Madison Smartt Bell

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The violent struggle for freedom in Haiti, typified by the opening scene in which a woman is crucified for killing her baby so he will not grow up to be a slave, and the rise of a former slave, Toussaint L'Ouverture, to self-proclaimed governor general.

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A Long Way from Home

By Connie Briscoe

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Relates the story of three generations of slaves, from Susan and her daughter Clara, to Clara's daughter, whose father is never revealed, all of whom work on the plantation of President James Madison and his wife Dolley.
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Chesapeake

By James A. Michener

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In this epic, the Chesapeake Bay region gets Michener's novel treatment. From Indians to religious pilgrims, from pirates to slave holders, from Quakers to desperate Irish immigrants, the people come in and make their mark on the windy marshes and tidal basins of the Chesapeake Bay.

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