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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Excellent History of Slavery in the United States: Not for Young Adults Only

Johnson, Charles; Smith, Patricia (1998) Africans in America:  America’s Journey through Slavery.  San Diego:  Harvest.    

     Sometimes when I am thinking about good books for students in high school I find I am so caught up in the amazing possibilities in adolescent and young adult literature that I forget that high school students will soon be college students or simply adults.  Part of the task of a high school teacher or librarian is to help students start to make the transition to the regular section of the book store or library.
     Over Christmas break I ran across a history book that might help do just that.  It is Charles Johnson and Patrica Smith's Africans in America:  America’s Journey through Slavery.  It is an interesting book -- combining regular text with photographs, drawings, and documents (as many history books do) along with brief fictionalized vignettes at the beginning of each section (written by Johnson, author of the brilliant novel Middle Passage).  All of this does a really nice job of taking us through the transition of indentured servanthood into slavery; into the brutality of slave capture, the Middle Passage, and the harsh treatment in the United States; into the fight for abolition; through the civil war; and through the end of legal slavery and what followed after. 

      It is a big book (the text runs 445 page not including the end notes) but there is nothing in here that an average  high school student would be incapable of reading -- and much they would find fascinating.  Here is the story of George Washinton's slaves, the story of slave revolts and walkouts, the story of the parts that slaves played in plagues and wars, the story of bounty hunters and how slaves worked together to evade them, and so much more.  Well worth reading.

Hey, speaking of bookstores, over break I also got a chance to visit the new Sem Co-Op bookstore in Hyde Park, Chicago.  I was worried that the new store would lack the bizarre nooks and dead-end passages of the old space.  Turns out it is an excellent space -- with lots of nooks but also somehow natural light.  Well worth a visit.  Here are some pictures of the new space:

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