“To be a slave. To be owned by another person, as a car, house, or table is owned. To live as a piece of property that could be sold — a child sold from its mother, a wife from her husband. To be considered not human, but a ‘thing’ that plowed the fields, cut the wood, cooked the food, nursed another’s child . . . To be a slave was to be a human being under conditions under which that humanity was denied. They were not slaves. They were people. Their condition was slavery.”
— Julius Lester
According to Howard Zinn, “The United States government’s support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality.” In 1790, a thousand tons of cotton were being produced annually in the South. By 1860, we were producing a million tons of cotton. In the same period, 500,000 slaves grew to over 4 million. In order for the South to give up building its success and privilege on the suffering of others in this deeply entrenched system, it would take a full-scale war. Using Julius Lester’s award winning book as our anchor text, we have spent several weeks absorbing the historical legacy of slavery and accepting our responsibilities as Americans to not only know the truths of our history, but to actively work towards undoing the attitudes, assumptions, and fear that allowed an abomination like slavery to proliferate in our homeland for hundreds of years.
While reading To Be A Slave, we have been planning a 5+ paragraph essays on a thesis question or statement of our own development. It was important that we each ask and answer a question or address a statement that matters to us most.
Exploring the different ways owners interacted with the people they enslaved . . .
Wondering how enslaved people viewed themselves . . .
Analyzing the contradiction that some slave owners “helped” their slaves . . .
Researching important precedent-setting events like the Zong Massacre . . .
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
— Martin Luther King Jr.