Skip to main content
Displaying 1 of 1
Day of tears
Book
2005
Please select and request a specific volume by clicking one of the icons in the 'Find It' section below.
Find It
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. From his first book, To Be a Slave (1968), Lester has told the history of slavery through personal accounts that relay the dehumanizing message of the perpetrators. Here he draws on historical sources to fictionalize a real event: the biggest slave auction in American history, which took place in Savannah, Georgia, in 1859. He imagines the individual voices of many who were there, adults and kids, including several slaves up for sale, the auctioneer, and the white masters and their families buying and selling the valuable merchandise. The huge cast speaks in the present tense and sometimes from the future looking back. A note fills in the facts. The horror of the auction and its aftermath is unforgettable; individuals whom the reader has come to know are handled like animals, wrenched from family, friends, and love. Then there's a sales list with names, ages, and the amount taken in for each person. Brave runaways speak; so does an abolitionist who helps them. Those who are not heroic are here, too, and the racism is virulent (there's widespread use of the n-word). The personal voices make this a stirring text for group discussion. Older readers may want to go on from here to the nonfiction narratives in Growing Up in Slavery (see adjacent review). --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

On a day when rain came down "hard as sorrow," George Weems sets out to sell more slaves at one time than anyone ever had. Pierce Butler must sell off hundreds of slaves to cover gambling debts and 12-year-old Emma is one of his victims. Named after Lester's grandmother, whose mother was a slave, Emma is part of a large cast of characters--slaves, owners, businessmen and abolitionists--who tell their own stories, in their own voices. Interludes occasionally have characters return in old age to reflect on their lives since the auction, a brilliant technique that demonstrates, in some characters, the persistence of racist belief. Other, good-hearted, characters, white and black, act towards each other with respect and dignity and affirm the possibilities of conscience and common humanity even in the worst of times. This important novel, based on an actual slave auction in 1859, begs to be performed, though teachers and performers may be hesitant to utter the racist language of the day. Powerful theater and one of Lester's finest works. (cast of characters, author's note) (Fiction. 12+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Since their mother Fanny left, Emma has taken care of the Butler children, Sarah and Frances. She wants to raise them to have good hearts, as a rift in morals has ripped the Butler household apart: Sarah and their mother oppose the inhumanity of slavery while Frances and their father Pierce believe in the Southern lifestyle and treatment of blacks. Now, to pay off mounting gambling debts, Pierce decides to cash in on his " assets" and host the biggest slave auction in American history, at the price of his humanity. During those two days in Georgia, the skies weep on the proceedings below, for although Butler promises Emma's parents not to sell her, money, desperation, and greed enable him to justify his any misdeed. Through flashbacks and flash-forwards, and shifting first-person points of view, readers will travel with Emma and others through time and place, and come to understand that every decision has its consequences, and final judgment is passed down not by man, but by his maker. Julius Lester is a master of storytelling and transforms this little known piece of American history into one of the most dramatic and impressive works of his brilliant career.
Displaying 1 of 1