Friday, December 5, 2008

More Black History

Wow. This has been one of the most interesting studies we have done. We finished The Slave Ship. I would highly recommend this book. I don't know if all the historical facts are spot on. I was doing a little digging on the internet to find out more about the people in the story and some of the accounts I found were a little different. But it is a great story, told well and I think it gives a good picture for younger kids of the situation at the time. The last few chapters seem a little fantastic in that there is no mention of the Africans facing any animosity from anyone except their Spanish/Cuban "owners." Everyone likes them and treats them exceedingly well. They have lots of white friends. Maybe it DID happen like that. They were in New Haven, CT, among abolishonist whites. Maybe it did.

In any case, it was a great story and I'm pleased that we began with that one. My aim in this study has been to begin with where and how slavery began. I didn't want to just jump in to the Civil War, but I wanted the girls to understand the origins of slavery in America and how it differed from slavery throughout history.

The second book we read was Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World.
This was an excellent book, as well and a good next choice. (Really, I just browsed through the online library catalog and picked out whatever books seemed interesting. I probably checked out 40 books and we'll use 6 or 7 of them. I love my library!) This book gave a very good overview of slavery throughout history, moving into how the Africans cam to be enslaved in such numbers and how slavery in the Americas differed from historical slavery. It detailed the evolution of how Africans were captured for slavery, explained the Middle Passage, detailed the transport of Africans to the coast and their harrowing trip across the ocean.

The girls have been quick to point out the use of terms discounting the humanity of black by whites such as "creatures," "cargo," and such. We've talked much about the different world views of the Africans vs. the Americans. The horror of this whole piece of history is so great, that it's difficult to give 8 and 10 year olds enough to understand the tragedy without overwhelming them with the details of the atrocities.

The third book we read was the most awesome yet. The Old African, by Julius Lester, appears at first glance to be just another picture book made for young children.

Oh my goodness, no! Yes, the artwork is fabulous and beautiful and very appropriate for children. The girls were fascinated to see the pictures detailing the capture and transport of the Old African and his fellow Africans to the New World.

The text on the other hand! It's a good thing I am able to edit on the fly! This book is not for independent reading by children, nor for those who like to read over your shoulder as you read aloud. There is language, graphic details of the brutality the Africans suffered, a scene with $*xual overtones between a sailor and an African woman, suicide by the Africans, and, central to the story, a theme of magic and supernatural power.

Yet this book did more to give us a clear and graphic picture of the attitude of a slave owner, the brutality the slaves suffered, the confusion and fright the Africans suffered in their capture and transport over the ocean and the hope and overpowering desire for freedom all slaves carried, even those born into slavery.

I was near tears through most of this story, and if you know me, you know I am not a crier. I did a lot of editing as I read aloud. I'd urge anyone who wanted to use this book to preread it or be prepared to edit on the fly. I'm not sure I would have shared all the details with even my 13 year old. Maybe. Not without discussion, for sure.

So that was our day in history. Enjoy!

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