20 Best Books About Slavery in the West

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20 Best Books About Slavery in the West

Slavery in the west has been a long-standing issue that has come to light in recent years. It’s important to understand the history of slavery in the west, including the stories of slaves who suffered and their descendants who have to overcome struggles to this day. Many authors have written about the topic, and these books will help readers understand the complexities and harsh realities of slavery in the west.

1. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

“Beloved” tells the story of a former slave, Sethe, who escapes from her life at the plantation with her children. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel explores the trauma and emotional toll of slavery. Sethe’s past resurrects in the form of Beloved, a ghost who has returned to set things right.

2. “The Known World” by Edward P. Jones

“The Known World” is a novel set in pre-Civil War Virginia featuring a black couple, Henry Townsend and Caldonia, who own slaves. The book highlights the complexity of the relationships between slaves and slaveowners.

3. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Underground Railroad,” is a perfect blend of magical realism and historical fiction. The novel follows Cora, a slave on a plantation in Georgia, as she makes her way to the North via the underground railroad.

4. “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson

“The Warmth of Other Suns” is a non-fiction book that follows the lives of three African Americans who fled the South to escape racial oppression and moved to areas in the North, Midwest, and West, seeking a better life.

5. “12 Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup’s memoir was published in 1853 and highlights his time as a slave in Louisiana. The book illustrates the horror and brutality of slavery that Northup experienced and was a rare first-hand account of slavery in the 19th century.

6. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

“The Color Purple” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that follows the lives of two sisters, Celie and Nettie, and their struggles in the South in the early 1900s. The book explores the themes of racism, sexism, and oppression.

7. “Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal” by Yuval Taylor

This book focuses on the friendship between Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, two of the most important writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The book explores their relationship and how they collaborated and supported each other during their careers.

8. “Celia, A Slave” by Melton A. McLaurin

“Celia, A Slave” is a true account of a slave named Celia who was convicted and hanged for killing her owner in self-defense. The book is a testament to the injustice and brutality of the legal system that supported slavery.

9. “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“The Water Dancer” is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Hiram Walker, the son of a slaveowner and a slave mother. The book follows his journey as he discovers his supernatural abilities and seeks to save the woman he loves from slavery.

10. “Kindred” by Octavia Butler

“Kindred” is a time-travel novel that explores the relationship between a contemporary Black woman and her ancestors who were slaves. The book highlights the brutality of slavery while delving into the themes of identity, family, and the legacy of slavery.

11. “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E. Baptist

“The Half Has Never Been Told” is a non-fiction book that highlights the critical role of slavery in the American economy and its profound and lasting impact on the nation. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the roots of the country’s economic system.

12. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass’s memoir is considered one of the most significant books written about slavery in the west. The book chronicles his life as a slave, his escape to freedom, and his advocacy for abolition.

13. “The Slave Ship: A Human History” by Marcus Rediker

“The Slave Ship” provides an in-depth look at the history of the slave trade and the brutal conditions on board slave ships. The book highlights the inhumane treatment of slaves and the traumatic impact of the slave trade.

14. “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon

“Slavery by Another Name” highlights the continued use of forced labor and slavery after the Civil War through the convict leasing system and other methods. The book explores the relationship between black labor and the rise of industrial America.

15. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs’s memoir is an autobiographical account of her life as a slave and how she escaped to freedom. The book is a significant contribution to the literature on slavery and the early feminist movement.

16. “The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics” by Don E. Fehrenbacher

This book provides an analysis of the Dred Scott Case, one of the most pivotal cases in the history of slavery in the United States. The book highlights the ways in which the Supreme Court’s ruling upheld the status quo of slavery and fueled the tensions that led to the Civil War.

17. “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

“The Fire Next Time” is a collection of essays by James Baldwin, discussing race relations in America in the early 1960s. The book is an essential read on the intersection of race, religion, and politics from one of the most celebrated writers in American history.

18. “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” is a groundbreaking work that uncovers the myths and inaccuracies of U.S. history textbooks. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the truth about the history of slavery and the legacy of racism in America.

19. “Wench” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

“Wench” is a historical fiction novel that explores the lives of four enslaved women who are taken yearly by their owners to a resort in Ohio. The book highlights the complexity of the relationships between slave women and their owners and sheds light on the stories of enslaved women.

20. “Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938”

“Born in Slavery” is a collection of first-hand accounts from former slaves, as gathered by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. The book is a valuable primary source and brings the voices of those who lived through slavery to the forefront.

FAQs:

1. Why is it important to read books about slavery in the west?

It is essential to read books about slavery in the west to understand the history of slavery and its impact on our present-day society. These books provide a nuanced perspective on the experiences of enslaved people and their descendants, and they help us understand the complexities and struggles that these individuals faced.

2. What can we learn from books about slavery in the west?

Books about slavery in the west provide insights into the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, the role of slavery in the U.S. economy, the complexity of relationships between slaves and slaveowners, and the legacy of slavery in American society. They also help us understand the intersecting systems of oppression that shape our society today.

3. Why should we include books written by African American authors in this list?

It is essential to include books written by African American authors in this list because they provide a unique perspective on the experiences of enslaved people and their descendants. These authors bring their personal experiences and cultural knowledge to their writing, making it more nuanced and authentic.

4. Why is it important to read both fiction and non-fiction books about slavery in the west?

It is important to read both fiction and non-fiction books about slavery in the west because they provide different perspectives and insights into the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants. Fiction books allow us to empathize with the characters and experience their struggles, while non-fiction books provide historical context and a more accurate portrayal of slavery.

5. Why should we read books written by both black and white authors?

Reading books written by both black and white authors allows us to gain different viewpoints on the topic of slavery and the legacy of racism in America. White authors can offer a unique perspective on the experiences of enslavers, while black authors can provide insights into the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants.

6. Should I read one book or try to read multiple books on the topic?

It is recommended that you read multiple books on the topic to gain a comprehensive understanding of the history of slavery in the west. Each book provides a unique perspective and insight into the topic, and reading multiple books will help you gain a more nuanced understanding.

7. Are there any books on this list that are particularly difficult to read?

Some of the books on this list are difficult to read due to their graphic descriptions of violence, trauma, and oppression. However, it is important to read these books to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants.

8. Are there any books on this list that are suitable for younger readers?

It is recommended that younger readers start with books that are less graphic and easier to read, such as “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” or “The Water Dancer.” Parents and teachers should use their discretion in selecting books that are appropriate for younger readers.

9. What is the significance of including books about the west in this list?

Including books about the west in this list is significant because the western United States played a significant role in the history of slavery. Many enslaved individuals were brought to the west to work on ranches and plantations, and their stories are often overlooked in traditional narratives of slavery.

10. Why is it important to understand the legacy of slavery in America?

Understanding the legacy of slavery in America is essential to understanding the systemic racism and inequalities that still exist in our society today. Slavery created a racial hierarchy that still impacts our political, economic, and social systems, and it is crucial to acknowledge and address this legacy to create a more just society.

11. Can books about slavery in the west help us address issues of racial inequality?

Yes, books about slavery in the west can help us address issues of racial inequality by providing a deeper understanding of the historical roots of racism and the lasting impact of slavery. By learning about the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants, we can gain a better understanding of the complexities of systemic racism and work towards dismantling oppressive systems.

12. How can we use books about slavery in the west to become better allies?

We can use books about slavery in the west to become better allies by gaining a deeper understanding of the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants and advocating for policies and practices that address systemic racism. It is also important to center the voices of those who have been historically marginalized and listen to their experiences and perspectives.

13. How can we continue to learn about the legacy of slavery in America?

We can continue to learn about the legacy of slavery in America by seeking out books, documentaries, and other resources that provide historical context and insights into the experiences of enslaved individuals and their descendants. It is also important to listen to and center the voices of those who have been historically marginalized and work towards creating a more just and equitable society.

14. How can books about slavery in the west help us understand modern-day racial issues?

Books about slavery in the west can help us understand modern-day racial issues by highlighting the historical roots of racism and systemic inequalities and demonstrating how they continue to impact our society today. By gaining a deeper understanding of these issues, we can work towards creating a more just and equitable society for all.

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About Olivia Moore

Olivia is a writer and Literature major who is interested in studying ancient civilizations, symbolism, history, and how these subjects have shaped modern thought and culture. She has specialized in Greek mythology, a subject that has always stimulated her passion for learning.

In her free time, Olivia enjoys going to the cinema, reading the classics, and playing with her kittens, Rocky and Fluffy. She lives with her husband, David, and their daughter, Samantha, in Aberdeen, Washington State.

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