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Atheneum, 2007. Jacket design and photo-illustration by Krista Vossen. Jacket photograph (bottom) courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California).
Like his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother before him, Joseph Jacobs was born into slavery. Now he lives with his great-grandmother and sister in North Carolina, but he has not seen his mother for more than seven years.
Unbeknownst to Joseph, his mother, Harriet, has been hiding from her owner in the attic of the house that Joseph lives in. But when Harriet’s hiding place is in danger of being revealed, she is forced to flee north to safety only moments after being reunited with her family.
In this companion novel to Letters from a Slave Girl, Joseph’s stirring quest for freedom and identity is told through letters imagined by the author. Based on the real-life stories of Harriet and Joseph Jacobs, Letters from a Slave Boy is set against the backdrop of some of the most exciting and turbulent times in American history.
What one teen is saying about Letters from a Slave Boy:
“This book is based on the real life stories about a
slave boy named Joseph Jacobs. I not only enjoyed reading about his life, but I
also learned a lot of history. The time is set between the years 1839-1860.
Joseph talkes about the troubles that occur for his race, and the fright of
getting caught for being a run-away slave. I would definitly recommend this book
to anyone. You will learn many things and relate to the character from start to
finish. Before I read this book I had never heard of Joseph Jacobs before. This
book has definitely broadened my perspective on slavery and many other
Teens Talk About Books http://www.genrefluent.com/2008page01.htm#lettersfromsl
(answers at bottom of page—no cheating!)
Joseph’s gross pay for three years on the Ivy Ann whaler was $217.96, or 1/188 of the ship’s total profit. Use Joseph’s gross pay to figure the gross profit for the owner of the Ivy Ann.
After the agent subtracted expenses, Joseph’s net pay was $57.96. Joseph worked on the Ivy Ann for thirty-three months. What was his monthly net pay?
TRAVELS WITH JOSEPH - EASY
(This activity requires computer skills. Don't be shy. Ask for help if you need it.)
TRAVELS WITH JOSEPH – HARDER
The Old Plantation, artist unknown
Click to hear a 30-second version by Dink Roberts, an African-American banjo player from North Carolina.
You can hear the entire song on Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia. The CD is available from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.
WANT A CHALLENGE?
As Joseph learned in Boston, the popularity of African-American banjo tunes led to the rise of racist minstrel shows. Professor Eric Lott from the University of Virginia explains the history of minstrelsy in “Black Face Minstrelsy: Past and Present.” Before reading the text, review the meaning and pronunciation of:
For a video of Professor Lott’s talk, click here and scroll down to his photo. Then click on the box underneath labeled “video.” (Use the slider to skip the 60-second introduction.)
After hearing and/or watching the talk, answer these questions:
WANT ANOTHER CHALLENGE? GO FOR IT!
Read two books that Professor Lott mentioned in his talk.
WHO WERE THE NISENAN?
(pronounced NEE suh nahn)
When Joseph is in California he meets a young Nisenan woman. Click here to learn more about the Nisenan, a group of Native Americans almost destroyed by the California gold rush.
Click here to see an early photograph of a Nisenan man.
Answers to Go Figure: