Novels About Slavery

These novels have slaves and slave-owners. They show the mistreatment slaves endured, how they coped with life, and their efforts to free themselves.

See also Racism | Discrimination | Prejudice

See also The Holocaust

See also South African (Apartheid)

Slavery in Novels

Uncle Tom’s Cabin | Harriet Beecher Stowe

The narrative tells the story of three slaves – Tom, Eliza, and George – who begin in Kentucky and deal with the hardships in their lives. Part I opens with a plantation owner, Mr. Shelby, trying to sell Uncle Tom and Harry, the five-year-old son of Eliza, the house servant. Eliza decides to run away with Harry, but Uncle Tom won’t go against Mr. Shelby.

Read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Kindred | Octavia Butler

Dana, twenty-six, finds herself at a river bank where a boy is drowning. She saves him and then finds herself back in her home. While trying to figure out what’s going on, she appears next to the same boy, Rufus, in a burning room. The year is 1815 (her present is 1976) and she realizes that she is transported when Rufus is in trouble. Rufus is her ancestor. She continues to jump in time to participate in pivotal moments in his life.

The Slave Dancer | Paula Fox

Jessie Bollier, thirteen, lives in New Orleans with his mother and sister in 1840. Jessie earns a little for the family by playing a fife. When he is sent out on an errand one night, he is captured by two sailors from a slave ship, The Moonlight. Jessie’s job will be to play his fife to make the slaves dance, which will keep them in shape. The crew is rough and brutal at times. They are headed for Africa; they will then return to America to sell their stock.

Roots: The Story of an American Family | Alex Haley

Kunta Kinte is born in a small African village and quickly progresses; by fifteen he is running his own farm and living on his own. He gets captured by white slavers and is taken to Virginia. He makes several unsuccessful escape attempts. He adapts to life on the plantation and meets Belle, a young slave who is helpful to him. The story of Kinte and his descendants continues until after the Civil War.

Pudd’nhead Wilson | Mark Twain

Percy Driscoll’s son is born on the same day as the son of Roxana, a slave in his household. When Roxana is accused of stealing, she fears for her son’s life, as Percy has threatened to send slaves “down the river”, to harsher treatment on a southern plantation. Roxane’s son is only one thirty-second black and thus very light – she decides to switch her son with Percy’s.

Read “Pudd’nhead Wilson”

The Glory Field | Walter Dean Myers

The episodes in The Glory Field tell the story of several generations of the Lewis family. It begins with Muhammad Bilal who is captured by slave traders and brought to America in 1753. He ends up on the Live Oaks plantation owned by the Lewis family. There are episodes from the Lewis history from the plantation, after the Civil War, 1930s Chicago, 1960s South Carolina, and 1990s Harlem.

Benito Cereno | Herman Melville

Amasa Delano captains the Bachelor’s Delight, which is anchored of the Chilean coast. A strange ship is coming near, flying no flag, but Delano trusts they don’t have bad intentions. He goes over on a small boat – the ship is in some disrepair and carrying slaves. There are more black people than white on the ship, and Captain Cereno, a Spaniard, gives orders thru his servant. Everyone says that many of the crew died of scurvy and they were nearly shipwrecked. Delano isn’t sure what to make of the situation, but he offers his help.

Read “Benito Cereno”

The Known World | Edward P. Jones

The narrative covers the life and death of Henry Townsend, a black slave owner, and the Virginia county he lived in. William Robbins is a powerful man and Henry’s former owner. He taught Henry how to dominate others and be successful. Moses is Henry’s slave overseer, good at his job but ignorant of everything else.

Huckleberry Finn | Mark Twain

Huck lives with the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson; they are trying to teach him manners. One day his father, Pap, returns. He takes Huck’s money, beats him, and takes him to a cabin. When Huck can’t take it anymore, he craftily escapes to an island on the Mississippi river. He meets up with Jim, a slave who ran away from Miss Watson. They decide to travel down the river together.

Read “Huckleberry Finn”

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