Day of Tears by Julius Lester is a novel in dialogue. It depicts a multi-perspective view on the biggest slave auction that took place in early March 1859 in Savannah, Georgia. The novel is a well rounded story that provides readers with an understanding of life for all people living in Savannah at the time of the auction. It reflects on the thoughts and actions of all people, in the moment and later, as each looks back on their decisions. Readers will witness the slave life, the slave-owner's life, and all parties in between. This novel is saddening, multi-perspective look at Slavery. It provides an eye opening, fictional view on a historical event.
Lester, Julius. Day of Tears. New York: Jump At The Sun, 2007. Print.
Teaching Suggestions for Day of Tears by Julius Lester
- Before reading, review the time period and connect the content of the text to the topics they have discussed in current of prior social studies content about slavery. Review some key vocabulary terms that will come up in the reading such as plantation, slave/slavery, slave quarters, gambling, debt, slave selling. Set the stage for the text and the content they will be experiencing. Assign students a character in the book for reading, like a reader's theater.
- During reading, pause every so often for students to establish connections to the text whether it be personal, connection to another text or to the world. Lead students to study their lives now in comparison to the lives of these people in the 1850s.
- After reading, present the websites below that provide extra information on the auction. Have students reflect on the time period in a writing activity prompted as: Julius Lester wrote this fictional story based on actual historical events. Think about what you've learned about the large slave auction from the book and what we have researched about the event as a class (websites). Explain the challenges faced by all parties involved: the buyers, sellers, and the slaves. Did any good come out of this large slave auction? How would you have felt as an onlooker?as a slave? as a buyer or as a seller?
Supplemental Websites for Day of TearsBoth of the websites provided above have accounts of the events that led to the largest slave auction in history. They provide information about the days of the auction and the people who were most influenced by it.