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HARD LABOR by Patricia C. McKissack


The First African-Americans, 1619

by Patricia C. McKissack & illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fiedler & by Fredrick L. McKissack

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-689-86149-4
Publisher: Aladdin

The McKissacks tell the story of the first African-Americans in America in an addition to the Milestone Books series. Unfortunately, they take a straightforward story and make it confusing. They try to let young readers know that some of the black settlers were actually indentured servants, capable of earning freedom and owning property and slaves themselves. The most interesting story is of one Anthony Johnson, a servant who earns his freedom, marries, owns land, and eventually wins a lawsuit that returns his escaped black “servant” to him. Investigation into the Web sites provided by the authors makes it clear that Johnson owned a slave, not a “servant.” At times, the authors awkwardly address the reader directly—on the subject of slavery, for instance: “Reading about it too can be equally as stressful.” Or “remember, slaves were not slaves simply because they were Africans.” In other places, the vocabulary is too challenging for the intended audience. There are many stories in this volume that would make interesting history for the young reader; too bad they are sloppily combined into one choppy offering. (timeline, Web sites) (Nonfiction. 7-10)