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The Slave's Diary is the story of a man named Kimbo who chronicled his life after being kidnapped as a boy from the jungles of Africa while on his first hunt with his father. Follow him as he's carried across the ocean on a slave ship through the trade triangle to the slave trade of 19th century Virginia, going from master to master due to a tragedy on that first plantation. Kimbo manages to make friends during his trials wherever he finds them, even developing a love interest that didn't quite work out. When one of his masters tries to pit him in a boxing match against a killer called Barnyard Willie, he decides to make a run for the Underground Railroad. While still on the run he rescues a lost white girl, is captured by the Pikes, is nearly beaten by a new master, gets rescued by a minister, meets a girl and gets married, and he even helps carry a wounded rebel soldier - at the request of a young rebel with a gun. After the Civil War ends, through the American Colonization Society, Kimbo returns to Africa as a missionary with his family, in the new country of Liberia... oh, did I mention that they were attacked by Pirates on the way? It's a good award winning read, and I'm sure that you'll enjoy it.
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In theory, I know about the history of slavery in the United States. I took the required classes in high school and college and can rattle off important dates and people from the Civil War. However, American slavery, the African slave trade, and the daily treatment of slaves were simply not real to me. I knew it existed and was horrible, but I'd never had a guttural response until I read Kenneth R. McClelland's The Slave's Diary. I rated this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is well-written, heart wrenching, and impeccably researched.
We first meet Kimbo, the story's main character, as an old man telling his tale to a group of school children. He recollects the day he and his father were captured in Africa, and the harrowing details of his ocean journey to America. The story continues and we learn about the various plantations Kimbo worked on, the cruelty of many of his masters, and the rare kindnesses he found in friends along the way. At one point, Kimbo is given a new name, Rastus, simply because the slave overseer can't remember his given name. Kimbo/Rastus endured many beatings, and saw the very worst of humanity, yet his spirit and desire for freedom never wavered. Kimbo's steadfast hope for freedom throughout his capture, confinement, and subsequent slavery was my favorite part of the story.
Kimbo is the central character, and through him we meet others that help flesh out the story, provide conflict and heartbreak, and a few even offer friendship. These include Kimbo's various masters who view him as nothing more than an object to be owned. A young white girl named Mary becomes a friend, but that acquaintanceship nearly ends in tragedy, as does Kimbo's courtship with a fellow slave named Bessie. Two men, and Irish overseer and an English preacher, prove to be pivotal in shaping Kimbo's future by offering compassion as well as educational and spiritual opportunities.
At times, The Slave's Diary is very difficult to read. The descriptions of beatings, whippings, and violent deaths are not pleasant, but I appreciate the honesty in which they are written. I feel including these unsavory scenes is actually a very important piece to this story and makes it feel more genuine and authentic. There are a few minor punctuation errors that could be fixed easily, and I hope the author does so, as these small mistakes detract from the overall remarkability of the book.
I would eagerly recommend The Slave's Diary to anyone who has an interest in American history, fans of exceptional historical fiction, or readers who appreciate fine writing and a great story. I could easily see high school and university students using this book in a history or literature project and will recommend it to my teacher friends to use in their classrooms.
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Book Description Tate Publishing, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111682374963
Book Description Tate Publishing, 2016. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1682374963