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Thirty Years a Slave

Louis Hughes

Book Overview: 

Louis Hughes was born a slave near Charlottesville, Virginia to a white father and a black slave woman. Throughout his life he worked mostly as a house servant, but was privy to the intimate details and workings of the entire McGee cotton plantation and empire. In Thirty Years A Slave Hughes provides vivid descriptions and explicit accounts of how the McGee plantation in Mississippi, and the McGee mansion in Tennessee functioned--accounts of the lives of the many slaves that lived, suffered and sometimes died under the cruel and unusual punishments meted out by Boss and his monstrously unstable and vindictive wife. He described the profane manner in which this peculiar institution dehumanized, on a daily basis, not only the black man but even more so the white man. Ultimately, Thirty Years A Slave is an expression of Hughes’s desire to accurately describe the nature of the influence that the institution of slavery had on this country during the two hundred years in which it existed here, and the influence it continues to have on the heart and soul of a post-Civil War, post-14th Amendment United States.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . the wool hats of the men—all contrasted with the dark faces of the wearers in a strange and striking manner.

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The women who had young babies were assigned to what was considered "light work," such as hoeing potatoes, cutting weeds from the fence corners, and any other work of like character. About nine o'clock in the forenoon, at noon, and three o'clock in the afternoon, these women, known on the farms as "the sucklers," could be seen going from work to nurse their babies. Many were the heart-sighs of these sorrowing mothers as they went to minister to their infants. Sometimes the little things would seem starved, for the mothers could only stop their toil three times a day to care for them. When old enough to receive it, the babies had milk, the liquor from boiled cabbage, and bread and milk together. A woman who was too old to do much of. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This memoir of Louis Hughes was very painful and tragic but compared to other accounts on slavery it lacked something. Hughe’s faith and high spirit despite all the painful events that he and his loved ones had to endure are very inspiring indeed.

A great way to learn about slavery, is through this book. Its an amazing learning experience. It talks about him being sold as a 10 year old to how he was a mixed child. I believe that more teachers should assign this book to students as a learning assignment to teach them about slavery.

Profoundly easy to read for the harshness of the content. Really painted a picture of a life that is hard to relate to.

His honesty and simplicity made it compelling and easy to stay engaged.

Highly recommend the read

A sorrowful account of life under slavery and a beautiful picture of human resilience. Simple language is used for very heavy content. At a time when violence at the Charlottesville and the like happen, it is good to be reminded of the past and what history has to say.

Listened to the Audio book.

A first account view on what it was like to be traded and treated as a slave before, during and after the Civil War. It has graphic recounts of violence faced by those trapped in the brutal practice. Told in a chronological order and focusing on various aspects of "a da...more

For many reasons this book resembles the other side of Gone with the Wind except that the ladies of the house are not like the malicious one in this book. This book is truly a story of the sorrow of mankind kept in captivity and the theft of lives unlived due to slavery and evil.

i highly recommend this as a first person account of slavery and a struggle to escape. the highest point comes while hughes is still on the plantation. when he describes in florid detail the particulars of tending to the crops. the meticulous detail and methods he lets us in on make what is norma...more

Mr Hughes spent his 30 years time as a "house slave" and suffered tremendously but I'm afraid his biography could give a false impression of the true horror of slavery. Read Twelve Years a Slave instead.

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