Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: From Slave Ship to Freedom Road


"I was shackled by my wrists and ankles to a man on my right and one to my left.  I could not stand.  I could not turn over. I will never understand what I did to deserve this" ( Lester 9).

The statement describes the hardships of the lives of African slaves from 1518 to 1865.  The excerpt comes from the book, entitled From Slave Ship to Freedom Road, that describes the journey of black slaves from the Middle Passage to post-Civil War emancipation.  Written by Julius Lester, From Slave Ship to Freedom Road, uses various questions to probe the reader's imagination and feelings on the issue of slavery in America.  The book contains vivid pictures that accurately enhance the punishment and mistreatment of the slaves.  From Slave Ship to Freedom Road takes the reader on a real-life experience from the horrors of the Middle Passage to the freedom of the Emancipation Proclamation.      

Curriculum Connections

From Slave Ship to Freedom Road is very vivid and should only be used within certain classroom settings.  For instance, excerpts may be used to describe the life of a slave in a visual graphic manner.  From Slave Ship to Freedom Road introduces the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that was passed by the federal government in order to legalize punishment for those who helped runaway slaves.  Teacher may use the law to determine students' personal view of those who helped the slaves to freedom. Students are able to relive and understand the roles of the whites, African Americans, and free African Americans (VS.5).

Additional Resource

  • Teaching the History of Slavery -Includes a lesson plan for of the Middle Passage in regards to American history.  The website also contains rubrics for grading.
  • The Author-Check out other works by Julius Lester!  This website includes folktales, short tales, and novels.

Book: From Slave Ship to Freedom Road

Author: Julius Lester

Illustrator: Rod Brown

Publisher: Puffin

Publication Date: December 1, 1999

Pages: 40 pages

Grade Range: 4-8

ISBN: 0140566694