Since their mother Fanny left, Emma has taken care of the Butler children, Sarah and Frances. She wants to raise them to have good hearts, as a rift in morals has ripped the Butler household apart: Sarah and their mother oppose the inhumanity of slavery while Frances and their father Pierce believe in the Southern lifestyle and treatment of blacks. Now, to pay off mounting gambling debts, Pierce decides to cash in on his "assets" and host the biggest slave auction in American history, at the price of his humanity. During those two days in Georgia, the skies weep on the proceedings below, for although Butler promises Emma's parents not to sell her, money, desperation, and greed enable him to justify his any misdeed. Through flashbacks and flash-forwards, and shifting first-person points of view, readers will travel with Emma and others through time and place, and come to understand that every decision has its consequences, and final judgment is passed down not by man, but by his maker. Julius Lester is a master of storytelling and transforms this little known piece of American history into one of the most dramatic and impressive works of his brilliant career.
Julius Lester turned to writing after spending time as a photographer, musician, and political activist in the 1960s. His more than forty books for adults and children have garnered many awards, including ALA Notable citations and a Coretta Scott King Honor. "To Be a Slave "was a Newbery Honor Book, and "John Henry" received a Boston Globe-Horn Book award and a Caldecott Honor.""