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Julius Lester (1939–2018)

Author of To Be a Slave

55+ Works 9,531 Members 480 Reviews 5 Favorited

About the Author

Julius Bernard Lester was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 27, 1939. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Fisk University in 1960. He moved to New York to become a folk singer. He performed on the coffeehouse circuit as a singer and guitarist. He released two albums entitled Julius show more Lester in 1965 and Departures in 1967. His first published book, The Folksinger's Guide to the 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly written with Pete Seeger, was published in 1965. In the 1960s, Lester was closely involved as a writer and photographer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He traveled to the South to document the civil rights movement and to North Vietnam to photograph the effects of American bombardment. He also hosted radio and television talk shows in New York City. He wrote more than four dozen nonfiction and fiction books for adults and children. His books for adults included Look Out, Whitey!: Black Power's Gon' Get Your Mama, Revolutionary Notes, All Is Well, Lovesong: Becoming a Jew, and The Autobiography of God. His children's books included To Be a Slave, Sam and the Tigers, and Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue, which won the American Library Association's Coretta Scott King Award in 2006. He also wrote reviews and essays for numerous publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, Dissent, The New Republic, and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. After teaching for two years at the New School for Social Research in New York, Lester joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1971. He originally taught in the Afro-American studies department, but transferred to the Judaic and Near Eastern studies department when Lester criticized the novelist James Baldwin for what he felt were anti-Semitic remarks. He died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on January 18, 2018 at the age of 78. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Courtesy of Julius Lester


Works by Julius Lester

To Be a Slave (1968) 1,611 copies
John Henry (1994) 1,544 copies
Day of Tears (2005) 808 copies
Let's Talk About Race (2005) 540 copies
From Slave Ship to Freedom Road (1998) — Author — 280 copies
Black Cowboy, Wild Horses (1998) 262 copies
When Dad Killed Mom (2001) 211 copies
Long Journey Home (1972) 207 copies
Lovesong: Becoming a Jew (1605) 158 copies
Othello [adapted] (1995) 149 copies
The Old African (2005) 126 copies
Guardian (2008) 126 copies
What A Truly Cool World (1999) 119 copies
Black Folktales (1969) 114 copies
Last Tales of Uncle Remus (1994) 91 copies
This Strange New Feeling (1982) 89 copies
Time's Memory (2006) 67 copies
And All OUr Wounds Forgiven (1994) 64 copies
Why Heaven Is Far Away (2002) 50 copies
Revolutionary notes (1969) 45 copies
Shining (2003) 43 copies
The Hungry Ghosts (2009) 28 copies
All is well (1976) 9 copies
Who I am (1974) 9 copies
The Seventh Son (v. 2) (1986) — Editor — 7 copies
The Seventh Son: Volume One Only (1986) — Editor — 6 copies
Two Love Stories (1972) 5 copies
City Cat, Country Cat (2010) 2 copies

Associated Works

Brotherman: The Odyssey of Black Men in America (1995) — Contributor — 91 copies
Soulscript: Afro-American Poetry (1970) — Contributor — 40 copies
Black Anti-Semitism and Jewish Racism (1969) — Contributor — 38 copies
Wonders: Writings and Drawings for the Child in Us All (1980) — Contributor — 18 copies
Young and Black in America (1970) — Introduction — 16 copies


Common Knowledge



John Henry is a man who can do things that other men can't do, like run very fast, or tell the sun to wake up in the morning. He goes on many adventures like racing a horse on foot and leaving his family behind to venture out into the world. This book would good for 2nd graders. It is a good example of folk tales while also being inclusive.
mwik21 | 93 other reviews | Apr 22, 2024 |
Julius Lester is an African-American author that writes books about African-American history. He has many books, but this book specfically stood out to me about folktales. This specfic book tells stories of 12 African-American folktales and I thought that was really interesting. I have never read any of his books but they look very familar. It is said that the folktales in this book were told by slaves and the stories were passed down for many centuries.
ergoldie | 1 other review | Apr 10, 2024 |
A wonderful read out loud book. Marvelous language. This was one of my daughter's favorites.
LDMichaelis | 21 other reviews | Jan 22, 2024 |
The four year old loved the stories of tricky Brer Rabbit. This mama had to do some editing, but not too much. The voice and language use is engaging and charming, especially the little asides directed to the reader. This is also wonderfully illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, and would be a great book to own, since the stories are short and can be returned to again and again.
mslibrarynerd | 8 other reviews | Jan 13, 2024 |



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