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Sweetsmoke

by David Fuller

From the Virginian tobacco plantations to the battlefields of the American civil war, Cassius pursues the killer of his friend and teacher Emoline in this earnest and humane examination of how it might feel to be a slave and a master. An unsensational, thoughtful book which nevertheless will haunt me for quite a while.

Extract

‘I don’t meet a lot of negroes up north. And down here I’ve met only Ralph, who is free. What’s it like being a slave?’
Cassius was so surprised by the question that he answered truthfully: Don’t know.
‘That, sir, is an interesting answer. Why is it you don’t know?’
Because I don’t know what it is not to be a slave. I know my life ain’t my own. I know my time ain’t my own. I know I can’t make big decisions for myself, and small decisions get changed when some planter gets tired or moody or just plain stupid. Maybe planters know, since they’re free but also chained to slavery. We make then rich but to stay rich, they got to watch us, take care of us and guard us. Their whole lives they’re surrounded by the enemy, because we’re always looking to be free.

Parallels

Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
 

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