"It was sunset. The small village was quiet, in the late evening. There was an occasional wisp of smoke from the evening fires of suppertime. She must go to the grazing field with her younger brother and bring the goats and cows back to the village. Her mother and father had told her never to go too far into the trees. Suddenly she felt a big, powerful arm around her. Her mind flashed back to her father, telling her of slaves being taken away to a faraway land she had never heard of."
So begins the epic historical novel "O Why Be Proud?" by Sally Tyndale Hartley. After seven years of researching the history of New Orleans and Virginia Plantations with reference to the slave trade and Civil War, the author published "O Why Be Proud?" in 2010. One reviewer has compared this book to "Roots" for its generational span, and to "Gone With The Wind" for the scope of the events preceding and culminating in the Civil War and The Emancipation Proclamation.
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The plot emerges from the abduction of the Zulu girl in the excerpt above, taken to New Orleans for the Slave Trade circa 1800. Her daughter, and subsequently her grand-daughter, endure the hardships of slavery on a Southern Plantation, and the ordeal of forced prostitution in a New Orleans brothel.
"Madam Lilli was furious. How dare Latitia leave her brothel, without a word of apology? She had taught her how to act and how to dress properly and had taught her to speak French and Spanish. She had given much of her time to train her to be a lady of the night."
There were Plantation Owners, however, who, though powerless to change the plantation-based slave labor economy of the South, recognized the abducted Africans and their descendants as dignified, proud human beings with their own culture to be respected. The "good" plantation owners did what they could to provide a decent life for their slaves. Entwined in the plot is a tragedy-love story between a slave and a plantation owner.
"January 1, 1863, was a day that will go down in history as one of the most important days ever recorded. On that day, President Abraham Lincoln issued the draft of The Emancipation Proclamation meaning all slaves in the South were free."
On this day, everything changed, and the plot begins to revolve around the effects of the Civil War on both the Slaves and the Southern Plantation Owners. "O Why Be Proud?" spans approximately the years 1800 to 1865. The events take place in the New Orlean Area and in Virginia. The Plot is a love story that deals with the deprivation of slaves and the relationship they had with some slave owners. It also deals with many circumstances slaves endured and the ordeals they had to deal with during their transportation from Africa to the Slave Trade Markets in New Orleans and through plantation life.
"O Why Be Proud?" is the epic saga of a black slave, who in an effort to serve and help comfort others who have fought there, becomes a hero and dies on a Civil War battlefield. As her plot strands multiply and intertwine against a series of ever-more-astonishing tableux, Hartley depicts the establishment and growth of the city of New Orleans, which in the early nineteenth century was known as the "city of sin" where "most nights, there was a murder or a robbery." Here is historical fiction at its best, an indelible portrait of a fascinating period in America's past.
Book Title: O, Why Be Proud?