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A Different Kind of Christmas
by Alex Haley

Category: Fiction / Literary
101 pages; ISBN: 0385260431

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Judith Woolcock Colombo


Slavery has appeared throughout human history in many forms and many places. We read about it in the Bible and in ancient scrolls and most cultures have had institutionalized slavery. Slaves have served in capacities as diverse as concubines, warriors, servants, craft-workers, and tutors. In the Americas, however, slavery emerged as a system of forced labor designed for the production of staple crops.

In ancient times slaves were often of the same race and even the same nationality or tribe as their masters. A stark racial component distinguished this modern Western slavery from the slavery that existed in ancient times and in other places. In this new slavery, the vast majority of slaves were black Africans and their descendants, while the vast majority of masters were white Europeans and their descendants.
In Alex Haley’s short novel "A Different Kind Of Christmas" the two worlds that of the master and the slave are explored. Fletcher Randall, the son of a southern Senator and wealthy plantation owner, is attending college at Princeton when he meets three Quaker brothers. Curious to learn new things he begins to form a friendship with them and visits their home in Philadelphia. There, he meets and shakes hands with a free black man. The brothers and their father also take him to an anti-slavery meeting.

At first Fletcher is ashamed of this experience, but soon this son of wealthy slave owners slowly begins to undergo a transformation. After reading a letter by Fredrick Douglas, Fletcher comes to a decision. When a human being is capable of writing such a letter and the human being belongs to another man then “the bondage, the slavery, is wrong.”

Shortly after coming to this conclusion, Fletcher joins the Under Ground Rail Road. He returns home and with the help of a slave musician Harpin John frees some slaves from his own father’s plantation. In so doing he jeopardizes his life and comes to the realization that he can never return to the life of a Southern Gentleman.

I found the novel slightly preachy, but the story was captivating and held my interest. Although written for children, this novel is enjoyable by any age group. I think it is a good story for anyone interested in the awakening of the human spirit and the difference one human can make. This novel speaks of understanding and compassion amidst human greed and cruelty.

Judith Woolcock Colombo: Author of The Fablesinger & Night Crimes Visit my web site Or email



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