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Racism and abusive oppression have deep roots in the United States and other countries worldwide. In the seventh century, caravans began transporting black cargoes across the Sahara to markets in Southern Europe and the Middle East. As the demand for slaves expanded from the islands in the Mediterranean, to islands off the coast of West Africa, to islands in the Caribbean and the Southern United States, people involved in the trade had to come up with strategies to justify and restrain the slaves and the system. The slave traders spread the belief they were saving the slaves from themselves.  


To control the slaves, stereotypes were developed which said the African natives were children, inferior, lazy, and were incapable of caring for themselves. From church pulpits, clergy used the Bible to justify the social labels or categories.  Harsh punishments were used to control the behavior of the black field hands: beatings, whippings, branding, hanging, burning alive, amputations, etc... 


Walter Urbanek's "Colored Billy Yank" narrates the life of a young Mandinka warrior kidnapped from his village in West Africa, his incarceration in slave forts, the horrors of the Middle Passage, his ordeals and abuses on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, his enlistment in the Union Army following the  Emancipation Proclamation and his involvement in the American Civil War where he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor and bravery. Dominant feelings, beliefs, and aspirations of the black characters were the quest for equality, wish for freedom, and desire for respect. Urbanek captures the feelings and emotions of the Mandinka warrior to provide the reader with vivid descriptions of what it was really like being an African captive and slave.


"Colored Billy Yank" is a strongly recommended book. It narrates the atrocities that Africans were forced to endure, narrating a boy's life starting from the day of his birth. The author includes rich details on Africa's culture and the traditions the enslaved people developed for themselves while working in the fields. One interesting scene is this excerpt, "The spirituals they sang were in the call and response format. The leaders sang a line of text and the chorus responded; the sound resonated through the area where slaves were congregated. While singing a spiritual, slaves clapped, stomped, jumped, shouted, and exhibited symbols of religious ecstasy. The vocal spirituals symbolized strength, endurance, and innovation; they were used to express faith, emotion, a celebration of life, and the hope of escaping the plantation and achieving freedom," where one can imagine the event with vivid pictures and colors. This part is only one of the many traditions that Walter Urbanek included in his book.

Colored Billy Yank

    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B6QFR5YD
    • Publication date ‏ : ‎ June 1, 2022
    • Language ‏ : ‎ English
    • File size ‏ : ‎ 929 KB
    • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
    • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
    • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
    • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 477 pages
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