Heartbreak Day and Family Separation During American Slavery: Background information when reading Yonder

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Yonder

A Novel

by Jabari Asim

Yonder by Jabari Asim X
Yonder by Jabari Asim
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  • Published:
    Jan 2022, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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About this Book

Heartbreak Day and Family Separation During American Slavery

This article relates to Yonder

For American slaves, January 1 was a day to dread. For on that day, many were hired out to new plantations without warning, and some were sold off. Anxiety was rampant the evening before the new year, which was possibly the last time family members would see each other. It was a tumultuous night for parents wondering if their children would be snatched away come morning to fulfill a contract or create revenue for the plantation owner.

Abolitionist journalist William Cooper Nell coined the name "Heartbreak Day" for New Year's Day. A slave named Lewis Clarke said in 1842, "Of all the days in the year, the slaves dread New Year's Day the worst of any." Israel Campbell, who was born a slave in Kentucky and sold to an Ohio couple when he was four years old, wrote in 1861, "On New Year's Day, we went to the auctioneer's block, to be hired to the highest bidder for one year."

A wrenching story recounted by former slave Harriet Jacobs in her groundbreaking 1861 autobiography Incidents in...

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