Slave and Sister

  • Review
By – July 23, 2014

Morde­cai Mannheim pre­sent­ed his daugh­ter Ade­laide with a slave, Rachel, as a birth­day present. The two girls bond quick­ly. Ade­laide secret­ly teach­es Rachel to read, a for­bid­den skill for slaves. Rachel fears mak­ing mis­takes that would anger her mas­ters, like look­ing them in the eye, but it is soon revealed to her by her friend Char­lie that she would nev­er be sold since she is actu­al­ly a daugh­ter of her own­er. When Ade­laide learns this shame­ful truth, a unique­ly dif­fi­cult rela­tion­ship unfolds between the half sis­ters, one a free white woman, the oth­er her dark-skinned slave. 

Slave and Sis­ter takes place in Savan­nah, Geor­gia and the sur­round­ing hill coun­try cot­ton plan­ta­tions . Mannheim owns a large tract of land and many slaves to work the plant­i­ngs and har­vests, which require extreme labor, loy­al­ty, and luck. The Mannheim fam­i­ly keeps their Jew­ish iden­ti­ty even liv­ing far away from the city out on the plan­ta­tion. Rosa Mannheim, Ade­laide’s moth­er, wants her daugh­ter to find a Jew­ish hus­band. Strong-willed Ade­laide even­tu­al­ly mar­ries soft­heart­ed lib­er­al Hen­ry Kaltenbach, an earnest, hard­work­ing planter who acquires slaves reluc­tant­ly and insists on work­ing with them side by side. 

Wald­fo­gel draws a clear pic­ture of the life of both slaves and mas­ters out on the plan­ta­tions. Her descrip­tions of city liv­ing in Savan­nah are col­or­ful and detailed. Through the depth of her char­ac­ters she explores the vari­a­tions in human nature dur­ing the Civ­il War era. This is an easy, worth­while read, appro­pri­ate for young adults as well.

Relat­ed content:

Read Sabra Wald­fo­gel’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Jews and Slav­ery: Raphael Moses and Lon­don Moses

Jews and Slav­ery: Clara Solomon and Lucy Lewis

Jews and Slav­ery: Isaac Car­do­zo and Lydia Weston

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

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