Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Iola Leroy

Iola Leroy is an amazing book that took me back in time and placed me among the slaves of the 19th century. Although I have learned a lot about this time through history books and class lectures, I was never quite able to grasp the true pain and suffering that so many experienced during this time. This novel helped me to begin to picture the struggle of the slaves as they sought their freedom. Along with the well written and gripping story, there are many great lessons to be learned through this book. One of the first that I picked up on was the lesson that Iola herself learned after finding out that she was of African American descent. Before this discovery, Iola was perfectly content with slavery and argued her beliefs in school with some of the northern girls who disagreed with it. Once Iola was forced to experience first hand the horrors of slavery, she began a life long journey to rectify the many wrongs inflicted upon them. She dedicated herself, first to the army as a nurse and comforted and saved many lives. After the war was over, she never lost her goal of moving back south to teach the freed slaves and provide them with the education that would assist them in making better lives for themselves. I was really pleased with the conclusion of the book because I am a sucker for happy endings but I was never-the-less left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I couldn’t help but think of the number of freed slaves that never found their family. The number of mothers that continued to attend the meetings to tell their stories to no avail, or the number of children who continued to search out their parents and never found them or learned of their death at the hands of a cruel slave owner. I greatly enjoyed the book Iola Leroy but it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of unhappy and disheartening realizations of that sad time.


  1. That's a good point about Iola's conversion, Amanda, and also about the number of former slaves who never found their families again. Harper puts family at the center of this story, in part to show up the false family metaphor of the plantation myth and in part to point out exactly what you have said here.

  2. I also had similar feelings in regard to Iola Leroy as you have described. For me, this book seems to be an attempt by Harper to expose the realities of slavery. Alex Haley's "Roots" is a book I have never been able to forget, as it went in depth as to the effects of slavery on the African American family.