“Queen” is Alex Haley’s second book after the very famous “Roots” in which he had traced his ancestry back to Africa. In “Queen”, he has written the story of his grandmother who was an illegitimate and un-acknowledged daughter of James Jass Jackson III and his slave Easter. This story is not as engaging as “Roots” was, but it really brings out the culture of that time when slavery was prevalent in America and many children were born out of relationships between black slaves and their white masters.
The love story between queen’s parents is very beautifully captured by the author. It again brings out the fact that love can blossom in any situation and does not see any boundaries. This was not a forced relationship of white master and slave girl that was the norm in those days. In this case, James truly loved and cared about Easter. At the same time, James was also bounded by social norm of that time and could not acknowledge the relationship or the child. The story though shows that James tried to help Queen as much as he could.
The story also talks about Queen’s anguish as a slave girl. She was not accepted by her father and also was teased by other slave children because she had mixed heritage and skin color. We in today’s age cannot even imagine what kind of difficulties that generation must have faced not only when they were living as slaves but later after civil war when slavery was abolished but racism was still very prevalent for many years.
The book was finished after Haley’s death by David Stevens. I have read somewhere that there is a TV series based on this book but I have not seen it.
A lot has been written in books about history of slave trade but I think this is one book which really captures the reality of that time and how it affected not only individuals but the generations thereafter. The journey that Alex Haley makes to earlier generation across continents searching for his roots is the theme of this book. In this journey he is able to capture the life of people in Africa, America and how the struggle for abolition of slavery shaped the history of America.
It is also the story of very simple people who valued their independence but when forced into slavery made the best out of it. They learned the language, tools, culture, religion from their masters and eventually were able to fight back to get back their freedom. The race that came to America as slaves has eventually become the leader of the same country.
Today for our generation it is probably too difficult to imagine what was the life at that time. Large number of people being captured and transported as though they were machines. Well, not even machines. When people transport machines they take good care of it. But in this case even that much of care was not shown. The worst of the fact is that this was not done by some tribal or barbarian civilization. This was done by so-called advanced European traders who were essentially very law-abiding and religious people. The lure of money can convert any good heart into a really bad criminal.
Another interesting aspect that comes out in the book is that children of masters got the same education from their parents and even though they did not understand the difference between master and slave in early years, they learnt it fast and became as barbaric as their parents.
I watched the movie adaptation of this book sometime back and fortunately in this case, movie was made well.