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A Summary of Every Man A Slave

by Sender Zeyv

Every Man A Slave will change the way you think about Blacks and Jews. This colorful novel, set in the first half of the 19th century, combines fast-paced action with engrossing philosophical and theological discussion from a unique perspective. Its sharply drawn protagonists observe and reflect on broad historical trends even as they experience their personal impact on a basic life-or-death level during dramatic episodes in Africa, the recently independent United States, and Europe. In their travels and travails, they encounter historical figures as diverse as naval heroes Horatio Nelson and Stephen Decatur, Anglo-Jewish boxing champion Daniel Mendoza, journalist-statesman Mordecai Manuel Noah, British financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the famous rabbinical figures Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz of Frankfurt and Rabbi Moses Sofer of Pressburg, Star Spangled Banner composer Francis Scott Key, slave revolt leader Nat Turner, and President Abraham Lincoln. But above all, the book tells the gripping story of Tubu, a young African who is sold into slavery in America, and Solomon Chaim, the scholarly and strictly observant Orthodox Jewish settler in South Carolina who becomes Tubu's owner and mentor.

The book starts out by depicting the primitive and crude lifestyle in Africa that most Africans had to endure in the beginning of the 19th century. Life might have been very cheap for the wares of the transatlantic slave trade, but it was even cheaper for those who remained behind. In Africa, not only did domestic slavery prevail; also disease, wild animals, tribal warfare and cannibalism were rampant. It has largely been forgotten that slavery in the New World was not merely a monolithic torture for those caught in its net. In fact, for many of its clients, slavery became a road to moral and cultural ascendance that was nonexistent in native Africa. Ironically but realistically, slavery can be viewed as a necessary element in the course of bringing about the great new concept in personal liberty that America became, and bequeathed to the world. Every Man A Slave, has been written to explain and remind us of these perspectives that were widely accepted until after the Civil War.

The two Heroes of the book are an African slave and his Jewish master. The slave is neither a typical slave, nor the master a typical master. After the slave learns about the meaning of life through the teachings of his master and through personal experience, they form a quintessential symbiotic coexistence. The backdrop to their unusual relationship is the typical harsh and immoral master/slave society, which existed until the end of the Civil war. The book delves into how our heroes approached the social problems and upheavals of the times, and how those problems affected their lives.

The book is divided into episodes, some emotional, some comical and some action packed. Each, in its own way, brings out the intellect and the morality of the main characters and their associates, and the guile and depravity of others. Some of the episodes are purely fictional, albeit maintaining credibility throughout. And some of the episodes meld the fictional characters into historical settings that are accurately depicted except for the involvement of the fictional characters.

Every Man A Slave is a historical novel that is clean and, perhaps, mildly controversial. Throughout the book, the main characters consistently emphasize the supreme moral authority of the Bible. Indeed, the philosophy that emerges from the book is based upon the eternity of that supreme moral authority. In this sense the book is controversial, for it challenges the modern notion that some or all of the Biblical teachings are primitive or outmoded.

The book is set in a period saturated with global philosophical upheaval. Beliefs and traditions that were held sacred for thousands of years were being dramatically challenged. For most of the world, confusion and contradiction led to new ad hoc ideas and practices. Many of which eventually led to or developed into unmitigated disasters. The book primarily targets two of the social transitions that were indicative of the times, the abolition of slavery and the modernization (reform) of Judaism. To the adept reader, the Biblical attitude toward human bondage and how the institution fit in with meta-history, receives an in depth treatment. To those interested in the workings of the destruction of faith and immutable morality, the book offers, hopefully, satisfying explanations.