A Summary of the Book "On the Glory Field" by Walter Dean Myers

by Shaunta Alburger

"The Glory Field" uses six teenage characters to tell the history of one black American family from the arrival of an ancestor on a slave ship in 1753 through modern times. It touches on many social themes and introduces aspects of American history to students through a compelling story.


"The Glory Field" tells the story of one African American family through several generations, starting in the 1700s and ending in modern times. It starts with an 11-year-old boy arriving in American on a slave ship. Through six stories of teenagers in the Lewis family, the reader learns about slavery, escape from slavery, poverty, drug addiction and perseverance. Readers are taken through a generational story in this "Roots"-type book for young adults.


The book starts with Muhammad, a 11-year-old boy who arrives in America via slave ship in 1753. The 11-year-old exhibits strength as people around him are dying. The rest of the book tells tales of his ancestors. In 1864, 13-year-old Lizzie escapes slavery. In 1900, 15-year-old Elijah earns money to pay taxes on the farm, The Glory Field, that now belongs to his family, by moving north to Chicago to work. In 1930, his 16-year-old daughter, Luvenia is fired from her job and starts her own business. In 1964, another 16-year-old, Tommy, gives up his chance to be the first in his family to go to college by participating in civil rights demonstrations. Finally, in 1994, Luvenia gives money to Malcolm, also 16, to attend a family reunion. He struggles to get his crack-addicted cousin Shep there with him.


The main theme in "The Glory Field" is family. The book tells the story of the Lewis family from slavery, through the civil war and the civil rights movement and into the problems of poverty and drug addiction in modern times. Another theme is the impact teenagers can have on their families, since this book is told through the eyes of teenaged characters. It highlights how teenagers have changed through the last 250 years. Another theme is perseverance, as the family continues to grow and exhibit strength despite problems and social unrest.

Studying "The Glory Field"

Reading "The Glory Field" works for curriculum dealing with early American history and black history. Students who read this book could then spend time researching and writing their own larger family histories. Social themes such as justice, slavery, drug addiction and prejudice are depicted strongly in this book. Reading "The Glory Field" is a good way to open a discussion on any of these subjects.