47 by Walter Mosley
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47 by Walter Mosley

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A young slave boy is named and numbered 47 on a nineteenth-century Georgia plantation and encounters the brutality and injustice of the system of slavery. 47 meets a strange being named Tall John who appears to be another slave boy - a runaway. But as 47 comes to realise, John is an extraterrestrial visitor who believes that his destiny is intertwined with the young slave's.

Tall John is a science fiction creation but he is also a reinterpretation of High John the Conqueror - a character taken from old slave myths about a spirit come from Africa to confound the slave masters and (ultimately) to free all slaves.