It was noon but the little boys and girls were all asleep, in the huts under the palm trees. No, they were not still asleep. They had got up with the sun, but when the sun was high and hot they went to bed again. Their fathers and mothers were asleep too.

The huts were as round as big sugar bowls. You might think there was sugar inside of them from the swarms of ants and flies. The walls of the huts were made of bark, the cone-shaped roofs of long palm leaves. The trees and the river seemed to be asleep, and the comical monkeys in the trees, and the ugly crocodiles in the river. The leaves were wilted by the heat. Among the drooping leaves hung cocoanuts as big as baby brother's head, and bunches of fat, yellow bananas. By and by a shower of rain fell and cooled the air. The rain was like the kiss of the prince in " Sleeping Beauty." The crocodiles yawned, the monkeys chattered, little black heads popped from the doors of the huts. Then the whole village of people tumbled out of doors.

Such funny little boys and girls! You would have laughed to see them, and they would have laughed to see you. They were as happy as kittens and laughed at everything. They were black all over. That was easily seen for they had no clothes on at all. They had big, black eyes with very white rims. Their teeth were as white as ivory, and their hair curled tight to their heads in little knots. They laughed and cried and talked and screamed. They were as noisy as the monkeys in the trees. They were negro children. Their home was in the hot jungle of a far away country called Africa.

Every child had his breakfast in his hands. Some had bread made from the flour of the manioc root. They all had baked yams, a kind of sweet potato ; and ground nuts, something like our peanuts. The babies sucked sugar cane. Maybe some of them had eggs, for there were little speckled Guinea chickens in the village. They drank from long-handled gourds, and from cocoanut, shells. They were as fat as little butter balls.

These children could not swim in the river, for the crocodiles would bite them in two. They did not wash their faces. When they had put bracelets of iron and copper and ivory on their arms and ankles ; strings of bright feathers, colored bone beads and crocodile teeth on their necks, they were dressed. The boys had aprons or capes of spotted leopard skin that they wore when they went with the men to hunt elephants and other animals. They carried spears and vine ropes and big baskets. Some went in palm-tree boats to hunt other animals that lived in the river.

The women and girls planted yams and ground nuts in the fields. Slaves helped them. These slaves were black people like themselves, who had been captured in battle. The women made cooking pots of clay. They wove baskets and water jugs of reeds. Water jugs were woven very close, and the cracks filled with gum from trees, so they could not leak. Negroes did not have to work as hard as Indians, but they were always in danger of being carried away for slaves.

In the evening the hunters came home with elephant tusks and baskets of meat. Perhaps it was the flesh of the hippo-pot-a-mus, a big water pig. Perhaps—why, it might have been almost any kind of wild beast! Lions and tigers and leopards; elephants and rhi-noc-er-oses and gi-raffes; striped ze-bras and swift an-te-lopes, and go-ril-las, or man monkeys with long hairy arms, and many more queer animals live in Africa. You can see them in cages in a men-ag-er-ie, or in the park zoo, today. Most of them are as terrible as their names. They did not often come into the villages, for they were afraid of the spears and traps.

One noon-time, when everyone was sound asleep, a band of painted black warriors stole into this village and made all the people prisoners. Men and women and little children had to march along the river bank. The river grew wider, and marshy plains lay along the banks. After the plains was white sand, and miles of blue water with foam caps on the waves. The black children screamed with fright. They had never seen the ocean before. They were frightened again when a ship with white wings sailed into the river mouth. Worst of all they were driven into the darkest part of the ship, under the deck, by strange looking white men.

Two hundred years ago black people were sold as slaves in many countries. Few people thought this was wrong. Ship loads of negroes were brought to America. The good Puritans bought some of them, and the gentle Quakers. Most of the slaves were sold in parts of America where it was warmer than in New England.

A Happy Negro Family In Alabama.

Virginia was warm and green like England. Many English people who came to live there were richer than the Puritans. They had large farms called plantations, and lived in big houses with white porches. Velvet lawns shaded by trees sloped to rippling rivers. Tobacco could be grown there, and that was worth much money in London. Slaves were bought to work in the tobacco fields.

The negro slaves lived near the master's house, in a village of log cabins. Calico dresses were given to the women and trousers to the men. The children had loose, short-sleeved shirts of tow linen. They slept in beds now, and sat on chairs and ate from tables. Everything was strange to them, even the way the white people talked. A boy or girl who learned quickly was taken from the field into the house. A little black boy might be called Sambo, a little girl Topsy. The negroes were not proud and brave like the Indians, nor were they cruel. They were never envious and hateful. The black "mammy" loved the little white baby she nursed. Sambo liked to catch the horses and ride with Master Roger. And Topsy liked to iron pretty dresses, to make frosted cake, and to powder and puff Mistress Evelyn's hair, lace her rosy-flowered gown and buckle her satin slippers when she went to a ball.

Many slaves were sold farther south than Virginia. They toiled in rice and cotton fields, cut sugar cane and picked coffee berries. You remember how the black children were always laughing and talking in the village of palm huts? Even after they became slaves in America they were happy, if they were warm and well-fed, and had kind masters who did not make them work too hard. On the plantations, in the evening, they talked and danced, and played on drums and bone rattles and banjos. Negroes have as sweet voices for singing as any people in the world. Sometimes the master's family, sitting in the moonlight, stopped talking to listen to the negroes singing. Perhaps your mother or big sister knows some of these negro songs. Today we love to sing "My Old Kentucky Home," "Old Black Joe," " 'Way Down Upon the Suwanee River," and many other pretty negro songs.

The negroes were slaves in America for two hundred years. Then they were all set free. None of them want to go back to Africa, to the old wild life. They want to stay here and live like white people and send their children to school. They are Americans, too. They call themselves Afro-Americans.