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Wonderful history of the greatest collective act of civil disobedience in our history
on February 21, 2016
I don’t recall when I decided to add this book to my wish list on Amazon, but I received it as a Christmas present. Beginning in February I opened it and begin to read. Though coincidental, it was a great read for “Black History Month”.
So much of the history, geography and narrative of this book were unknown to me that at times I struggled to keep focused on the message of the book. I found it confusing as I reviewed the countless names, places and events. But what I will take with me is noted below.
1. God Bless the Quakers. Their resistance to the mores of the South and their active participation in the movement of slaves from bondage to freedom from 1800 through the Civil War is remarkable.
2. There are heroes that seemed to sacrifice all and take huge personal risks to return again and again to the border states and shuttle slaves to freedom. Some, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were familiar. Others such as Josiah Henson and Herny Bibb were new. Their stories are all inspirational.
3. The success of the Railroad owes much to the ingenuity, risk-taking and genius of the blacks. One advantage the blacks enjoyed was the stupid prejudice of the whites in thinking the black race so inferior as to not credit them with the initiative and wherewithal to organize, plan, finance and achieve success in moving people from slavery to freedom.
4. Canada, oh Canada. Canada was the land of the free and home of the brave long before the U.S. The ultimate goal of many former slaves was to arrive safely in the land where “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” Micah 4:4
5. Sometimes rivalry amongst the forces destroyed the good of both camps. Such was the case of Henry Bibb and Mary Ann Shadd. Instead of cooperation, they sunk into bitter rivalry and neutralized or even destroyed the good of one another. Bordewich points out that some of the principles dividing these early abolitionists continue to echo down through time to today.
6. The story of John Brown is well-known today, but the details contained in this book are very illuminating. I did not realize that Brown had recruited and conversed with a virtual “Whose Who” of the abolitionist movement of his time in preparation for his taking of Harper’s Ferry. He truly lit the fuse leading to the final scenes in the opening of the Civil War.
I am glad that I read this book for the following reasons:
-I had little understanding of the key figures in the liberation of slaves from 1800 – 1860. Now I have a reference that I can refer back to as my understanding deepens about the forces leading to the Civil War.
-This book caused me to think about civil law verses natural or higher law. The movement of thousands of slaves from the South and border states to the North and Canada was the largest collective act of civil disobedience in our nation’s history. What is my stance regarding civil disobedience? What is my response with I am compelled to do something that violates my sense of duty or fairness?
-Words matter. The rhetoric of politics at this time (during the election of 2016) are so strident and hateful that I wonder if we have come all that far. While I am tired of the “P.C. Police” demanding proper phrasing of every word, I am shocked at those who support the hateful and ugly rhetoric of Donald Trump. Do we have the capacity to support one who would turn the clock back so far?