From Publishers Weekly
From former Univ. of Illinois professor of English George Hendrick and his spouse Willene comes this valuable condensation of two classic narratives of the Underground Railroad. The first is by Coffin,a Quaker born in the South, who lived and passed along fugitive slaves in Indiana. The second is by Still, a free Black who was active in Philadelphias anti-slavery circles for most of his life. Each wrote a vast autobiography, which the Hendricks have trimmed down for this volume. The result makes for somewhat choppy reading, but still offers a feast for students of the subject. Coffin and Stills works include some of the classic escape narratives, including the stories of Henry Box Brown, who had himself shipped as freight, and of the Gateses, who disguised themselves as a young master (the light-skinned wife) and her body servant (the darker husband). More important are portraits of average fugitives, who came from an incredibly wide demographic spectrum. Throughout the history of the escape network, both black and white persons risked their lives in the South and, once the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, in the North as well. The Christiana, Pennsylvania, shootout described by Still goes far to explain how much damage that odious Act and the slave-catchers it let loose in the North did, and the book as a whole does a nice job of illustrating the emerging crisis over slavery in human terms.
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Culled from the reminiscences of two abolitionists who worked on the Underground Railroad, these stories are firsthand accounts of a number of perilous escapes by slaves and the rescue efforts of a handful of committed "station masters." An ingenious system for aiding runaway slaves was devised and refined by quiet heroes such as Levi Coffin, a successful Quaker merchant, and William Still, a free black man. Representative of the diversity that defined abolitionism, these two did history a great service by diligently chronicling their experiences in Coffin's Reminiscences
(1876) and Still's Underground Rail Road
(1872). By selecting a handful of these narratives and placing them into proper historical context, the editors are able to present a contemporary analysis of two valuable primary sources. A must for African American history collections, this book provides a compelling glimpse into a noble juncture in the American experience. Since publication is timed to coincide with both Black History Month and the opening of the new Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, this volume is sure to be in immediate demand. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved