The Underground Railroad Essay, Research Paper
3 October 2000
The Underground Railroad:
Dramatic Firsthand Accounts of Daring Escapes to Freedom
Author: Charles L. Blockson
Knowing very few details concerning the Underground Railroad I felt compelled to read The Underground Railroad. Blinded by the misconceptions of many history books that my teachers reinforced through their lectures, I was determined to find out the “entire truth” of my ancestor’s rigorous route to freedom.
What I recall from my high school history courses is that for the most part only Quakers& white abolitionist aided the “helpless fugitive slaves” to freedom. The author stated that few Quakers were sincerely involved in the Underground Network and Lucretia Mott, Thomas Garrett, Susan B. Anthony and John Leaf Whittier were four of the most significant. Although the Quakers did help with the success of the Underground Railroad, there involvement has been grossly exaggerated. stereotype
For over a century Harriet Tubman’s, Frederick Douglas’s, Sojourner Truth’s, and William Still’s roles as heroes and leaders of the Underground Network have been overlooked. To say the least, these people courageously risked their lives for the freedom of others. That is why
Harriet Tubman, known as ” the Moses of her people”, struggled persistently to achieve her heaven sent goals. Frederick Douglas escaped from slavery in Maryland to become the most eloquent spokesman for freedom in print as well as on the platform. Sojourner Truth was near penniless and still managed to achieve the funds to continue her unrelenting rescue work. William Still, a black historian with outstanding narrative skills, published his famous Underground Railroad in 1872. He was fortunate to interview every slave sent to him, and his knowledge of fugitives was immeasurable.
The author Charles L. Blockson uniquely ties these important facts in with dramatic firsthand accounts of courageous attempts to freedom. It astonished me how vivid these accounts were which lead me into further research, to somewhat validate the author’s accounts. Every account that I researched matched up with the author’s take on the actual events. This is important because such information can sometimes be false and accounts such as theses could be misleading.
The most interesting escape was that of Henry “Box” Brown. Like most slaves he was an unhappy “piece of property”. Weighing out his chances, he counted well the cost before venturing upon his hazardous undertaking. He concluded that ordinary means of escape would prove to be disastrous. Therefore, he hit upon a new invention altogether that was to have himself boxed up and sent to Philadelphia direct by express. It should be noted that the exact dimensions of the box were two feet eight inches deep, two feet wide, and three feet long. The box successfully reached a fellow abolitionist who further assisted the runaway slave to freedom.
Prior to reading The Underground Railroad many questions raced through my mind. Why did these runaways risk life for freedom? Why did strangers who aided in the successfulness of the Underground Railroad risk their lives as well? After completing this book and reading the first hand accounts of many fugitives and abolitionist my somewhat rhetorical questions have been answered. I have learned a great deal of valuable information that I might have overlooked if I had not decided to read these dramatic firsthand accounts. I was extremely thirsty for firsthand knowledge about the legendary Underground Railroad and this book was as refreshing as a tall glass of ice water. The author has designed a book that has opened my eyes to the grand scale of a magnificent legend and all of its heroes, villains, conflicts and finally a triumphant victory in the land of the free.
Over the past century many books have been written about the Underground Railroad and among the few that I have read I would strongly assert that this is the most compelling and inspirational compilation of heroic narratives based on the Underground Railroad. The author does an outstanding job painting a unique portrait of one of the dramatic chapters in our nation’s history. The factual accounts in this book form a fascinating human drama of an unforgettable story of courage and triumph. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone intrigued as I am about the Underground Railroad. While reading this book it seemed as if I was in the midst of the fugitives during their journey to freedom. ndeed the Underground Railroad is a legend that will hopefully live on and will never be lost.