The Underground Railroad in Virginia was a series of secret networks, often working independently of one another and manned by both free blacks and whites, designed to help enslaved African Americans escape to the North and to Canada. Only the abolition of slavery ended the Underground Railroad’s work.
How many slaves died using the Underground Railroad?
- At its peak, nearly 1,000 slaves per year escaped from slave-holding states using the Underground Railroad – more than 5,000 court cases for escaped slaves were recorded – many fewer than the natural increase of the enslaved population.
Did Harriet Tubman go through Virginia?
But those scenes were shot in Virginia over several locations near Richmond in 2018. Harriet Tubman spent the first part of her life in Maryland as an enslaved person. Born into slavery, she was brought up on a plantation in Dorchester County.
How successful was the Underground Railroad?
Ironically the Fugitive Slave Act increased Northern opposition to slavery and helped hasten the Civil War. The Underground Railroad gave freedom to thousands of enslaved women and men and hope to tens of thousands more. In both cases the success of the Underground Railroad hastened the destruction of slavery.
Was there an Underground Railroad during slavery?
During the era of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, places, and people that helped enslaved people in the American South escape to the North. The name “Underground Railroad” was used metaphorically, not literally.
How did the Underground Railroad work during the Civil War?
Underground Railroad, in the United States, a system existing in the Northern states before the Civil War by which escaped slaves from the South were secretly helped by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach places of safety in the North or in Canada.
Is Gertie Davis died?
Who was Harriet Tubman? Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom in the North along the route of the Underground Railroad.
Does the Underground Railroad still exist?
It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. Ashtabula County had over thirty known Underground Railroad stations, or safehouses, and many more conductors. Nearly two-thirds of those sites still stand today.
How did the Underground Railroad change history?
The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North.
How did the Underground Railroad end?
On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation liberating slaves in Confederate states. After the war ended, the 13th amendment to the Constitution was approved in 1865 which abolished slavery in the entire United States and therefore was the end of the Underground Railroad.
Were there tunnels in the Underground Railroad?
Contrary to popular belief, the Underground Railroad was not a series of underground tunnels. While some people did have secret rooms in their houses or carriages, the vast majority of the Underground Railroad involved people secretly helping people running away from slavery however they could.
Who built the Underground Railroad?
In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped enslaved people on the run.
How far did the Underground Railroad go?
Because it was dangerous to be in free states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, or even Massachusetts after 1850, most people hoping to escape traveled all the way to Canada. So, you could say that the Underground Railroad went from the American south to Canada.
What caused the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was established to aid enslaved people in their escape to freedom. The railroad was comprised of dozens of secret routes and safe houses originating in the slaveholding states and extending all the way to the Canadian border, the only area where fugitives could be assured of their freedom.
How did the South feel about the Underground Railroad?
Reaction in the South to the growing number of slaves who escaped ranged from anger to political retribution. Large rewards were offered for runaways, and many people eager to make money or avoid offending powerful slave owners turned in runaway slaves. The U.S. Government also got involved.
How many slaves escaped with the Underground Railroad?
The total number of runaways who used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom is not known, but some estimates exceed 100,000 freed slaves during the antebellum period.
6 Strategies Harriet Tubman and Others Used to Escape Along the Underground Railroad
Despite the horrors of slavery, the decision to run was not an easy one. Sometimes escaping meant leaving behind family and embarking on an adventure into the unknown, where harsh weather and a shortage of food may be on the horizon. Then there was the continual fear of being apprehended. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, so-called slave catchers and their hounds were on the prowl, apprehending runaways — and occasionally free Black individuals likeSolomon Northup — and taking them back to the plantation where they would be flogged, tortured, branded, or murdered.
In total, close to 100,000 Black individuals were able to flee slavery in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
The majority, on the other hand, chose to go to the Northern free states or Canada.
1: Getting Help
Harriet Tubman, maybe around the 1860s. The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information. No matter how brave or brilliant they were, few enslaved individuals were able to free themselves without the assistance of others. Even the smallest amount of assistance, such as hidden instructions on how to get away and who to trust, may make a significant difference. The most fortunate, on the other hand, were those who followed so-called “conductors,” like as Harriet Tubman, who, after escaping slavery in 1849, devoted her life to the Underground Railroad.
Tubman, like her other conductors, built a network of accomplices, including so-called “stationmasters,” who helped her hide her charges in barns and other safe havens along the road.
She was aware of which government officials were receptive to bribery.
Among other things, she would sing particular tunes or impersonate an owl to indicate when it was time to flee or when it was too hazardous to come out of hiding.
Tubman developed a number of other methods during the course of her career to keep her pursuers at arm’s length. For starters, she preferred to operate during the winter months when the longer evenings allowed her to cover more land. Also, she wanted to go on Saturday because she knew that no announcements about runaways would appear in the papers until the following Monday (since there was no paper on Sunday.) Tubman carried a handgun, both for safety and to scare people under her care who were contemplating retreating back to civilization.
The railroad engineer would subsequently claim that “I never drove my train off the track” and that he “never lost a passenger.” Tubman frequently disguised herself in order to return to Maryland on a regular basis, appearing as a male, an old lady, or a middle-class free black, depending on the occasion.
- They may, for example, approach a plantation under the guise of a slave in order to apprehend a gang of escaped slaves.
- Some of the sartorial efforts were close to brilliance.
- They traveled openly by rail and boat, surviving numerous near calls along the way and eventually making it to the North.
- After dressing as a sailor and getting aboard the train, he tried to trick the conductor by flashing his sailor’s protection pass, which he had obtained from an accomplice.
Enslaved women have hidden in attics and crawlspaces for as long as seven years in order to evade their master’s unwelcome sexual approaches. Another confined himself to a wooden container and transported himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, where abolitionists were gathered.
4: Codes, Secret Pathways
Circa 1887, Harriet Tubman (far left) is shown with her family and neighbors at her home in Auburn, New York. Photograph courtesy of MPI/Getty Images The Underground Railroad was almost non-existent in the Deep South, where only a small number of slaves were able to flee. While there was less pro-slavery attitude in the Border States, individuals who assisted enslaved persons there still faced the continual fear of being ratted out by their neighbors and punished by the law enforcement authorities.
In the case of an approaching fugitive, for example, the stationmaster may get a letter referring to them as “bundles of wood” or “parcels.” The terms “French leave” and “patter roller” denoted a quick departure, whilst “slave hunter” denoted a slave hunter.
5: Buying Freedom
The Underground Railroad, on the other hand, functioned openly and shamelessly for long of its duration, despite the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which prescribed heavy fines for anybody proven to have helped runaways. Stationmasters in the United States claimed to have sheltered thousands of escaped slaves, and their activities were well documented. A former enslaved man who became a stationmaster in Syracuse, New York, even referred to himself in writing as the “keeper of the Underground Railroad depot” in his hometown of Syracuse, New York.
At times, abolitionists would simply purchase the freedom of an enslaved individual, as they did in the case of Sojourner Truth.
Besides that, they worked to sway public opinion by funding talks by Truth and other former slaves to convey the miseries of bondage to public attention.
The Underground Railroad volunteers would occasionally band together in large crowds to violently rescue fleeing slaves from captivity and terrify slave catchers into going home empty-handed if all else failed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, John Brown was one among those who advocated for the use of brutal force. Abolitionist leader John Brown led a gang of armed abolitionists into Missouri before leading a failed uprising in Harpers Ferry, where they rescued 11 enslaved individuals and murdered an enslaver.
Brown was followed by pro-slavery troops throughout the voyage.
The Underground Railroad
|The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals – many whites but predominently black – who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year – according to one estimate,the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850. An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a “conductor,” posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.The fugitives would also travel by train and boat – conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for. Money was also needed to improve the appearance of the runaways – a black man, woman, or child in tattered clothes would invariably attract suspicious eyes. This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.|
Underground Railroad – Journey to Freedom Was Risky for Slaves and Guides
The Underground Railroad volunteers would occasionally band together in large crowds to violently rescue fleeing slaves from imprisonment and terrify slave catchers into going home empty-handed when all else failed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, John Brown was one among those who advocated for the use of sheer force in order to achieve results. Abolitionist leader John Brown led a squad of armed abolitionists into Missouri before leading a failed uprising in Harpers Ferry, where they rescued 11 enslaved individuals and murdered an enslaver in the process.
The fugitives were subsequently hunted by pro-slavery troops for more than 1,500 miles across multiple states until being safely dropped off in Canada, where Brown was waiting for them.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
- The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.
- As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.
- Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
- These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.
- Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
- They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
- They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
- After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.
American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.
He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.
Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.
Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.
Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.
Fugitive slaves who wanted to escape to freedom had a long and risky trip ahead of them on the Underground Railroad. It was necessary for runaway slaves to travel great distances in a short period of time, sometimes on foot. They did this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were following after them in the streets. The pursuit of fleeing slaves was not limited to slave owners. For the purpose of enticing people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters promising cash to anybody who assisted in the capture of their property.
- Numerous apprehended fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were captured.
- In order to live lengthy amounts of time in the wilderness, people would have to battle off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them, navigate dangerous terrain, and contend with extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the apprehension of fugitive slaves since they were viewed as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the terms of the legislation.
- Only after crossing into Canadian territory would they find safety and liberty.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south from the United States to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- The man was apprehended at his northern residence, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this law.
- Then, following the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the South, from which he had believed himself to have fled.
Both the American Memory and America’s Library divisions of the Libray of Congress are located in Washington, DC.
Frederick Douglass was yet another fugitive slave who managed to flee from his master’s grasp.
He pretended to be a sailor, but it was not enough to fool the authorities into believing he was one.
Fortunately, the train conductor did not pay careful attention to Douglass’ documents, and he was able to board the train and travel to his final destination of liberty.
Although some were successful in escaping slavery, many of those who did were inspired to share their experiences with those who were still enslaved and to assist other slaves who were not yet free.
Another escaping slave, Henry “Box” Brown, managed to get away in a different fashion.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet wide, and weighed two pounds. His singing was heard as soon as he was freed from the box.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.
- I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
- On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
- It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
- Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
- I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
- Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
- The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
- This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.
For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.
Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.
Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.
When describing a network of meeting spots, hidden routes, passages, and safehouses used by slaves in the United States to escape slave-holding states and seek refuge in northern states and Canada, the Underground Railroad was referred to as the Underground Railroad (UR). The underground railroad, which was established in the early 1800s and sponsored by persons active in the Abolitionist Movement, assisted thousands of slaves in their attempts to escape bondage. Between 1810 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the southern United States.
Facts, information and articles about the Underground Railroad
Aproximate year of birth: 1780
The beginnings of the American Civil War occurred around the year 1862.
Estimates range between 6,000 and 10,000.
Harriet Tubman is a historical figure. William Still is a well-known author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by author Levi Coffin. John Fairfield is a well-known author.
The Story of How Canada Became the Final Station on the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman’s Legacy as a Freedom Fighter and a Spion is well documented.
The Beginnings Of the Underground Railroad
Even before the nineteenth century, it appears that a mechanism to assist runaways existed. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance provided to one of his escaped slaves by “a organization of Quakers, founded for such purposes.” The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more officially known, were among the first abolitionist organizations to emerge. Their influence may have played a role in Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery, which was home to a large number of Quakers.
In recognition of his contributions, Levi is often referred to as the “president of the Underground Railroad.” In Fountain City, Ohio, on Ohio’s western border, the eight-room Indiana home they bought and used as a “station” before they came to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Underground Railroad Gets Its Name
Owen Brown, the father of radical abolitionist John Brown, was a member of the Underground Railroad in the state of New York during the Civil War. An unconfirmed narrative suggests that “Mammy Sally” designated the house where Abraham Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up and served as a safe house where fugitives could receive food, but the account is doubtful. Routes of the Underground Railroad It was not until the early 1830s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was first used.
Fugitives going by water or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t give themselves away by wearing their worn-out job attire.
Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their rightful owners.
The slave or slaves were forced to flee from their masters, which was frequently done at night. It was imperative that the runaways maintain their eyes on the North Star at all times; only by keeping that star in front of them could they be certain that they were on their trip north.
Conductors On The Railroad
A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to lead them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten death to any captives who lost heart and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of risks as well. If someone living in the North was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad was openly operated, and no one was arrested.
His position as the most significant commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went on.
However, in previous times of American history, the phrase “vigilance committee” generally refers to citizen organizations that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and hanging those suspected of crimes when there was no local government or when they considered the local authority was corrupt or weak.
White males who were found assisting slaves in their escape were subjected to heavier punishments than white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.
The Civil War On The Horizon
Events such as the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott decision compelled more anti-slavery activists to take an active part in the effort to liberate slaves in the United States. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Southern states began to secede in December 1860, putting an end to the Union’s hopes of achieving independence from the United States. Abolitionist newspapers and even some loud abolitionists warned against giving the remaining Southern states an excuse to separate. Lucia Bagbe (later known as Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson) is considered to be the final slave who was returned to bondage as a result of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Her owner hunted her down and arrested her in December 1860.
Even the Cleveland Leader, a Republican weekly that was traditionally anti-slavery and pro-the Fugitive Slave Legislation, warned its readers that allowing the law to run its course “may be oil thrown upon the seas of our nation’s difficulties,” according to the newspaper.
Following her capture, Lucy was carried back to Ohio County, Virginia, and punished, but she was released at some time when Union soldiers took control of the region. In her honor, a Grand Jubilee was celebrated on May 6, 1863, in the city of Cleveland.
The Reverse Underground Railroad
A “reverse Underground Railroad” arose in the northern states surrounding the Ohio River during the Civil War. The black men and women of those states, whether or not they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves.
Colson Whitehead tells the story behind the ‘Underground Railroad’
While in fourth grade, Colson Whitehead heard about the Underground Railroad, an initiative to assist slaves in the nineteenth century in their journey from slavery to freedom through a network of people, routes, and houses. Whitehead was under the impression that the railroad was a real railroad, with trains surreptitiously running on rails in subterranean tunnels to transport slaves to freedom, which was not the case. His teacher corrected him, but the image of the incident remained in his memory.
- According to him, the plot would have a protagonist who would go north on a true subterranean train, stopping in each state along the route and encountering some fresh adventure.
- Although the concept intrigued him, he was terrified by it and didn’t feel he was ready to explore it in a novel, either from a technical or emotional aspect.
- Each time, he came to the conclusion that he was not yet prepared to do honor to the subject.
- When he began thinking about his next novel three years ago, he finally had the courage to share his thoughts with people.
- The answer was overwhelmingly positive and convincing: it was time to start writing the manuscript.
- Among many other distinctions, the book was named the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence from the American Library Association, as well as a pick for Oprah Winfrey’s elite book club.
The lecture took place at the Lecture Hall of the James Branch Cabell Library.
An actual railroad, underground
It is the story of Cora, a teenage slave who escapes from her Georgia plantation with her companion, Caesar, and travels north via an underground railway system composed of tracks and tunnels, as told by Whitehead in his novel The Underground Railroad. Cora and Caesar are pursued by a merciless slave-catcher throughout their journey, and they must overcome a lot of obstacles and hazards. Whitehead employs a huge cast of people and alternates between a selection of them in order to convey their viewpoints and inner lives, while never losing sight of Cora’s horrific escape from the house.
- Jones’ “The Known World,” and Charles Johnson’s “Middle Passage” before entering into his own work.
- Toni Morrison is “an extraordinary intellect,” he stated, adding that he “can’t really compete with that.” “It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about; all that matters is that you have something unique to say about the subject,” he said.
- During the course of writing the novel, Whitehead discovered that he became increasingly obsessed with making a work that was sufficient to approximate the experiences that his ancestors and other slaves had gone through.
- As a result of the subject matter, the book is cruel, although Whitehead maintains that it represents “just a ten-millionth of one percent of what they truly went through.” “I knew that this was something my family had to go through,” Whitehead added.
- I have no idea what they were working on, how they lived, or how they suffered.
- The bigger concern was the combination of the fear of losing my influence and the fear of attempting to portray the actual reality and severity of what my family went through.”
‘In some ways, we haven’t come far’
Whitehead claims that if he had written the work when he was younger, the outcome would have been drastically different. For example, the fanciful aspects would have been larger and displayed more prominently in the front if the changes had been made. He said that one of the states was initially intended to take place in the future. The spectacular was instead turned down from “a Spinal Tappian 11 down to 1,” as he put it. The train has shifted from being the focal point of the plot to becoming a vital instrument for transporting Cora from one state to another.
In fact, “the final 20 pages are the greatest writing I’ve ever done,” says the author.
His observations of the parallels have grown stronger since then, and he has begun to recognize certain justifications that slaveowners and slavecatchers used for their harsh, heavy-handed practices — even when dealing with freed blacks — in the language that is used today to justify race-based discriminatory practices.
“In some aspects, we haven’t progressed much,” he said.
Early forays into writing
In addition to talking about his current work, Whitehead reflected on his childhood and the route that lead him to becoming an author, frequently with the shrewd timing of a seasoned stand-up comic, which was a treat for the audience. “I was a little bit of a shut-in,” he recounted of his upbringing in New York City. I would have wanted to have been born as a sickly child, but that did not turn out to be the case. Whenever you read a biography of someone such as James Joyce, it will mention that they were a sickly child who was forced to retire into a realm of imagination.
Instead, I just didn’t care for going out in the cold.” Even as a kid, Whitehead saw the allure of a career in writing.
‘In sixth grade, I realized that writing X-Men or Spiderman comic books might be a rewarding career.’ If you were a writer, you could work from the comfort of your own home, without having to dress or interact with others.
In his own words, “I really wanted to write the black “Shining” or the black “Salem’s Lot,” as Whitehead put it.
That’s essentially what I intended to do.” As he broadened his reading interests, Whitehead came across writers who were able to incorporate elements of genre into literary fiction in a way that he found exciting and that drew strong connections to the science fiction and horror that he had grown up reading.
According to him, these authors were just as much a part of the fantastic as any other genre writer.
Although Whitehead considered himself a writer in college, he didn’t actually sit down and write anything, which is obviously an important part of the process, according to Whitehead.
Finally, I summoned up the energy to compose two five-page epics, which I used as auditions for creative writing workshops, for which I was rejected by both of the institutions where I applied.
‘I got back to work’
Following graduation from college, Whitehead worked for five years at the Village Voice, a New York-based alternative newspaper. Growing Pains” and “Who’s the Boss?” were the seasons finales of two television sitcoms that he wrote about for his first published piece of writing. He feels certain that his essay was “the definitive piece” on those two occurrences, and he expressed his confidence in his article. Eventually, Whitehead found the courage to return to writing fiction. His debut novel, “I’m Movin’ In,” was the narrative of a “Gary Coleman-esque” kid star of a successful sitcom, which was based on a true story.
They all declined to participate.
According to Whitehead, “you are a microbe in the buttocks of an elephant, simply trying to get the elephant’s attention.” As he reviewed the mountain of rejection letters he had received, Whitehead reflected about his future as a writer.
He then went on to create a scenario in which being a writer for him could be traced back to the first Neanderthal who wondered “hunting and collecting, gathering and hunting.” It was a hilarious detour that Whitehead used to illustrate his point.
Are these the whole total of my experiences in this life?” The fact that no one approved of what I was doing didn’t matter.” “I didn’t have a choice,” Whitehead said. “As a result, I returned to work. “And the second time around, everything went better.”
Subscribe to VCU News
Subscribe to VCU News at newsletter.vcu.edu to have a selection of stories, videos, images, news snippets, and event listings delivered to your inbox on a regular basis.