Was the Underground Railroad real?
- A: The Underground Railroad was not a real railroad. It is in no way associated with any kind of train or tracks. Also, the Underground Railroad was not underground. It was an organized network of routes that helped slaves escape from slavery to freedom in the 1800′s that were described using railroad terms.
Is the Underground Railroad book an allegory?
When Historical Fiction Becomes Allegory: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, a young slave, who escapes a Georgia plantation hoping to hop a ride to freedom on the Underground Railroad. This novel is an allegory of sorts.
Is Underground a true story?
Underground’s stars say the same. So while Underground is not based on any specific real people, it proves that you can still be very faithful to history without following the events of a single person’s life.
Was there really an underground railroad?
Nope! Despite its name, the Underground Railroad wasn’t a railroad in the way Amtrak or commuter rail is. It wasn’t even a real railroad. The Underground Railroad of history was simply a loose network of safe houses and top secret routes to states where slavery was banned.
Who is Colson Whitehead’s wife?
She secretly decides to join Cora and Caesar’s escape mission but she is captured early in the journey by hog hunters who return her to Randall, where she is killed by being impaled by a metal spike, her body left on display to discourage others who think of trying to escape.
Is underground on Hulu a true story?
It is inspired by the real events of the Underground Railroad, which was a route that saw anti-slavery activists and former-slaves help get others to safety through a series of safe houses in the 19th century.
What states did the Underground Railroad go through?
These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.” There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa. Others headed north through Pennsylvania and into New England or through Detroit on their way to Canada.
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.
Was Valentine farm a real place?
The article uses the novel’s example of Valentine Farm, a fictional 1850s black settlement in Indiana where protagonist Cora lands after her rescue from a fugitive slave catcher by Royal, a freeborn black radical and railroad agent.
Is Colin Whitehead married?
The American writer Colson Whitehead’s biological parents, are Arch and Mary Anne Whitehead. His parents previously owned a recruiting firm. Furthermore, Colson grew up in Manhattan, the United States, along with his brother Clarke Whitehead and his two sisters, whose identities are sealed at the moment.
Does Colson Whitehead teach?
He has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.
The True History Behind Amazon Prime’s ‘Underground Railroad’
If you want to know what this country is all about, I always say, you have to ride the rails,” the train’s conductor tells Cora, the fictitious protagonist of Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novelThe Underground Railroad, as she walks into a boxcar destined for the North. As you race through, take a look about you to see the genuine face of America.” Cora’s vision is limited to “just blackness, mile after mile,” according to Whitehead, as she peers through the carriage’s slats. In the course of her traumatic escape from servitude, the adolescent eventually understands that the conductor’s remark was “a joke.
Cora and Caesar, a young man enslaved on the same Georgia plantation as her, are on their way to liberation when they encounter a dark other world in which they use the railroad to go to freedom.
” The Underground Railroad,” a ten-part limited series premiering this week on Amazon Prime Video, is directed by Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins and is based on the renowned novel by Alfred North Whitehead.
When it comes to portraying slavery, Jenkins takes a similar approach to Whitehead’s in the series’ source material.
“And as a result, I believe their individuality has been preserved,” Jenkins says Felix.
The consequences of their actions are being inflicted upon them.” Here’s all you need to know about the historical backdrop that informs both the novel and the streaming adaptation of “The Underground Railroad,” which will premiere on May 14th.
Did Colson Whitehead baseThe Underground Railroadon a true story?
“The reality of things,” in Whitehead’s own words, is what he aims to portray in his work, not “the facts.” His characters are entirely made up, and the story of the book, while based on historical facts, is told in an episodic style, as is the case with most episodic fiction. This book traces Cora’s trek to freedom, describing her lengthy trip from Georgia to the Carolinas, Tennessee and Indiana.) Each step of the journey presents a fresh set of hazards that are beyond Cora’s control, and many of the people she meets suffer horrible ends.) What distinguishes The Underground Railroad from previous works on the subject is its presentation of the titular network as a physical rather than a figurative transportation mechanism.
According to Whitehead, who spoke to NPR in 2016, this alteration was prompted by his “childhood belief” that the Underground Railroad was a “literal tunnel beneath the earth”—a misperception that is surprisingly widespread.
Webber Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons While the Underground Railroad was composed of “local networks of anti-slavery people,” both Black and white, according to Pulitzer Prize–winning historianEric Foner, the Underground Railroad actually consisted of “local networks of anti-slavery people, both Black and white, who assisted fugitives in various ways,” from raising funds for the abolitionist cause to taking cases to court to concealing runaways in safe houses.
Although the actual origins of the name are unknown, it was in widespread usage by the early 1840s.
Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, argues that the Underground Railroad should be referred to as the “Abolitionist Underground” rather than the “Underground Railroad” because the people who ran it “were not just ordinary, well-meaning Northern white citizens, activists, particularly in the free Black community,” she says.
As Foner points out, however, “the majority of the initiative, and the most of the danger, fell on the shoulders of African-Americans who were fleeing.” a portrait taken in 1894 of Harriet Jacobs, who managed to hide in an attic for nearly seven years after fleeing from slavery.
Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons “Recognizable historical events and patterns,” according to Foner, are used by Whitehead in a way that is akin to that of the late Toni Morrison.
According to Sinha, these effects may be seen throughout Cora’s journey.
According to Foner, author of the 2015 bookGateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, “the more you know about this history, the more you can appreciate what Whitehead is doing in fusing the past and the present, or perhaps fusing the history of slavery with what happened after the end of slavery.”
What time period doesThe Underground Railroadcover?
Caesar (Aaron Pierre) and Cora (Thuso Mbedu) believe they’ve discovered a safe haven in South Carolina, but their new companions’ behaviors are based on a belief in white supremacy, as seen by their deeds. Kyle Kaplan is a producer at Amazon Studios. The Underground Railroad takes place around the year 1850, which coincides with the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act. Runaways who had landed in free states were targeted by severe regulations, and those who supported them were subjected to heavy punishments.
In spite of the fact that it was intended to hinder the Underground Railroad, according to Foner and Sinha, the legislation actually galvanized—and radicalized—the abolitionist cause.
“Every time the individual switches to a different condition, the novel restarts,” the author explains in his introduction.
” Cora’s journey to freedom is replete with allusions to pivotal moments in post-emancipation history, ranging from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in the mid-20th century to white mob attacks on prosperous Black communities in places like Wilmington, North Carolina (targeted in 1898), and Tulsa, Oklahoma (targeted in 1898).
According to Spencer Crew, former president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and emeritus director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, this “chronological jumble” serves as a reminder that “the abolition of slavery does not herald the abolition of racism and racial attacks.” This problem has survived in many forms, with similar effects on the African American community,” says the author.
What real-life events doesThe Underground Railroaddramatize?
In Whitehead’s envisioned South Carolina, abolitionists provide newly liberated people with education and work opportunities, at least on the surface of things. However, as Cora and Caesar quickly discover, their new companions’ conviction in white superiority is in stark contrast to their kind words. (Eugenicists and proponents of scientific racism frequently articulated opinions that were similar to those espoused by these fictitious characters in twentieth-century America.) An inebriated doctor, while conversing with a white barkeep who moonlights as an Underground Railroad conductor, discloses a plan for his African-American patients: I believe that with targeted sterilization, initially for the women, then later for both sexes, we might liberate them from their bonds without worry that they would slaughter us in our sleep.
- “Controlled sterilization, research into communicable diseases, the perfecting of new surgical techniques on the socially unfit—was it any wonder that the best medical talents in the country were flocking to South Carolina?” the doctor continues.
- The state joined the Union in 1859 and ended slavery inside its borders, but it specifically incorporated the exclusion of Black people from its borders into its state constitution, which was finally repealed in the 1920s.
- In this image from the mid-20th century, a Tuskegee patient is getting his blood taken.
- There is a ban on black people entering the state, and any who do so—including the numerous former slaves who lack the financial means to flee—are murdered in weekly public rituals.
- The plot of land, which is owned by a free Black man called John Valentine, is home to a thriving community of runaways and free Black people who appear to coexist harmoniously with white residents on the property.
- An enraged mob of white strangers destroys the farm on the eve of a final debate between the two sides, destroying it and slaughtering innocent onlookers.
- There is a region of blackness in this new condition.” Approximately 300 people were killed when white Tulsans demolished the thriving Black enclave of Greenwood in 1921.
- Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons According to an article published earlier this year by Tim Madigan for Smithsonianmagazine, a similar series of events took place in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, which was known locally as “Black Wall Street,” in June 1921.
- Madigan pointed out that the slaughter was far from an isolated incident: “In the years preceding up to 1921, white mobs murdered African Americans on hundreds of instances in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Duluth, Charleston, and other places,” according to the article.
In addition, Foner explains that “he’s presenting you the variety of options,” including “what freedom may actually entail, or are the constraints on freedom coming after slavery?” “It’s about. the legacy of slavery, and the way slavery has twisted the entire civilization,” says Foner of the film.
How doesThe Underground Railroadreflect the lived experience of slavery?
“How can I construct a psychologically plausible plantation?” Whitehead is said to have pondered himself while writing on the novel. According to theGuardian, the author decided to think about “people who have been tortured, brutalized, and dehumanized their whole lives” rather than depicting “a pop culture plantation where there’s one Uncle Tom and everyone is just incredibly nice to each other.” For the remainder of Whitehead’s statement, “Everyone will be battling for the one additional mouthful of food in the morning, fighting for the tiniest piece of property.” According to me, this makes sense: “If you put individuals together who have been raped and tortured, this is how they would behave.” Despite the fact that she was abandoned as a child by her mother, who appears to be the only enslaved person to successfully escape Ridgeway’s clutches, Cora lives in the Hob, a derelict building reserved for outcasts—”those who had been crippled by the overseers’ punishments,.
who had been broken by the labor in ways you could see and in ways you couldn’t see, who had lost their wits,” as Whitehead describes Cora is played by Mbedu (center).
With permission from Amazon Studios’ Atsushi Nishijima While attending a rare birthday party for an older enslaved man, Cora comes to the aid of an orphaned youngster who mistakenly spills some wine down the sleeve of their captor, prompting him to flee.
Cora agrees to accompany Caesar on his journey to freedom a few weeks later, having been driven beyond the threshold of endurance by her punishment and the bleakness of her ongoing life as a slave.
As a result, those who managed to flee faced the potential of severe punishment, he continues, “making it a perilous and risky option that individuals must choose with care.” By making Cora the central character of his novel, Whitehead addresses themes that especially plagued enslaved women, such as the fear of rape and the agony of carrying a child just to have the infant sold into captivity elsewhere.
The account of Cora’s sexual assault in the novel is heartbreakingly concise, with the words “The Hob ladies stitched her up” serving as the final word.
Although not every enslaved women was sexually assaulted or harassed, they were continuously under fear of being raped, mistreated, or harassed, according to the report.
With permission from Amazon Studios’ Atsushi Nishijima The novelist’s account of the Underground Railroad, according to Sinha, “gets to the core of how this venture was both tremendously courageous and terribly perilous.” She believes that conductors and runaways “may be deceived at any time, in situations that they had little control over.” Cora, on the other hand, succinctly captures the liminal state of escapees.
- “What a world it is.
- “Was she free of bondage or still caught in its web?” “Being free had nothing to do with shackles or how much room you had,” Cora says.
- The location seemed enormous despite its diminutive size.
- In his words, “If you have to talk about the penalty, I’d prefer to see it off-screen.” “It’s possible that I’ve been reading this for far too long, and as a result, I’m deeply wounded by it.
- view of it is that it feels a little bit superfluous to me.
- “I knew that my task was going to be coupling the brutality with its psychological effects—not shying away from the visual representation of these things but focusing on what it meant to the characters,” he added.
- “Can you tell me how they’re making themselves whole?” Activism History of African Americans The African American History Museum is located in Washington, D.C.
History of the United States Based on a true story, this film Books Fiction about the American Civil War Racism SlaveryTelevision Videos That Should Be Watched
‘The Underground Railroad’ Takes Liberties — But It’s More Fact Than Fiction
The winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is now available to watch on a screen near you via Netflix. It’s impossible not to be excited about the adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad into a limited series on Amazon Prime Video, which will premiere in the fall. What makes the novel so compelling is Whitehead’s imaginative take on the antebellum American South—but Whitehead’s magical realism may cause some readers (and now viewers) to wonder how much of The Underground Railroad is based on real history.
- Here’s what you need to know about the situation.
- This epic trip through the United States in quest of freedom is chronicled in The Underground Railroad, which follows Cora, a woman born into slavery on a Georgia farm, as she embarks on her journey.
- Cora is joined by a variety of companions, including Lovey and Caesar.
- The Underground Railroad, a Prime Video original film directed by Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins, is currently streaming on the service.
- Here’s everything you need to know about The Underground Railroad’s historical accuracy and fiction:
The Underground Railroad
So, let’s start with the actual railroad system. Although it’s widely known today, the real-life Underground Railroad was an interconnected network of white and BIPOC abolitionists — some of whom had been enslaved themselves — who collaborated to smuggle runaways from Southern plantations to free states, the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as Canada. The conductors of the railroad would conceal Black fugitives at “stations,” which included houses, churches, and businesses, and discreetly move them to the next station as soon as time and safety permitted.
With this history in mind, Whitehead’s novel transforms the real-life Underground Railroad into a true subway system, with routes connecting the southernmost states of the United States to Canada.
For its conductors and passengers, Whitehead’s Railroad is as hazardous for Cora and her companions as the real-life routes were for enslaved people and those who assisted them in their emancipation.
During the Underground Railroad, the slave catcher who was hired to bring Cora back to the Randall farm plays an important role. Ridgeway was unable to locate Cora’s mother, Mabel, after she escaped from Randall, and he sees Cora’s recovery as an opportunity to make up for his previous mistakes. He is introduced immediately after Cora and Caesar begin their journey north, and he catches Cora on multiple occasions throughout the novel, finally stopping when she abandons him to die on an Underground Railroad platform in Indiana at the end of the story.
Among the features of that system were organized and armed nightly patrols, as well as legal responsibilities for white residents to hold and report any unknown Black person they came across.
As a result, the slave patrol system paved the way for the post-Civil War rise of the Ku Klux Klan — who figure in The Underground Railroad as the night riders Cora sees in North Carolina — and for the establishment of police agencies across the country.
The history of South Carolina is intricately intertwined with the history of slavery in the United States of America. Early American slave trade routes passed via Charleston, South Carolina, which served as a major hub for the kidnapping, purchasing, and selling of Black and Indigenous people. It was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it has been in operation as the Old Slave Mart Museum since 2007. The Old Slave Mart Museum is housed in Charleston’s Old Slave Mart, which is commonly thought to be the only remaining slave auction site in the state.
- When it joined the Confederacy in February 1861, it was the location of the opening fight of the United States Civil War, which took place in April of that year when the South Carolina militia opened fire on Union forces stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor.
- Upon arriving at their first station on the railroad, Cora and Caesar are surprised to discover that the state government has purchased all enslaved people and provided them with paying jobs, housing and medical treatment.
- Although the living circumstances of enslaved people in the novel’s depiction of South Carolina aren’t based on truth, all of the atrocities committed against Black people in the state are.
- The alternative to living without, as many of her new neighbors have chosen, is to take on debt in the form of “scrip,” which was a primitive type of shop credit that was popular in the 1800s.
- In South Carolina’s working class, textile mills were a major employment from the late nineteenth century through the mid-20th century, especially during the Great Depression.
- What was left over was almost never provided to them in cash.
- As a result of finding that the state of South Carolina is forcefully sterilizing Black people and utilizing them for medical research, Cora resolves to flee.
- The statute that made such sterilizations possible remained on the books until 1985, and South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges issued a public apology for “decades of sorrow and anguish inflicted by eugenics” in 2003, according to the Associated Press.
- The Post and Courier reported in 2017 that Dr.
J. Marion Sims, dubbed “South Carolina’s most infamous physician” for his experiments on enslaved women in the 1840s, performed up to 30 unanesthetized vaginal surgeries on each of his victims and kept them at his makeshift hospital for the duration of their treatment, which could last for years.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is a very different story, where being Black has been rendered functionally illegal as a result of a combination of legislative and extralegal efforts. In order to escape being discovered by night riders—white proto-Klansmen who prowl the streets in search of Black people to harass, abuse, and even murder—she is forced to take refuge in the attic of a white couple’s home. In the 1860 census, there were 30,000 free Black people residing in North Carolina, second only to the population of neighboring Virginia, which had 58,000 free Black people.
However, the state soon passed sweeping restrictions to control when a slaveholder could free an enslaved person.
During the first year after the conclusion of the Civil War, former Confederate states began drafting “Black codes,” which were a collection of legislation that restricted the rights of African-Americans.
The Thirteenth Amendment permitted — and continues to permit — governments to compel jailed prisoners to work for no compensation.
Cora’s adventures in Indiana begin in ideal fashion, as she finds herself in a tiny community of free Black people, led by a white-passing farmer who assists Cora in mending fences with the white population. In real life, Indiana abolished slavery in 1820 and later fought for the Union during the Civil War, but the state retained a majority-white population. In the film, tragedy strikes when the commune is the target of a terrorist attack that results in the death of Cora’s love interest, Royal, and her subsequent capture by Ridgeway.
Despite the fact that Catholics were the Indiana Klan’s primary target, the KKK remained a white-supremacist organization, even in states that had previously been part of the United States Union.
According to James H. Madison of Indiana University, a Klan member’s so-called “100 percent American identity” depended on their being a white, native-born, English-speaking Protestant who was raised in the United States.
The final time Cora emerges from the Underground Railroad is when she encounters Ollie, a Black wagon driver who offers her a ride. Cora accepts his offer. Thousands of African-Americans moved to California between 1850 and 1860, with 2,000 of them “settling in San Francisco and Sacramento, establishing the first English-speaking Black urban communities in the Far West,” according to In Motion. Ollie, like many Black Americans during the mid-19th century, is headed for California, which experienced an influx of 4,000 Black migrants between 1850 and 1860.
The Underground Railroad is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.
Fact and fiction in ‘The Underground Railroad’
In preparation for Colson Whitehead’s visit to campus, three Lesley professors convened a symposium in Washburn Lounge to debate the intersection of reality, fiction, and imagination in the author’s famous work, “The Underground Railroad.” The discussion was open to the public. A total of 40 students, instructors, and staff members took part in the event. Please see below for a brief overview if you haven’t already done so. A young lady named Cora is captured in Georgia and sold into slavery, with her only hope of escaping through the Underground Railroad.
His description of the train, in instance, is that of a real, subterranean form of transit that transports Cora from one condition to another.
Despite the fact that Whitehead uses artistic license to great advantage, Assistant Professor Tatiana Cruz believes that it might also lead to some misunderstanding.
Cruz described the true underground railroad, which was primarily run by “everyday black folks,” not white abolitionists, and which was primarily operated in states bordering free states, because it was too dangerous to run such an operation in more southern states, as outlined in the book Underground Railroad: A History.
A significant number of slaves were illiterate, and their inability to comprehend maps and road signs added an additional element of risk to an already perilous journey.
The narrative of Cora, on the other hand, depicts a lady who is on a trip.
It is the path of a man toward self-knowledge that defines his journey.” Dockray-Miller stated that “The Underground Railroad” draws on literary influences such as Frederick Douglass’ autobiography and “Gulliver’s Travels,” but added that “he’s remixing it and making it his own.” In her opinion, Whitehead has established a literary trope for which there is no existing label.
While many have referred to the work as magical realism, Ronderos disagreed, claiming that it was too realistic to fall into that category.
As a result, even in the novel’s fantasy components, the heart of the narrative — from the brutality inflicted on enslaved people to the vicious chase of escaped slaves — is represented accurately.
Moreover, according to Dockray-Miller, while the work is primarily concerned with the past, it also contains a message for readers today and in the future.
“I believe Colson Whitehead is bright in a variety of ways,” she stated. “He’s an artist who understands the beauty of the English language and knows how to utilize it to great advantage,” says the author.
The real events and book that inspired new Amazon Prime TV series The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroadhas received acclaim from reviewers for its sensitive and honest representation of slavery in the United States throughout the nineteenth century. The plot of the show revolves around the trip of a lady who strives to flee the harshness of her enslavers in the Georgian countryside. But, is it based on a genuine story, and where can you find out more about it? Here’s all you need to know about the process.
Is it based on a true story?
Neither directly nor indirectly, yet it is based on true occurrences. “The Underground Railroad” is an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name. The work is regarded as “alternative history.” It is based on the historical events of the Underground Railroad, which was a path that saw anti-slavery activists and former slaves assist in the transportation of others to safety through a number of safe houses throughout the nineteenth century. With the assistance of conductors or guides, an estimated 100,000 slaves were able to achieve their freedom – leaving their enslavers perplexed as to why they had disappeared.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Kaplan/PA Wire) Despite having been dubbed the “freedom train,” it was not a true railway; it got its term since it was compared to a transportation network.
What happens in the book?
It is the narrative of fugitive slave Cora, who was born on the Randall plantation in Georgia and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2016. After seeing the atrocities perpetrated on her fellow black people, Cora joins up with another slave, Caesar, to devise a plot to escape and achieve freedom. The evil Cora experiences as she rides the train from Georgia to Indiana is diverse and frightening. During her time in South Carolina, she becomes the subject of an experimental program designed to eliminate the free black population; during her time in Tennessee, she is chained to the body of a dead man; and during her time in Tennessee, she is followed everywhere she goes by slave catcher Ridgeway.
Ridgeway also plays a lower role in the film than he does in the television program.
Who created the TV version?
The 10-part series will be directed by Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins. He previously directed Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, and he explained that he decided to take on the project because he believes the public is now ready for it. “I wouldn’t have gone through with it if I didn’t believe the public was ready for it.” “It’s fine if they aren’t,” says the author. That’s one of the most lovely aspects about releasing images into the world: they will be there when someone is ready to find them.” Thuso Mbedu, who plays the central character Cora, is a 29-year-old South African actress who is best known for her appearances in the South African television shows Is’Thunzi andScandal!
The show is directed by Barry Jenkins (Photo courtesy of Valerie MACON / AFP).
The actress shared a photo of herself on Instagram, expressing how much she appreciated working with the film’s director, Barry Jenkins. “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Barry,” she remarked. It was one of the most straightforward things I’ve ever done. “He makes it look simple, man.”
What do the critics say?
The concert, on the other hand, has received an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences everywhere. Emily Baker, Thei’s TV Editor, praised the film as “another another masterpiece from Barry Jenkins.” According to her, “There is no doubt that this is an emotionally difficult film to watch since the cruelty of America’s antebellum era is depicted without censorship – but Jenkins has attempted to convey the full, unabridged narrative of his ancestors honestly and without exploiting their grief.” “Talking about America’s history of brutality against black people is a courageous subject to bring up, especially at a time when racism is such an internationally prevalent issue of discussion.” “The Underground Railroad deftly navigates the border between fictitious entertainment and historical reenactment, never seeming forced to do so.”
How can I watch it?
Amazon Prime Video made The Underground Railroad available for purchase on Friday, May 14th.
‘Their stories need to be told’: the true story behind The Underground Railroad
Don’t be deceived by the railway carriage’s appearance. A railroad museum may be situated within one, however the content of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum has nothing to do with railroads. Its original origins may be traced across the street to the Pamlico River, which was formerly utilized as a route of escape by enslaved African Americans seeking freedom in the 19th century. The museum’s cofounder and executive director, Leesa Jones, explains that after reading a slew of documents and old slave ads from Washington newspapers that would say things like, “My slave has escaped, they’re going to try to get to Washington in order to board a ship to get to their freedom,” they realized that they wanted to tell an accurate story about how freedom seekers left from the Washington waterfront.
- Jones points out that the first misconception many have about the underground railroad is that it was a system of subterranean trains, tunnels, and platforms that branched out like the London Underground or the New York subway.
- There actually existed a network of hidden routes and safe homes that thousands of enslaved persons used to travel from the southern United States to the free states and Canada during the early and mid-19th centuries.
- The Underground Railroad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead published in 2016, examined the divide between the real and the metaphorical by reimagining genuine trains booming beneath the soil.
- However, in addition to depicting cotton fields, plantations, and forests, it is as effective in depicting subterranean steam trains that provide a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
- I don’t want a blue screen of death.
- It had everything to do with the time, the place, and the fact that they were chatting in code.
- For example, a depot may have been anything other than a railroad station; it could have been a graveyard, a river, a barn, or a location in the woods.
As a result, individuals were free to talk about it, and those who overheard the conversation may have assumed they were talking about a railroad line or a train station, which they were not talking about.
Tracks and trains aren’t the only thing that people have misconceptions about.
Political influence and legal help were provided by African-Americans with access to education and resources, such as Robert Purvis and William Whipper, both of whom were from Philadelphia.
Photograph courtesy of MPI/Getty Images “In many of the narratives that you read, the abolitionists appear to be the heroes, and, without taking anything away from their noble deeds, what the freedom seekers accomplished is underestimated,” Jones adds.
Their situation was not that of helpless slaves on a plantation, waiting for the white abolitionists to arrive and take them away.
Thinking about the freedom seekers and the stories they recounted after achieving freedom, it becomes clear who the true hero of the story was very fast.
A tear fell from Jones’s eye during the film Harriet, which was released in 2019 and starred Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, one of the most well-known conductors of the subterranean railroad.
While she is not a fan of Whitehead’s use of artistic license, she is looking forward to watching the Amazon version and participating in the discussion that it will elicit.
According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, the most organized networks were in Pennsylvania and New York, with many of them centered on local churches.
Free Black people who liberated enslaved individuals from plantations in Maryland and Virginia ran an underground railroad station near the US Capitol in Washington, which was managed by free Black people.
‘One has to pay particular attention to the Black communities in the northern hemisphere, since they are the foot troops of this movement,’ he explains.
Image courtesy of Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios It was they who ensured that people were securely hidden, who resisted attempts to apprehend fugitives, who showed up at court hearings, who spent cold nights standing outside these hearings to ensure that people were not sent away before the hearing was completed.” Understanding the underground railroad requires an understanding of the people who worked on the network.
We must also remember those whites, notably attorneys, who took the lead in defending these fugitive slaves in the courtrooms of the northern states.
The extent of the brutality and persecution, as well as the deliberate efforts to return freedom seekers to servitude, are still not completely appreciated by the international community.
It was a risky move on their part.
These individuals are fleeing their homes, their families, and the locations that they are familiar with in an attempt to gain their freedom. It dawned on me that one must grasp their notion of freedom via their actions in order for freedom to become both a goal and an action.”
- A new episode of Amazon Prime’s The Underground Railroad is now available.
When Historical Fiction Becomes Allegory: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
“The Underground Railroad” is the narrative of Cora, a teenage slave who escapes from a Georgia farm in the hopes of finding passage to freedom via the Underground Railroad. What she finds is that the road to freedom is paved with numerous stumbling blocks. The novel concludes with her continuing her journey despite the psychological and physical wounds she has sustained along the road, still trying to reach the promised land of freedom. This novel can be considered an allegory of sorts. It begins by providing a brutal depiction of life under slavery; but, when Cora escapes the plantation, she goes into an imaginary world that is nonetheless cruel, with the goal of teaching the reader about the perils of pinning one’s hopes on white people, which is what the novel appears to do.
- Because it is set in Whitehead’s fictitious universe, there is a genuine railroad complete with lines, locomotives, and conductors.
- According to one theory, he does this because the voyage he makes leads Cora to imaginary locations.
- Their freedom to live without shackles and overseers is granted in one state, but only for the goal of sterilizing them of their rebelliousness; in another, no blacks are permitted to remain inside the state’s boundaries, and any who are detected are publicly hanged at weekly celebrations.
- As it turns out, this turns out to be another another ruse as the farm’s residents, with the exception of Cora, are slaughtered by the white neighbors who live next door.
- Of all, he can only imagine what it was like to be a slave, just as I can only imagine what my ancestors went through during World War II (the Holocaust).
- Is it possible for that depiction to be accurate if the world she finds herself in after her escape is completely fabricated?
All of the sections are not chronologically or geographically contiguous, which is fine with the exception of one section-entitled “Stevens”-which contains five and a half pages devoted to an entirely different topic-the practice of grave robbing in the northern United States in order to supply cadavers for medical schools.
- Given the fact that this portion has little link to the remainder of the tale, one had to believe Whitehead read anything that recorded this behavior and came to the conclusion that it ought to be shared in public.
- However, there is much to commend in his writing as well.
- Because Whitehead’s fictional account of slavery and the system of people who risked their lives to carry runaway slaves north to freedom is historically accurate, there is a potential that some people would mistake it for actual fact.
- In The Underground Railroad, there are practically no nice “white” individuals to be found.
Even though I haven’t read any of Whitehead’s other works, I have to conclude that his awards and high recognition are based on his choice of subject matter and the fact that he rubs slavery in the faces of the citizens of that nation, which is where descendants of African slaves have achieved the greatest success.
People who are interested in the true tale of slavery and its consequences will be able to access a wealth of information on the subject.
Fiction is viewed through a different prism than nonfiction.
Does that correspond to how I would like things to be or as they are now?
The Underground Railroad described by Whitehead never existed. Whether or not it serves as an object lesson in white/black relations is something that each reader must decide for themselves.
Peter is the author of seven books, and he began writing professionally after retiring from successful professions as a journalist, educator, and business owner. www.petergpollak.com.
The harrowing true story behind Amazon’s The Underground Railroad
23:24 UTC on May 24, 2021 | Last updated on May 24, 2021, 17:25 UTC on May 24, 2021 The Underground Railroad, a novel by Colson Whitehead, has been made into an Amazon Prime television series. Image courtesy of Amazon Prime Video The Underground Railroad is an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and is based on actual events that took place during the Civil War. The new Amazon Prime series, directed by Barry Jenkins and based on Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name, is a faithful adaptation of the novel.
The ten-parter chronicles the narrative of Cora, a runaway slave who grew up on the Randall farm in Georgia and eventually fled.
READ MORE: Who is the actress who portrays Cora in The Underground Railroad?
Take a look at the real-life events that served as inspiration for the Amazon Prime Video series.
What was the Underground Railroad?
Despite its name, the Underground Railroad was not a railway nor an underground network; rather, it was a collection of networks and routes used by enslaved people to flee from their captors and plantation owners. In collaboration with abolitionist sympathizers, the railroad network comprised of secret routes and meeting spots, as well as safe homes referred to as “stations” and other safe havens. Because there were no printed maps or directions, abolitionist sympathizers and slaves were responsible for communicating the routes.
- They included free-born Black people, those who had been enslaved in the past, white supporters, and Native Americans among their ranks.
- After escaping herself, she went on to take part in hundreds of operations to aid others in their quest for freedom throughout the north of the country.
- The voyage was not without its dangers.
- When the Pearl episode occurred in 1848, it was the greatest slave escape attempt in United States history, with a total of 77 slaves attempting to depart Washington D.C.
- Despite their efforts, a steamboat on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland was able to take the boat, and the slaves were sold to traffickers and sent to the Deep South as a result of the incident.
The Underground Railroad is based on a true story about a hidden network that was set up to assist slaves in their attempts to elude capture. Image courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
Who set the network up?
William Still, a Black abolitionist who lived in Philadelphia during the abolitionist movement’s early years, is generally referred to be the “founder of the Underground Railroad.” During his height, it is reported that Still assisted as many as 60 slaves every month in their escape by giving his home as a safe haven. A key role in the establishment of the railroad was also performed by Quaker Isaac T Hopper. Hopper, a tailor by profession who lived in Philadelphia, contributed to the establishment of a network of safe houses and spies in order to track down the activities and intentions of runaway slave hunters.
Where did the Underground Railroad start and end?
The network stretched across 14 northern states and connected them all to “the promised land,” which was actually Canada.
How many slaves escaped via the network?
It is believed that over 100,000 slaves utilized the Underground Railroad to flee their enslavers during the American Civil War. Netflix has made The Underground Railroad accessible for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Here’s when and where you can watch The Friends Reunion in the United Kingdom.