The Underground Railroad is a historical fiction novel by American author Colson Whitehead, published by Doubleday in 2016.
The Underground Railroad (novel)
|Publication date||August 2, 2016|
Is the book The Underground Railroad a true story?
Adapted from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-award-winning novel, The Underground Railroad is based on harrowing true events. The ten-parter tells the story of escaped slave, Cora, who grew up on The Randall plantation in Georgia.
What type of book is the Underground Railroad?
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.
Did Colson Whitehead win the Pulitzer Prize for The Underground Railroad?
College accepts 740 under early action program But unlike the other three, Whitehead’s wins are consecutive efforts, his last book, “The Underground Railroad,” having garnered a Pulitzer in 2017.
What year is Underground Railroad set in?
The Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. Much of what we know today comes from accounts after the Civil War and accurate statistics about fugitive slaves using the Underground Railway may never be verifiable.
How do I contact Colson Whitehead?
- Contact: [email protected].
- Speaking Engagements: Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau.
- Publicity: Michael Goldsmith [email protected].
- Photo: Chris Close.
- Upcoming events: 2021.
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.
Why is Underground Railroad 18+?
Graphic violence related to slavery, including physical abuse, rape. and other cruelty to humans. Characters are shown being whipped, beaten, and killed, and the blood and wounds are a point of emphasis. There are rape scenes in which overseers force slaves to procreate.
Who is Colson Whitehead’s parents?
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.
Is Colin Whitehead married?
Colson Whitehead, in full Arch Colson Chipp Whitehead, (born November 6, 1969, New York City, New York, U.S.), American author known for innovative novels that explore social themes, including racism, while often incorporating fantastical elements.
Colson Whitehead: ‘To deal with this subject with the gravity it deserved was scary’
In the midst of writing a novel about the digital economy, Colson Whitehead was struck by the phantom of an old thought. Despite the fact that the 47-year-old had been working as a critic for the Village Voice since his twenties and has subsequently produced five novels and two non-fiction works, the author was in what he describes as “the constantly melancholy attitude” that is his default setting while writing. In his words, “I normally have two or three ideas flying around in my head.” “During my spare time, the one I end up thinking about the most is the one I end up pursuing,” says the author.
The novel Whitehead eventually wrote was The Underground Railroad, which tells the narrative of Cora, a 15-year-old slave who escapes from a plantation in Georgia through the use of the Underground Railroad.
The rights to the show have been purchased by Barry Jenkins, the director of the Academy Award-winning filmMoonlight, and Whitehead has experienced a makeover over the past six months as a result.
So that’s something fresh, and it’s a wonderful feature.” Will the gloomy mood return once more?
“I’m assuming that once I get into a new book, my body temperature will return to its normal average.” However, I have been thoroughly enjoying it.
Putting money down for my children’s college education, purchasing new clothing, and generally walking around in a pleasant attitude are some of my plans.” At a cafe near Whitehead’s home in midtown Manhattan, where he lives with his wife, Julie Barer (also a literary agent), and their little son, who is three years old, we talk about his writing.
- As one of four children of wealthy entrepreneurs, Whitehead grew up in Manhattan with his mother and father.
- He and his brother occupied a position of luxury that was deemed so inaccessible to African Americans that the parents of white students began to wonder whether he and his brother were indeed African kings.
- “Posh,” he says, referring to the word for “posh.” “Upscale; bourgeois ideals,” says the author.
- The Hamptons were a little too wealthy for me after I went to college, and they didn’t seem to match the principles I was adopting in my late teens, so I moved away.
- He laughs as he recalls his discovery of the restaurant after September 11, 2001: “it was a wonderful, quiet spot to hang out.” Success on a very different level.
- Photograph courtesy of PR Whitehead’s parents were the owners of an executive recruiting agency, and they were less than thrilled when he declared his wish to pursue a writing career.
- He had been a “goody-goody” up until he got to Harvard, according to Whitehead, and had fulfilled all of his parents’ expectations of him.
- Then he went to college and changed his mind.
- Irritatingly, he says, “I was available to hang around.” “At the time, the Department of English was a highly orthodox institution.
- So I would enroll in courses in the theatre department – not for performing, but for studying plays – as well as in the African American studies department, which at the time was in a state of disarray, prior to the arrival of Henry Louis Gates.
- I had a game of cards.
But it was there that I first met James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon, as well as a slew of other great authors and works that I continue to turn to for inspiration and structure today.” In 2014, Whitehead published The Noble Hustle, a poker memoir that was adapted from a magazine piece based on the seven days he spent in Las Vegas participating in the World Series of Poker.
- It boasts one of the finest subtitles ever: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death, to name a few examples.
- “It’s a new elevator, newly pressed to the tracks, and it’s not built to fall this rapidly,” Whitehead writes.
- John Updike and Stephen King are among the authors of commercial literary fiction, as are Norman Mailer and Judith Krantz.
- So that meant reading Tom Wolfe and The Bell Jar, as well as horror and comic books – all of which inspired me to create.
- Her books were always released on the 10th of December, so we knew exactly what to purchase her for Christmas every year.
- Which seemed like a lot to me, really.
When my first book was eventually published and they were able to hold it in their hands and read reviews of it, they finally stopped nagging me to find a “real job.” The concept for The Underground Railroad came to Whitehead quite early in his career – in 2000, just after the publication of his first book.
- According to Whitehead, those difficult years were instructional.
- However, if you were in the paper, you were able to write for a variety of areas, and they were willing to give you a fair go provided you were in the building on a daily basis and underfoot.
- “Even if it turned out to be dumb.” It was clear that his teenage self-assurance had its limits.
- He was certain that he intended to write about the conduits that slaves used to escape from farms in the southern United States to those in the northern United States.
- His main character, he believed, would be a young and unmarried man, as he himself was at the time of writing.
- The notion “seemed like a decent idea when I came up with it in 2000,” he recalls, “but I didn’t think I could pull it off at the time.” “I didn’t consider myself to be a good enough writer.
- As a result, I steered clear of it.
And then, a few of years ago, I began to wonder if perhaps the frightening book was the one you were intended to be reading.” The heroine was no longer a guy in his mid-20s, but a teenage girl named Cora, who had followed in her mother’s footsteps as a runaway.
In this section, Whitehead concentrates on the relationships between slaves, which are typically romanticized in more superficial representations of slavery.
And that include thinking about people who have been traumatized, brutalized, and dehumanized throughout their whole lives, as well.
Everyone is going to be fighting for the one additional mouthful of breakfast in the morning, fighting for the one extra piece of property they can get their hands on.
Cora is a fictional character created by author Charles Dickens.
Those two incidents, in my opinion, said volumes about who she was and what she would do to protect herself.” While researching for the book, Whitehead spent a significant amount of time combing through oral history archives, in particular the 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, at a time when the last survivors of slavery were in their 90s, which is incredible considering their age.
- He claims that the information he received about slavery was pitifully inadequate while he was in school.
- I believe things have improved significantly.
- Picture taken by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME Whitehead also desired to write about parents and children in a more generalized manner.
- Cora’s passion is fueled by her affection for and rage at her mother, Mabel.
- And both of those factors distort Cora’s perspective and cause her to behave in a variety of ways throughout the novel.
- What happened to Mabel is the book’s big shock, and the tension around it is what pushes most of the story’s plot forward.
- Answer: Of course he did not feel uncomfortable.
- Although the stakes were high in this novel – if she was detected, she would be put to death – I believe it necessitated a different approach than in some other works due to the nature of the situation.
- Moreover, I believe that the narrative, like comedy or the type of narrator you employ, is simply a tool that you employ for the appropriate story at the right moment.” Whitehead is recharging his batteries right now.
- He’s not in a rush at all.
- “I take pleasure in my downtime.
Even when I’m not working, I put in my time, but I believe my wife was concerned when we first started dating that I sat around all the time.” And after that, what? He cracks a grin. “And then the self-loathing comes in, and I have to get back to work,” says the author.
Amazon.com: The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel: 9780385542364: Whitehead, Colson: Books
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and National Book Award-winning novel by Colson Whitehead, the #1 New York Timesbestseller, is a breathtaking tour de force charting a young slave’s exploits as she makes a desperate attempt for freedom in the antebellum South. Now there’s an original Amazon Prime Video series directed by Barry Jenkins, which is available now. Cora is a slave who works on a cotton farm in Georgia as a domestic servant. Cora’s life is a living nightmare for all of the slaves, but it is particularly difficult for her since she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is about to become womanhood, which will bring her much more suffering.
- Things do not turn out as planned, and Cora ends up killing a young white child who attempts to apprehend her.
- The Underground Railroad, according to Whitehead’s clever vision, is more than a metaphor: engineers and conductors manage a hidden network of rails and tunnels beneath the soil of the American South.
- However, underneath the city’s calm appearance lies a sinister conspiracy created specifically for the city’s black residents.
- As a result, Cora is forced to escape once more, this time state by state, in search of genuine freedom and a better life.
- During the course of his tale, Whitehead skillfully re-creates the specific terrors experienced by black people in the pre–Civil War era, while smoothly weaving the saga of America from the cruel immigration of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the contemporary day.
- Look for Colson Whitehead’s best-selling new novel, Harlem Shuffle, on the shelves!
The Underground Railroad
Listed in the following directories: Cora is a slave who works on a cotton farm in Georgia as a domestic servant. Cora’s life is a living nightmare for all of the slaves, but it is particularly difficult for her since she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is about to become womanhood, which will bring her much more suffering. Following a conversation with Caesar, a recent immigrant from Virginia, about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a scary risk and go to freedom.
- Despite the fact that they are able to locate a station and go north, they are being pursued.
- Cora and Caesar’s first stop is in South Carolina, in a place that appears to be a safe haven at first glance.
- And, to make matters worse, Ridgeway, the ruthless slave collector, is closing the distance between them and freedom.
- At each stop on her voyage, Cora, like the heroine of Gullivers Travels, comes face to face with a different planet, proving that she is on an adventure through time as well as space.
The Underground Railroadis at once a dynamic adventure novel about one woman’s passionate determination to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, dramatic reflection on the past that we all share, according to the author.
There are several archives where this is stored. Cora is a slave who works on a cotton farm in Georgia as a domestic worker. Cora’s life is a living nightmare for all slaves, but it is particularly difficult for her because she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is about to become womanhood, which will bring her much more suffering. Following a conversation with Caesar, a recent immigrant from Virginia, regarding the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a scary chance and flee the country.
- Despite the fact that they are able to locate a station and proceed north, they are being pursued.
- At their first visit in South Carolina, Cora and Caesar find themselves in a city that appears to be a safe haven at first glance.
- Worse, the merciless slave catcher Ridgeway is on their tails, and they have no chance of escaping him.
- At each stop on her voyage, Cora, like the protagonist of Gullivers Travels, comes face to face with a different planet, proving that she is on an adventure through time and space as well.
- The Underground Railroadis at once a dynamic adventure story about one woman’s strong determination to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, dramatic reflection on the history that we all share, all in one film.
The True History Behind Amazon Prime’s ‘Underground Railroad’
It has been filed in the following directories: Cora is a slave who works on a cotton farm in Georgia as a maid. Cora’s life is a living nightmare for all of the slaves, but it is particularly difficult for her because she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is about to enter womanhood, when she will face much more hardship. The couple decides to flee after Caesar, a recent immigrant from Virginia, informs them of the existence of the Underground Railroad. Things do not turn out as planned, and Cora ends up killing a young white child who tries to apprehend her.
- The Underground Railroad, according to Whitehead’s clever idea, is more than a metaphor: engineers and conductors manage a hidden network of rails and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.
- However, underneath the city’s calm appearance lies a sinister system devised specifically for its black residents.
- As a result, Cora is forced to escape once more, this time state by state, in search of ultimate independence.
- The tale of America is perfectly intertwined as Whitehead beautifully re-creates the specific terrors experienced by black people in the pre–Civil War era, from the cruel importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
One woman’s fiery desire to escape the horrors of bondage is shown in The Underground Railroad, which is also a shattering, compelling reflection on the past that we all share.
Did Colson Whitehead baseThe Underground Railroadon a true story?
Filed in the following directories: Cora is a slave working on a cotton farm in Georgia. Cora’s life is a living nightmare for all of the slaves, but it is particularly difficult for her since she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans, and she is about to become womanhood, which will bring her much greater suffering. When Caesar, a recent immigrant from Virginia, informs her of the existence of the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a scary chance and go. Things do not go as planned, and Cora ends up killing a young white child who attempts to apprehend her.
- According to Whitehead’s clever notion, the Underground Railroad is more than a metaphor: engineers and conductors manage a hidden network of lines and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.
- However, underneath the city’s calm appearance lies an evil conspiracy aimed specifically against its black residents.
- As a result, Cora is forced to escape again again, this time state by state, in search of ultimate independence.
- As Whitehead expertly re-creates the specific terrors experienced by black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative effortlessly links the tale of America from the cruel importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the current day.
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?
Though they believe they’ve discovered a safe haven in South Carolina, Caesar (Aaron Pierre) and Cora (Thuso Mbedu) soon discover that their newfound friends’ acts are motivated by a conviction in white supremacy. The Amazon Studios team, led by Kyle Kaplan, When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, it was during this time that the Underground Railroad came into being. Runaways who had landed in free states were targeted by severe regulations, and those who supported them were subjected to heavy punishments.
According to Foner and Sinha, the measure, which was intended to hinder the Underground Railroad, instead galvanized—and radicalized—the abolitionist cause.
“Every time a character moves to a different state, the novel restarts,” the author noted in his introduction.
Cora’s journey to freedom is replete with allusions to pivotal events 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 Institution’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.” These challenges continue to exist in various forms, with comparable consequences for the African-American community.
How doesThe Underground Railroadreflect the lived experience of slavery?
Caesar (Aaron Pierre) and Cora (Thuso Mbedu) believe they’ve discovered a safe haven in South Carolina, but their new companions’ acts are motivated by a conviction in white supremacy. Kyle Kaplan is a producer at Amazon Studios. The Underground Railroad takes place around the year 1850, the year of the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act. Runaways who had landed in free states were targeted by stringent regulations, and those who supported them were subjected to heavy punishments. According to Foner and Sinha, the measure was intended to hinder the Underground Railroad, but instead galvanized—and radicalized—the abolitionist cause.
“Every time the individual switches to a different condition, the novel restarts,” the author added.
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 (razed in 1921).
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.
I did everything I could to testify on their behalf and on behalf of other persons who had been subjected to slavery. 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.
Early forays into writing
He believes that if he had written the work when he was younger, the outcome would have been very different. Examples include increasing in size and prominence of the fantastical components, as well as placing them more prominently in the foreground. It was initially planned that one of the states would take place in the future, according to him. The spectacular was reduced from “a Spinal Tappian 11 all the way down to 1,” he decided. The train has shifted from being the focal point of the plot to being a necessary method for transporting Cora from one state to another.
Even more so, “the final 20 pages are the greatest stuff I’ve ever done,” says the author.
Whitehead has stated that he did not create his work with the intention of drawing parallels with modern events and culture.
The president said that “in certain areas, we haven’t progressed very far.”
‘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.”
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On Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad : On Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad is a novel by Colson Whitehead that follows the narrative of Cora, a fugitive slave who travels from state to state on railroad cars that are physically buried beneath the ground of the American South. A fellow slave called Caesar persuades Cora to flee the Georgia farm where she was born and journey north aboard the boxcar of a hidden subterranean railroad, which she discovers along the way. Ridgeway, the slave catcher, is on her trail, all the more desperate to get her because he was unsuccessful in apprehending her mother when she fled away years before.
- Cora travels alone to North Carolina, where she hides in an attic for several months before being discovered and apprehended by the authorities.
- Colson Whitehead is the author of this piece.
- Fiction set during the antebellum period Published for the first time in 2016 Georgia is the major setting.
- Topics covered include: freedom; the causes of violence; the difficulties of categorizing individuals as “good” or “evil; how the past shapes our present; and subtle kinds of racial injustice.
- Among the most crucial features of the Underground Railroad are the following: In the first place, The Underground Railroad is unusual due to the realistic combination of historical fiction and fantasy that is included in it.
- None of the characters ever explains where these tunnels may have come from or how they could have remained hidden for such a long period of time without being noticed.
- While other sections of the novel are terribly genuine and accurate to history, other parts of the story are a satire on both.
The heinous cruelty exhibited against escaping slaves was based on actual events (and the Civil War did not put an end to this kind of racial violence).
The combination of fantasy and history pushes readers to reflect more deeply on the heinous acts that have occurred—and those that continue to occur—in the history of racial relations in the United States.
For example, many people believe that slavery is not such a horrible institution because of the less brutal version of slavery that Caesar experienced in Virginia.
Ethel believes herself honorable and caring since she aspired to be a missionary in Africa and because she reads the Bible to Cora, two of her younger sisters.
These and other instances throughout the book indicate that people who believe they are just “doing the right thing” and are not responsible for the ills of slavery are frequently nevertheless complicit in the continuance of slavery.
As Ridgeway points out to Cora, she has committed the murder of a white kid, so establishing her as a “murderer” in the eyes of the predominantly white town.
Ridgeway asserts that he is motivated by the same survival instinct as Cora is motivated by hers.
Ridgeway’s rationale, of course, does not stand up, as Cora points out: Ridgeway kills for money or convenience as well as for survival, as Cora points out.
Ridgeway does not appear to be totally wicked, and Cora does not believe herself to be purely nice either.
In the story, all of the characters are compelled to make moral decisions within the confines of a system that restricts their alternatives, a system that can occasionally render ethics and survival incompatible with one another.
Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Underground Railroad’
Colson Whitehead was another well-regarded mid-career writer who was acclaimed for his inventive, genre-bending works a few years ago, but he has since fallen out of favor. Then everything changed. He was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his novel ” The Underground Railroad,” and, in a remarkable twist of fate, he was awarded another Pulitzer for his subsequent work, ” The Nickel Boys.” And now what? He’s at the top of his game in the cultural world. The novel “The Underground Railroad” has been converted into a 10-hour Amazon series, which has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
- And the main character, Cora, is a fugitive slave who embarks on an epic adventure of survival and liberty in order to save her family.
- Steve Paulson: I’d want to thank you for your time.
- What words would you use to describe her?
- The problem is that she has no family because her mother, Mabel, abandoned her years ago, and she is forced to live on the plantation as an outcast, as someone who has no family.
- Simply being able to flee the plantation and orient herself north towards the moon demonstrates that she is a powerful personality.
- I’m talking about a sense of agency in a situation where she has none.
- To begin with, there’s the racism of the nineteenth century, and in particular, the slave hunters who were after her.
- When it comes to this instance, I’ve come up with a distinct culture for each state that she passes through as she makes her way up north.
- SP: How did you come up with the notion of creating fictitious civilizations for each state in the first place?
- That type of naive notion you get before you understand how things function.
- For added complexity, I adopted the pattern of “Gulliver’s Travels,” in which each state is represented by a new island, on which we might see a different part of America investigated.
As a result of my research, I came up with a white supremacist state, a Black separatist state, a slave-free state where slaves are provided with jobs, housing, and education, and these different cultures allowed me to critique different aspects of American history and discuss the changing concept of race in America.
- Obviously, you’re well-versed in the actual history of slavery in the nineteenth century, but you’re bending the facts all over the place in your revisions.
- CW:My plan was that I would not stick to the facts, but that I would stick to the truth instead of the facts.
- And I believe that once I took the decision to create a literal train, I was relieved of a certain amount of the weight of realism.
- SP: I would imagine that writing about the slave experience would be quite scary since there has been so much written about slavery, so much excellent writing, both fiction and history, that it would be difficult to start from scratch.
- I mean, can you find out a method to go into this place?
- When I’m working on a book, I sometimes want to see how other people handle the subject matter, and other times I don’t.
- And, of course, I read the first 30 pages of the book “”Beloved,” and I thought to myself, “I’m completely screwed.” Toni Morrison is unbeatable in any field.” SP: She’s already completed this task.
So all you can do is put your faith in yourself that you have something new to offer, something that is unique to your point of view.
Incorporated within your tale were fragments of history that were counterfactual in nature, as well as bits of more current history that were played with.
CW: It was my initial notion while pondering how to expand on the premise of a physical train, and I kept with it throughout the story.
In addition, I was a big fan of “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek,” and I devoured a lot of horror literature.
We can perceive the world in a different light if we adjust our viewpoint or adopt a different point of view.
Sometimes it’s important to be practical, and other times it’s necessary to approach a problem from an unusual angle.
In your alternate past in South Carolina, you have these fantastic scenes to show off.
“Scenes from Darkest Africa” is the title of one of the exhibits.
And I mean, this is a completely sanitized version of history, in which slaves sew with spinning wheels on the ships that brought them over to America — all of which, of course, is on display for the benefit of white visitors to the museum.
I was inspired by real-life events for a lot of the more ridiculous sections in the book, says Cw: African Americans were dressed in so-called “jungle clothing” and instructed to act in the manner of jungle natives for the benefit of the audience, as well as for the benefit of those who came to see them during the great World’s Fairs held in the 1800s.
SP: It was practically like being in a zoo, except that there were actual people beings present as well.
So, you know, that may seem silly, but that is exactly how the situation unfolded.
SP: A sort of running theme throughout the book is that you’re somewhat reflecting on how the history of slavery has been sanitized throughout our own society in novels and movies, because to properly convey how terrible and degrading it was would be absolutely unbearable to witness.
Consider if you wish to consider the painful cruelty, rapes, and torture that your great-great-great-grandfather inflicted on his slaves if you are from the South and your great-great-great-grandfather had slaves.
Contemplating such a thing is unpleasant, and it’s uncomfortable.
SP: Can you tell me about some of the connections you’ve noticed between 150 years ago and now?
Slave patrol patrollers were the primary law enforcement officers in the South 150 years ago.
And if you’re detected, you might be sent to jail and beaten up while there.
They have the ability to stop them.
At an early age, I was taught that every time I left the house, I am a potential target and that I cannot rely on the police to protect me.
And, of course, like many others, I’ve been pulled over in a car for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
I’ve been handcuffed and interrogated by the authorities. It is unquestionably a part of my American experience to witness this type of casual violence, which may frequently grow into murderous abuse. As a result, it is not difficult to identify the connections between the two.