What is the Underground Railroad and how did it work?
- The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century enslaved people of African descent in the United States in efforts to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.
Why is it important to learn about the Underground Railroad?
The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ample evidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to African American philosophy.
What is the message of the Underground Railroad?
-Harriet Tubman, 1896. The Underground Railroad—the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape.
Why do you think the author chose to portray a literal railroad?
This aspect of the story made the actual underground railroad come alive in a way.. it showed the links of people hiding people across the south, risking their lives for the freedom of others.
Why was the Underground Railroad important to slaves?
The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. The free individuals who helped runaway slaves travel toward freedom were called conductors, and the fugitive slaves were referred to as cargo.
Was the Underground Railroad effective?
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.
What were the Underground Railroad secret code words?
The code words often used on the Underground Railroad were: “tracks” (routes fixed by abolitionist sympathizers); “stations” or “depots” (hiding places); “conductors” (guides on the Underground Railroad); “agents” (sympathizers who helped the slaves connect to the Railroad); “station masters” (those who hid slaves in
Is the book The Underground Railroad based on fact?
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.
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans?
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans? It provided a network of escape routes toward the North. In his pamphlet Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, on what did David Walker base his arguments against slavery? They feared that the abolition of slavery would destroy their economy.
Why did Harriet Tubman make the Underground Railroad?
Tubman first encountered the Underground Railroad when she used it to escape slavery herself in 1849. Following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. Making use of the Underground Railroad, Tubman traveled nearly 90 miles to Philadelphia.
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.
- To be really honest, that felt like a lot to me.
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.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.
Agent,” according to the document.
John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was at this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting fleeing enslaved individuals in their journey to Canada. Abolitionist John Brown would go on to play a variety of roles during his life. His most well-known duty was conducting an assault on Harper’s Ferry in order to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Ultimately, Brown’s forces were beaten, and he was executed for treason in 1859.
- The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved lady and her young daughter.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
- After being apprehended in 1844 while transporting a boatload of freed slaves from the Caribbean to the United States, Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was sentenced to prison for life.
- John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to assist in the rescue of enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their families as they made their way north.
- He managed to elude capture twice.
End of the Line
Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad is a book about the Underground Railroad. Fergus Bordewich is a Scottish actor. A Biography of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Catherine Clinton is the first lady of the United States. Who Exactly Was in Charge of the Underground Railroad? ‘Henry Louis Gates’ is a pseudonym for Henry Louis Gates. The Underground Railroad’s History in New York is a little known fact. The Smithsonian Institution’s magazine. The Underground Railroad’s Dangerous Allure is well documented.
Within the first five minutes of Barry Jenkins’s Amazon series, “The Underground Railroad,” there is a scene that affected me so strongly that I had to take my copy of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, upon which the series is based, off the shelf and read it again right away. The sequence did not display the kind of savagery that I have come to anticipate from “slave movies.” It was a pleasant surprise. Instead, it is a moment of stunning banality, as follows: Cora (Thuso Mbedu), the story’s enslaved protagonist, and Caesar (Aaron Pierre), a newbie to the plantation, are circling one another around a tree, caught in a golden stream of sunlight, in what seems to be a wooing dance, in what appears to be a courtship dance.
- When Cora inquires as to the purpose of their meeting, Caesar suggests that she accompany him on his journey – not because of his feelings for her, but for good luck.
- The conversation in the novel is close to being perfect, but it isn’t quite there yet.
- Whitehead concludes the talk without a flourish – the negotiation has come to an end nearly before it has gotten started.
- Mbedu’s representation, on the other hand, has a hundred stories in what she says and does not say, all of which are likely to be horrifying.
- She expresses herself entirely through the pursed mouth and the stilled tongue.
- Cora is more than just a symbol of enslaved people at that particular period.
- And “The Underground Railroad” is an unique presentation of the subject that feels like it was written specifically to evaluate the experience of Black people, while simultaneously serving as a crucial altar call for white people to consider their own history.
Jenkins’ 10-part mini-series was not a passive experience for me; rather, it was an active one.
Whitehead’s book and the Amazon show’s plot, riding it further and further away from the enslavement of the South?
Is it possible for anything to truly change?
Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Studios is the photographer.
Because the history of America’s fatal original sin is taught very little and extremely badly in American classrooms, this may serve an educational function, according to some observers.
and this textbook was still in use in 2015.
Arts and culture — the loyal soldiers of public discourse on difficult subjects — are shouldering much of the educational burden, leaving us with a film industry preoccupied mostly with making sure audiences understand the essential lessons: that slavery existed, that it was as bad as you’ve heard, and that its ramifications still reverberate in American life.
- However, just stating that slavery was wrong is insufficient.
- “The Underground Railroad,” with its fully developed Black characters and examination of the variety of Black political ideas, does something that is incredibly unusual in film: it humanizes and explores the range of Black political philosophy.
- All of the disparity that we continue to witness has a source, and that source is capitalism.
- However, there is no violence for the sake of instruction in Mr.
- The violence appears only when it is required for the progression of the plot, and it is not erased in the following scene – the characters retain the wounds of the violence, both visible and invisible.
Jenkins’s series is many things at once — journey tale, historical touchstone, and matriarchal reckoning — but what both works do better than perhaps any other film or television show dealing with slavery to date is interrogate the very real relationships that Black people have proposed, agreed to, and attempted to realize with the United States of America itself.
- It is suggested from the beginning that you attempted to flee slavery in this case.
- In the following scene, when Cora and Caesar make their way to Griffin, a town where slavery is forbidden but scientific experimentation is the norm of the day, the text questions, “Here’s integration and exceptionalism.” How did things turn out?
- Interrogation like this is an essential, if unpleasant, step toward whatever it is that we mean when we say we are performing “the job” of anti-racism.
- Magical realism is used to rethink numerous interactions that America has with Black people in education, labor, religion, policing, and protest — all through the literary prism of magical realism.
- Whitehead’s novel, and it is a work of literary brilliance.
- Jenkins’ directing into remarks that don’t appear to be all that far-fetched in the least.
- Although this series is not a curriculum, it is an examination, and as a spectator, it cuts deeper than any history class could ever hope to do.
We will never be able to know all of the tales, all of the genuine identities, or even where all of the bodies were left behind, whether they were buried or not.
Jenkins has explained, the alchemy of great film can produce a form of connection, which cannot be achieved by television.
Few days before the debut of “The Underground Railroad,” Mr.
As the film progresses, the audience is quietly viewed by actor after actor, each of whom silently represents the “Black stare,” or, as Mr.
Jenkins said in a note that accompanied the painting “The Gaze.” “I’m talking about seeing them.
It is this type of looking — those unblinking gazes between the ancestors and descendants of the slaves and those with privilege and power — that our society must learn to do if we are ever to close the gap left by slavery in our collective spirit.
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?
Upon stepping onboard a boxcar destined for the North in Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novelThe Underground Railroad, Cora is given some sage counsel by the train’s conductor: “If you want to know what this country is all about, I always say, you have to ride the rails.” As you speed through, take a look about you to see the genuine face of the United States. Cora can only see “darkness, 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 comes to understand that the conductor’s remark was “a joke.
When she traveled, there was just darkness outside the windows, and there would only be darkness forever.” Setting the Underground Railroad in antebellum American history, Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel imagines it not as a network of abolitionists and safe homes, but as a real railroad with underground stations operated by hidden activists snaking northward to freedom.
The train stops in each state, and Whitehead presents his characters with a fresh and sinister embodiment of racism.
Slavery is treated with brutal honesty in Jenkins’ series, much as Whitehead did in the series’ original material.
“Black victory,” rather than “white victory,” is the story that he presents.
“Slavery is neither a situation that is stable or unchanging, nor is it a condition that is loyal to them as individuals.” The consequences of these actions are being visited upon them.” Listed here is all you need to know about the historical backdrop that underpins “The Underground Railroad,” which will premiere on May 14 in its streaming adaptation.
Spoilers for the novel will be provided below the fold.
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?
In Whitehead’s envisioned South Carolina, abolitionists provide newly liberated individuals with education and work opportunities, at least on the surface of the page. However, as Cora and Caesar quickly discover, their new companions’ conviction in racial superiority is in stark contrast to the words they had said with such sweetness. The opinions conveyed by these fictional characters are reminiscent of those voiced by eugenicists and proponents of scientific racism in twentieth-century America.
- “Controlled sterilization, research into communicable diseases, the perfecting of new surgical techniques on the socially unfit—was it any surprise that the best medical talent in the country was flocking to South Carolina?” the doctor continues.
- The state joined the Union in 1859 and ended slavery inside its boundaries, but it also clearly inscribed the exclusion of Black people on its state constitution, which was only repealed in the 1920s after decades of resistance.
- In this image from the mid-20th century, a Tuskegee patient is shown having his blood taken.
- In the novel The Underground Railroad, white immigrants undertake the jobs previously performed by enslaved people in North Carolina, working off the debts incurred by their “journey, tools, and accommodation” as indentured slaves before claiming their rightful position in American culture.
According to the railroad conductor who conceals Cora in his attic, the “Freedom Trail,” a path paved with the remains of slain Black people, stretches “as far as there are bodies to feed it.” After narrowly evading the slave catcher Ridgeway at the conclusion of the tale, Cora decides to settle on a farm in Indiana.
Tensions soon rise to a boiling point, with residents disagreeing on whether they should continue to harbor fugitives at great risk to the rest of the community, or whether they should “put an end to relations with the railroad, the endless stream of needy, and ensure the longevity of the farm,” as one resident puts it.
According to Whitehead’s book, “Cora had grown to adore the improbable riches of the Valentine farm to such an extent that she’d forgotten how impossible they were.” It was too vast and too successful for the farm and the nearby ones run by colored interests.” An island of darkness in the midst of a newly created state.” In 1921, white Tulsans demolished the rich Black enclave of Greenwood, murdering over 300 individuals, according to historical estimates.
Attack on an Indiana farm is depicted in detail in the novel The Underground Railroad.
When a similar series of events transpired in the Greenwood area of Tulsa in June 1921 (also known as “Black Wall Street,” as described by Tim Madigan for Smithsonianmagazine earlier this year), it was a cause for celebration.
Moreover, as Madigan pointed out, the slaughter was not an isolated incident: The New York Times reports that “in the years preceding up to 1921, white mobs murdered African Americans on hundreds of instances in cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Duluth, Charleston, and other places.” As Sinha points out, Whitehead’s inclusion of incidents that occurred after the abolition of slavery serves to highlight the institution’s “pernicious and far-reaching tendrils.” In addition, Foner explains that “he’s showing you the variety of options,” including “what freedom may actually mean, or are the constraints on freedom coming after slavery.” “It’s about.
the legacy of slavery, and the way slavery has perverted the entire civilization,” says Foner of the film.
Oprah Talks to The Underground Railroad Author Colson Whitehead
When I was 14, I went to my local library and read “Ain’t I a Woman?,” a speech made by Sojourner Truth to a suffragist convention in 1851. It was a watershed moment in my life. After 30 years in bondage, she had transformed herself into a human rights activist, promoting the rights of women and speaking out against slavery and racism in the process. She said something that sparked something in me, and I’ve never forgotten it, especially the last paragraph: “If the first woman God ever created was powerful enough to turn the world upside down all by herself, these women united should be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” That day marked the beginning of my academic career as a student of African American history.
When I received an early copy of Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad, I was at home in California.
“The first time Caesar contacted Cora about running north, she said no,” began the first phrase, which immediately got my heart racing.
What is Caesar’s name, and how many more times will he be required to inquire?
Cora is a third-generation slave who lives on the property where her grandmother died and where her mother abandoned her, as I discovered through my research.
Caesar, on the other hand, gets her to ponder.
I took a breath at this point.
But Colson’s conjuring was so vivid that I was able to picture it in my mind.
The more I read about Cora’s experiences, the more I realized how I felt the same way she does: outraged by enslavement all over again, then amazed by the compassion and generosity of complete strangers.
True strength struck me when I observed Cora’s ability to keep her head above water despite the fact that she had no way of knowing what fresh atrocities may be on the horizon.
I had to take a break, think about what I’d read, let the fury and tears flow, and then get back into the game.
And, at the end of the day, that is exactly what great literature accomplishes.
That is all it does: it gives the space for those ideas to occur on their own own.
It had to be my next choice for Oprah’s Book Club, and I couldn’t wait to meet the author in person.
CW:When people first hear about the Underground Railroad, they tend to imagine of it as a subway system or a locomotive.
So I came up with the idea of a genuine subterranean railway network that ran from state to state, with each state it passed through symbolizing a different opportunity or a different risk.
I see myself in such situation and am certain that I was born at the appropriate time.
I would have never ventured out of the yard.
CW:I was interested in seeing how a character who has only seen the tragedy of the plantation has the strength to take the first step on her own.
OW:None of your earlier writings have dealt directly with issues of race or slavery.
CW: For years, I had the impression that I wasn’t ready to face slavery.
In addition, I was well aware that, in order to be genuine, I would have to subject Cora and my other characters to awful experiences.
This is most likely why it took me around 16 years to complete the manuscript.
CW: I was working on other projects at the same time as this one.
But I had to go forward at some point.
The truth is that I didn’t exaggerate.
I came away with the realization that many slave owners were sadists who spent a significant amount of time devising novel ways to inflict pain on their victims.
OW:And such penalties were frequently arranged as performances for the benefit of the audience.
CW:Cora had escaped the plantation and traveled to South Carolina, where she subsequently crossed into North Carolina through the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Jacobs was the inspiration for this.
When I was trying to figure out how to put Cora in difficult situations and then have her rise to the occasion and conquer them, I kept thinking about Linda Brent, who was Harriet’s pen name at the time.
Image credits: Open Road Media, University of California/Hathitrust Digital Library, and Open Road Media In the year 1862, five generations lived on a plantation in South Carolina.
The Zoe Company provided the image used in this post.
In many ways, we still do not grasp what it was like, how heinous of an injustice it was, or how it has continued to influence us.
It meant that you may return home from picking cotton in a field and discover that your children are no longer there, that your spouse is no longer there, and that your mother is no longer there.
While I was horrified by what I saw in the book, I was also impressed by the strength and determination it needed to be a slave.
The will to try, the will to fight, none of these things were lost.
That’s the lineage from which I originate.
I came away from the narrative feeling more confident and in control of my life.
Is it particularly essential to you that you create this book just for these people?
They are 11 and three years old, respectively.
Because I had a wife and children, the cruel reality of the slave system—and the toll it took on families—was brought home to me.
OW: Thank you so much, Colson. CW:Thank you so much, Oprah. UP NEXT: The novels that influenced Colson Whitehead’s writing You may begin reading a free sample of The Underground Railroad right away!