Cover image for Gateway to freedom : the hidden history of the underground railroad
Title:
Gateway to freedom : the hidden history of the underground railroad
Author:
Foner, Eric, 1943- , author.
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Physical Description:
xiii, 301 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Summary:
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner relates the dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom.
Language:
English
Contents:
Rethinking the underground railroad -- Slavery and freedom in New York -- Origins of the underground railroad : the New York Vigilance Committee -- A patchwork system : the underground railroad in the 1840s -- The Fugitive Slave Law and the crisis of the Black community -- The metropolitan corridor : the underground railroad in the 1850s -- The record of fugitives : an account of runaway slaves in the 1850s -- The end of the underground railroad.
ISBN:
9780393244076
Format :
Book

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E450 .F66 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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E450 .F66 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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E450 .F66 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
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Summary

Summary

More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North's largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city's underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.Building on fresh evidence--including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York--Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring--full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage--and significant--the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family.


Author Notes

Eric Foner is the preeminent historian of his generation. His books have won the top awards in the profession, and he has been president of both major history organizations, the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. He is the author of Give Me Liberty!, which displays all of his trademark strengths as a scholar, teacher, and writer. A specialist on the Civil War/Reconstruction period, he regularly teaches the nineteenth-century survey at Columbia University, where he is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History. In 2011, Foner's The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize. His Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad is a 2015 New York Times bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In the 1850s, when so much of the commerce of New York was tied to slavery, political sentiments were not necessarily aligned with abolitionists. Still, a powerful contingent of New Yorkers, from freed slaves as much concerned about their own welfare in the face of the threat of kidnappings to more prominent citizens secretly involved in clandestine activities that mostly went undocumented for obvious reasons, worked to resist slavery. Drawing on previously untapped sources in an archive at Columbia University, Foner offers meticulous accounts of how abolitionists helped escaped slaves travel between the South to safety in upstate New York and Canada. A key figure Foner reveals is Sydney Howard Gay, an abolitionist newspaperman who recorded details of escapees, their movements in what later became known as the Underground Railroad, and efforts by abolitionists to raise funds to continue financing their campaign. Foner offers harrowing details of escape and powerful stories of those who risked their lives for freedom. He also details the growing frictions in a city that became embroiled in the secessionist debate as the Fugitive Slave Law and economic interests clashed with ideals about democracy and freedom. A sweeping, detailed look at an important enterprise in the history of U.S. resistance to slavery.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Acclaimed narrator Jackson delivers a competent, though not always inspired, performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Foner's sweeping narrative on the inner workings of the Underground Railroad. Jackson is most passionate for the individual accounts of those involved in the secret network, which was created to help slaves find their freedom. Yet for the most part, the material centers on the political, social, and racial divides within the abolition movement itself, as radicals and moderates struggled with one another to stake a claim for leadership in the struggle to free black Americans from bondage. Jackson's tone subtly illuminates the dynamic of the various players, particularly when conveying the stance of white leaders in the mainstream political process, contrasted with the voices of the more revolutionary participants. Listeners with an academic bent and already steeped in the history of the era will feel engaged, but a more general audience seeking to make initial connections with American abolitionism may need to look elsewhere. A Norton hardcover. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Preeminent scholar Foner (DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia Univ.; The Fiery Trial; Reconstruction) adds to his impressive oeuvre with this fascinating study of the Underground Railroad. The author eschews the common approach of documenting the phenomenon from the South, instead centering his monograph on New York City. Through individuals such as abolitionist Sydney Howard Gay and minister Charles Ray, he demonstrates that ferrying escaped slaves from the city's waterfront to other locales throughout the North was fraught with extreme danger. This was especially true after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, when political and social elites in the city worked with their Southern counterparts to seize escaped slaves, and even free African Americans, in order to preserve their close economic ties. VERDICT This seminal work is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of the United States from the beginning of the sectional conflict between the North and the South to the conclusion of the Civil War. Readers should also strongly consider Passages to Freedom, edited by David W. Blight. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.] John R. Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

A new book from Eric Foner (Columbia) is always news, and this one has all of the features that readers have come to associate with its author: wide-ranging research, readable prose, and convincing arguments. Foner's subject, the Underground Railroad, is one of the most popular in US history today, probably because it is a happy example of black and white people working together to advance justice. While acknowledging that much of the legend that grew up around the Underground Railroad after the Civil War (e.g., heroic white conductors aiding passive, terrified runaway blacks) needs revision, Foner also argues that some revisionists have gone too far in denying the existence of any organized network of abolitionists who aided fugitive slaves. The focus is New York City. Using a "Record of Fugitives" kept by abolitionist editor Sydney H. Gay in the 1850s, Foner finds a small group of black and white abolitionists who worked together to move slaves through New York to Canada. The author does not attempt national coverage, so this is not the definitive work on the Underground Railroad. But it is among the best. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. --Thomas D. Hamm, Earlham College


Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrationsp. xi
1 Introduction: Rethinking the Underground Railroadp. 1
2 Slavery and Freedom in New Yorkp. 28
3 Origins of the Underground Railroad: The New York Vigilance Committeep. 63
4 A patchwork system: The Underground Railroad in the 1840sp. 91
5 The Fugitive Slave Law and the Crisis of the Black Communityp. 119
6 The metropolitan corridor: The Underground Railroad in the 1850sp. 151
7 The record of fugitives: An Account of Runaway Slaves in the 1850sp. 190
8 The End of the Underground Railroadp. 216
Acknowledgmentsp. 231
Notesp. 235
Indexp. 277