We all need to know this story of going from slavery to freedom

February 8, 2008

Bobz Book Reviews

“I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: The Lost Tale of The Underground Railroad”
by Karolyn Smardz Frost

What would it have been like to be a slave?

And what kind of courage did a slave have to have to risk escaping to freedom?

Archeologist and historian Karolyn Smardz Frost dug up some facts and artifacts about a Black couple named Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, and she puts together the scraps of her finds and tedious research to answer those questions and more in “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land.”
This is a great read, one with dramatic turns that keep you turning pages.

And it’s an educational read as well.

If your American History classes brushed by the era of the Underground Railroad in a hurry to concentrated on the U.S. Civil War, “Glory Land” will fill in the missing gap.
It’s a part of history every North American should know.

And I say North America because, for the people Frost traces back to their one-time slave state of Kentucky, “Glory Land” is Canada.

More we were never taught
That was news to me. I thought the end of the Underground Railroad was just somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In fact, a line of the series of safe houses and sanctuaries for fugitive slaves ran up into Detroit and across the Detroit River to what was then Upper Canada, now Ontario.

How laws in the United States worked against slaves who tried to escape their bondage was news to me, too.

Of course in school we learned about the Dred Scott Decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protected the rights of slave owners. But legalisms that cooperated with the slave faction abounded. When the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 opened up the Midwest for settlement, its article six provided that runaway slaves be returned to their owners.

As early as 1793 there was even a federal law, the Fugitive Slave Law, that required slaves to be returned to their masters.

Canada deserves some props
The Canadians don’t come off pure as the driven snow with regard to racial bias, but their protection of the right of freedom for any British subject saved the day for the Thornton and Lucie Blackburn and thousands of other former slaves who fled the cruelty and inhumanity of the slave system.

Theirs is a story all should know.

And the refresher course on what slave owners did – how they treated other human beings – is a lesson Americans should never forget. – bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

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