Fleeing for Freedom: Stories from the Underground Railroad

Article excerpt

Fleeing for Freedom: Stories from the Underground Railroad, edited by George and Willene Hendrick. Ivan R. Dee, February 2004. $24.95 cloth, $14.95 paper

In this introduction to the Underground Railroad, the Hendricks have extracted stories and commentary from the writings of white Quaker Levi Coffin of Newport, Indiana, and black Presbyterian William Still of Philadelphia, both of whom were conductors on that road. Coffin, who helped over 2,000 slaves to freedom, dealt in the main with fugitives from Kentucky, who were sent to Canada. Still, a member of the free black community of Philadelphia, dealt largely with escapees from Virginia and Maryland, who were often sent to sanctuaries in upstate New York or Massachusetts. The voices and viewpoints of the two narrators are maintained through the editors' choices. Fugitives described by Quaker Coffin are peaceful, oppressed people seeking freedom for themselves and their families, usually relying on the help of others; those described by Still are more often armed men and women willing to fight to the death, if necessary, to secure their freedom and who often escaped by ingenious and clever means that they themselves devised. …