Kirkus Reviews QR Code
FREEDOM ROADS by Joyce Hansen Kirkus Star


Searching for the Underground Railroad

by Joyce Hansen & Gary McGowan & illustrated by James E. Ransome

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-8126-2673-7

Silent stone faces on a tunnel wall in Syracuse. Ruins of the first settlement of freed men and women discovered under a saltwater marsh in Florida. Family stories leading archaeologists to an upstairs room in a Brooklyn house, where slaves were hidden. These and other archaeological sites are examined in this study of the Underground Railroad. In addition, WPA slave narratives, spirituals, quilts, a ship’s logs, diaries, eyewitness accounts, and letters all demonstrate the ways historians learn about the past—from old-fashioned studies of 17th-century church records to the space-age technology of thermal imaging. An important point made here is that the Underground Railroad was not, as often portrayed, an organized network of routes delivering escaping slaves directly to freedom in the North. There were many “freedom roads” and many people with the courage to break the law and put their lives at risk in the name of liberty and democracy. The authors portray historians as detectives, solving mysteries when history keeps a secret, and point out that this is a “living” history, “waiting for a new generation of historians, archaeologists, and researchers to continue to tell this fascinating story.” Discussions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown, and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law provide additional historical context. Well-written, well-documented, imaginatively arranged, this is a fascinating offering. Handsomely organized with ten black-and-white illustrations, maps, sidebars, photographs, and other archival material, this covers much ground while saying a great deal about the historian’s craft. An important addition to library collections and classroom units. (foreword, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)