Cora is an outcast amongst her fellow slaves, from the moment her mother, Mabel, successfully escaped from the Georgia cotton plantation. The setting is just before the American Civil War and the author has created a fantastical Underground Railway, which operates with real steam locomotives, running underground from state to state. By this means, when Cora is persuaded, in desperation, to attempt an escape with a fellow slave, Caesar, she is able to experience the different degrees of ‘freedom’ that North and South Carolina offer. Each step of the way, she is being tracked by the vicious slave catcher, Ridgeway.
This is an amazing book, one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of bringing alive the true horror of permanent enslavement. The brutality is shocking. As a study of man’s inhumanity to man, it’s quite incredible. Senior students would enjoy it the most.
This story also makes it clear to me why America’s race relations are such a mess. The scars of recent black-white history in America are so deep and painful it may take many more generations before any real healing of divisions and attitudes is possible.
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