Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gateway to Freedom: The Somewhat Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

Gateway To Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, Eric Foner, W.W.Norton Publishing, 302 pp., 3 maps, 33b/w illustrations, end notes, bibliography, index, $26.95.

The focus of Gateway To Freedom is on the route of the UGRR from the Mid-Atlantic border states through Philadelphia, New York City, upper central and western New York and into Canada. The subtitle is "The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad."  The front cover and the blurbs on the back cover do not mention that the story is an East Coast centric one with a concentration on NYC. Yet, if you are looking for a general overview of the topic, this work will suffice. Foner vividly reveals the process of how the Underground Railroad worked.  In general, his description of the process may be transferred to other urban environments.

Pluses for the book include the first chapter which outlines the historiography of the Underground Railroad from the very first participants' accounts through the current era. Also, Sydney Howard Gay's detailed record of slaves passing through NYC is integrated with other UGRR operators accounts from Delaware, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Syracuse.  Foner is successful in tracing the paths of runaway slaves who left Maryland, Delaware and Virginia and finished the journey in Canada.

 \On two maps related to the Mid-Atlantic states Chambersburg, York and Harrisburg Pennsylvania are cited as UGRR sites.  Gettysburg and Adams County Pennsylvania are not.

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