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Sep 18

National Underground Railroad Month

Posted on September 18, 2020 at 10:04 AM by Maggie Witte

Freedom is something many of us take for granted and still struggle to provide everyone. The Underground Railroad operated from the late 17th century until the Civil War to move slaves from the American South to freedom in the North. It was not an actual railroad, but a series of natural and man-made routes. The Underground Railroad was operated by a group of free blacks, slaves, American Indians, and people from varying backgrounds. It is estimated that the Underground Railroad assisted over 100,000 people to freedom in the 19th century alone.

Kansas has 21 National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites. Join us this month as we take a moment to recognize and commemorate the Underground Railroad and the courage of the individuals who conducted and used the network. Consider making one of these books your next read or add it them to your to-be-read (TBR) list.

Books for Adults
DB 85212 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora, a third-generation slave, flees the plantation where she lives. She escapes with a man who claims to know how to get to the Underground Railroad. Once there, she discovers it is an actual railroad, and every stop shows her moments of horror and joy. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. 2016.

DB 81627 Seven for a secret by Lyndsay Faye
1846. Bartender-turned-copper Timothy Wilde must solve the disappearance of Lucy Adams's sister Delia and son Jonas. Despite their being free blacks, Lucy is afraid slave traders are behind the kidnappings. After he rescues Delia and Jonas, Timothy discovers dark political secrets and must contend with powerful Tammany Hall. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2013.

DB 57447 Beyond the river: the untold story of the heroes of the Underground Railroad by Ann Hagedorn
Portrait of Presbyterian minister John Rankin (1793-1886) and his fellow abolitionists who ran the Underground Railroad of Ripley, Ohio--a town known to Kentucky slaveholders across the river as a haven for runaway slaves. Hagedorn chronicles their heroic efforts to liberate slaves and discusses the abolitionist movement. 2002.

DB 80005 Slave narratives of the Underground Railroad edited by Christine Rudisel
Thirty-one contemporaneous first-hand accounts of men and women who escaped from slavery during the mid-nineteenth century. Includes narratives by Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895), Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883), and Harriet Tubman (c. 1822-1913). Some violence. 2014.

DB 78186 The last runaway by Tracy Chevalier
1850. Quaker Honor Bright accompanies her sister Grace from England to Ohio, where Grace will marry her fianceÌ. Grace dies before they reach the town of Faithwell, but Honor decides to stay. There, she becomes involved in the Underground Railroad and wrestles with her conscience. Some violence. 2013.

DB 80793 Gateway to freedom: the hidden history of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner
Historian Eric Foner explores primary sources to revisit this largely mysterious aspect of the history of American slavery, including detailed records of slave escapes kept by one of the Underground Railroad's organizers. Introduces many largely unknown figures and discusses the controversy surrounding the sectional crisis of the 1850s. 2015.

DB 15855 The Chaneysville incident: a novel by David Bradley
The legends say something happened in mid-nineteenth-century Chaneysville and when John Washington, a history professor escaping from his small-town black origins, learns about the financial and spiritual legacy his father left him he becomes obsessed with discovering what that something was. Some strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex.

DB 96729 The water dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Born into bondage, Hiram Walker is robbed of all memory of his mother when she is sold. But Hiram is blessed with a mysterious power. This power saves him when he almost drowns, and he knows he must escape the only life he has ever known. Violence. Commercial audiobook. 2019.

Books for Children and Young Adults
DB 65942 Freedom’s wings by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
April to November 1859. Ten-year-old Corey Birdsong, a former slave, enjoys living on his family's farm and going to school in Amherstburg, Ontario. When he gets stranded in Ohio, where slave hunters operate, he helps a mother and daughter escape to freedom in Canada. For grades 2-4. 2003.

DB 37546 Harriet Tubman by Judith Bentley
Araminta Ross was born into slavery in Maryland around 1821. Called Harriet--a common slave name--during her teen years, she married John Tubman, a free black, around 1844. Escaping from slavery in 1849, Harriet Tubman joined the abolitionist movement and became a well-known conductor on the Underground Railroad. She also served as a Union spy during the Civil War and was later active in the women's suffrage movement. For grades 6-9 and older readers.

DB 41158 Steal away home by Lois Ruby
The Shannon family has just moved into an old house in Kansas, and twelve-year-old Dana is not too thrilled about stripping wallpaper until she discovers a skeleton on a cot in a boarded-up space behind the wall. There is also a small diary from which Dana learns about underground railroad activities in her historic house that was once owned by a Quaker family. But what especially excites Dana is information about the person who died. For grades 3-6.

DB 56736 Freedom roads: searching for the Underground Railroad by Joyce Hansen
Explains the difficulty of finding factual evidence about secret activities conducted more than a hundred years ago to help runaway slaves escape to freedom. Discusses research at several archaeological sites and written records in legal codes and household accounts to trace the history of the Underground Railroad. For grades 5-8. 2003.

DB 52702 Bound for the North Star: true stories of fugitive slaves by Dennis B. Fradin
Twelve accounts based on nineteenth-century fugitive slaves' reminiscences. In their bid for the promise of freedom in the North, the runaways traveled through hostile territory, often at night, with little idea of how to reach their destination. Some violence and some strong language. For grades 6-9 and older readers. 2000.