Bound for the North Star: True Stories of Fugitive Slaves

Dennis Brindell Fradin, Author, Dennis Brindell Fradin, Illustrator Clarion Books $21 (224p) ISBN 978-0-395-97017-1
Adhering closely to the facts, often using primary source quotes, Fradin (Ida B. Wells) delivers 12 riveting accounts of daring escapes from slavery. Fradin illustrates a broad spectrum of flights, beginning with two accountsDfrom Mary Prince and from Fed (later known as John Brown)Dwho escaped to Britain, thus conveying to readers that England banned slavery prior to the U.S. and demonstrating how Prince acted as a catalyst in the British antislavery movement. Though some readers may be familiar with the escape attempts of Eliza Harris (the model for Uncle Tom's Cabin) and Margaret Garner (the inspiration for Toni Morrison's Beloved), Fradin discusses the two women and their children in the same chapter and highlights their vastly different fates. He also includes 15-year-old Ann Maria Weems, one of the few children to attempt escape alone, and Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The narrative focuses on the emotional realities and risks, enabling readers to feel the claustrophobia of Henry ""Box"" Brown's 26-hour escape from Richmond to Philadelphia inside a cramped box and carted by train as a shipment of shoes. The heroism of both black and white Underground Railroad operators shines through, especially in the memorable Oberlin-Wellington rescue in which the abolitionist town defied slave catchers and the Federal Fugitive Slave Law to save a runaway, and two chapters in which Levi (""nicknamed the President of the underground Railroad"") and Katie Coffin figure prominently. Archival photographs and illustrations contribute to the historical accuracy of the stories but the design, unfortunately, looks institutional. Luckily, the attractive cover, a photograph of a square from the Underground Railroad Quilt made by Oberlin residents, will lure readers to the volume. Fradin makes liberal reference to the freed African-Americans' own accounts and will likely send many readers on to further volumes. Ages 11-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/16/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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