Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad

Mary Kay Ricks, Author . Morrow $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-078659-5

When the Pearl slipped out of the U.S. capital one spring night in 1848 carrying 77 fugitives from slavery, "the largest known attempted escape on the Underground Railroad" had begun. But the ship was overtaken and the slaves sent to New Orleans to be sold, only to be spared by a fluke and returned to D.C., where Henry Ward Beecher took an interest in their plight and Harriet Beecher Stowe recounted their story in her Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin . The "lost" story of their role in the abolition of the slave trade in Washington is one worth telling, but Ricks isn't up to the job. Though a knowledgeable walking tour guide, she's defeated by the story's many threads: the background on slavery, abolition, the Underground Railroad and Washington D.C., the Pearl story (which is really two stories—one about its crew, one about its passengers) and the story of the remarkable Edmonson family, two sisters and four brothers hired out by their owner who joined the heroic escape. When focusing on the Edmonsons, Ricks shines fresh light on the peculiarities of slavery in the capital city. But too often she lapses into digression and repetition. Serious errors (e.g., asserting that Anna Douglass accompanied Frederick on his escape) and loose documentation render this an occasionally stimulating but unreliable account. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/06/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-185004-2
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-157458-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 464 pages - 978-0-06-157457-3
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-157454-2
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-06-078660-1
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