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Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
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W. W. Norton & Company 2015
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Description

The dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom.


More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.


A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North's largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.


To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city's underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.


Building on fresh evidence—including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York—Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring—full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage—and significant—the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/19/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393244380
ASIN:
B00L3KQ2YY
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Eric Foner. (2015). Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Eric Foner. 2015. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Eric Foner, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Eric Foner. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University. In his teaching and scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association. In 2006, he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia University. His most recent books are The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for History; Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, winner of the New York Historical Society Book Prize; and The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.
      • name: Eric Foner
publishDate
2015-01-19T00:00:00-05:00
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title
Gateway to Freedom
fullDescription

The dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom.

More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.

A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North's largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.

To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city's underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.

Building on fresh evidence—including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York—Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring—full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage—and significant—the controversy over fugitive slaves inflamed the sectional crisis of the 1850s. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kevin Baker;New York Times Book Review
      • content: Illuminating . . . an invaluable addition to our history.
      • premium: False
      • source: Sam Roberts;New York Times
      • content: Mandatory, and riveting, reading.
      • premium: False
      • source: Bruce Watson;San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: [A] detailed narrative . . . infused with the spirit of freedom.
      • premium: False
      • source: David S. Reynolds;Wall Street Journal
      • content: Excellent . . . Mr. Foner, bringing to bear his well-honed research skills and his deep knowledge of slavery and race relations . . . vividly describes the key part that New York City played in the operations of the Underground Railroad . . . he merits high praise for contributing sold information and thoughtful analysis to the history of this shadowy, extensive network.
      • premium: False
      • source: Edward P. Jones;O Magazine
      • content: Riveting . . . a visceral chronicle of defiance and sacrifice.
      • premium: False
      • source: Michael D. Schaffer;Philadelphia Inquirer
      • content: Bring[s] to bear the insights of a long and distinguished career writing about the Civil War and Reconstruction eras and a sharp sense of the ironies that involuntary servitude posed for a nation that proclaimed itself to be built on principles of liberty . . . highly readable.
      • premium: False
      • source: Billy Heller;New York Post
      • content: A terrific and powerful story.
      • premium: False
      • source: David Hugh Smith;Christian Science Monitor
      • content: Dramatic and compelling.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonah Raskin;Huffington Post
      • content: Suspense and drama on nearly every page. . . . The art of historical narrative at its very best.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jennifer Schuessler;New York Times
      • content: Eric Foner has won a place in the front rank of American historians with books that seem to vacuum up all available sources to produce bold new interpretations of the country's reckoning with the big questions of slavery and freedom.
      • premium: False
      • source: Wendy Smith;Los Angeles Times
      • content: Reminds us that history can be as stirring as the most gripping fiction.
      • premium: False
      • source: Adam Goodheart;The Atlantic
      • content: Tells a story that will surprise most readers . . . Compelling.
      • premium: False
      • source: Kevin Lynch;Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
      • content: [Foner] carries the reader along, as if galloping through a valley of subterfuge and salvation that might also doom freedom at any time. Foner crucially delineates the profound challenge and existential risk that engulfed an interracial generation as the nation thundered toward dissolution, or Civil War.
      • premium: False
      • source: Alexander Nazaryan;Newsweek
      • content: Compelling . . . by turns scholarly and gripping.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        November 3, 2014
        The Underground Railroad is at once one of the best known and least understood aspects in the history of American slavery, but Pulitzer Prize–winner Foner (The Fiery Trial) makes expert use of an unusual primary source to illuminate the workings of this secret system. He focuses on the antebellum accounts of Sydney Howard Gay, a Manhattan newspaper editor, abolitionist sympathizer, and Underground Railroad participant, whose “record of fugitives” sheds light on the experiences of more than 200 enslaved men and women who passed through New York City. The accounts also offer fascinating glimpses of the lives of individual fugitive slaves, including Simon Hill, who walked from southern Virginia to Philadelphia, and Winnie Patsy, who with her young daughter spent five months hiding in a dark, unventilated crawl space outside Norfolk, Va. Foner shows how Gay’s network functioned on a practical level, helping fugitives to move from one safe space to another along the East Coast—often to Canada—and he emphasizes the crucial role played by African-Americans themselves, from dockworkers to clergymen, in helping fugitives to freedom. The Underground Railroad is much mythologized but not widely understood; Foner’s gripping account of slaves’ struggles to free themselves reveals the immense risks they, and their sympathizers, took to escape bondage. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        March 23, 2015
        Acclaimed narrator Jackson delivers a competent, though not always inspired, performance of Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Foner’s sweeping narrative on the inner workings of the Underground Railroad. Jackson is most passionate for the individual accounts of those involved in the secret network, which was created to help slaves find their freedom. Yet for the most part, the material centers on the political, social, and racial divides within the abolition movement itself, as radicals and moderates struggled with one another to stake a claim for leadership
        in the struggle to free black Americans from bondage. Jackson’s tone subtly
        illuminates the dynamic of the various players, particularly when conveying
        the stance of white leaders in the mainstream political process, contrasted with the voices of the more revolutionary
        participants. Listeners with an academic bent and already steeped in the history
        of the era will feel engaged, but a more general audience seeking to make initial connections with American abolitionism may need to look elsewhere. A Norton hardcover.

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shortDescription

The dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the antislavery activists who defied the law to help them reach freedom.

More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.

A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North's largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to...

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      • description: History / African American & Black
      • code: SOC054000
      • description: Social Science / Slavery