February 13th, 2007

reading, activism, writing

Book 9: North Star Country

Midnight runs through hostile territory, heart pounding escapes, and difficult journeys guided only by the North Star punctuate this wonderful book on the struggle to end slavery as it played out in upstate New York. North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom, by Milton C. Sernett is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of political, economic, and armed efforts to abolish the "peculiar institution" of slavery.

By following the saga as it played out in towns scattered across central and western New York, Sernett reveals an amazing history of persistence and resistance of both blacks and whites who worked for decades to accomplish their goals. This is such a grand subject with both well-known players such as Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, and John Brown but also hundreds of lesser know activists and leaders.

Sernett brings the internal political battles in the anti-slavery movement into focus. The differences between people who wanted to see slavery end, but ship all of the formally enslaved to Africa, with or without their consent, and those who wanted immediate emancipation are fully explained.

I'm originally from Utica, New York. I wanted to read a history that confirmed my assumptions about the Underground Railroad in the area. I've always believed that Utica played a role in that amazing network that helped move people who escaped slavery north to freedom, but haven't found the information before.

This is the first book I've found that details all those questions and shows that the movement to abolish chattel slavery held challenges, daring actions, and unity for the diverse population of the area.

X-posted: Blog, 50bookchallenge
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