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His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad
     

His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad

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by John P. Parker, Stuart Seely Sprague
 

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"Surpasses all previous slave narratives…Usually we need to invent our American heroes. With the publication of Parker's extraordinary memoir, we seem to have discovered the genuine article." —Joseph J. Ellis, Civilization

In the words of an African American conductor on the Underground Railroad, His Promised Land is the unusual

Overview

"Surpasses all previous slave narratives…Usually we need to invent our American heroes. With the publication of Parker's extraordinary memoir, we seem to have discovered the genuine article." —Joseph J. Ellis, Civilization

In the words of an African American conductor on the Underground Railroad, His Promised Land is the unusual and stirring account of how the war against slavery was fought—and sometimes won. John P. Parker (1827—1900) told this dramatic story to a newspaperman after the Civil War. He recounts his years of slavery, his harrowing runaway attempt, and how he finally bought his freedom. Eventually moving to Ripley, Ohio, a stronghold of the abolitionist movement, Parker became an integral part of the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves cross the Ohio River from Kentucky and go north to freedom. Parker risked his life—hiding in coffins, diving off a steamboat into the river with bounty hunters on his trail—and his own freedom to fight for the freedom of his people.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This previously unpublished manuscript, resurrected from the Duke University Archive, tells a remarkable story. Parker's oral history, taken down by a journalist in the 1880s, provides a lively and indelible account of a man determined to escape slavery and to help others reach freedom. Parker's vigorous vernacular has echoes of Huckleberry Finn, but his tragicomic accounting of many death-defying episodes is freighted with truth and "an eternal hatred of the institution [of slavery]." Born in 1827 in Norfolk, Va., at eight Parker was sold and marched south in chains. He soon learned self-sufficiency and abhorrence of brutality. Though his master in Mobile, Ala., was kindly, Parker's apprenticeships put him in the path of cruel racists; indomitably, he began a series of escapes, all of which failed. He finally earned his freedom by working in an iron foundry; before moving north, he fought a white co-worker who stole an invention of his. In Ripley, Ohio, from 1845 to 1865, Parker, perpetually armed, helped smuggle slaves north. He persisted despite a $1000 bounty on his head, heartened by the courage and sacrifice most fugitives showed. Over the years he variously owned foundry and milling businesses in Ohio. He had six children, all of whom became educated and middle class. Parker died in 1900. Sprague teaches at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Photos not seen by PW. Film option to Tri-Star. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Unlike black conductors who had escaped earlier or had been born free in the North, John Parker, after an unsuccessful attempt to escape, bought his freedom in the Deep South in 1845, headed north to the "Borderland south of the Ohio river," and became one of the networks to freedom for fugitive slaves, particularly from Kentucky. As an iron molder, he was among the few blacks during that period in America to obtain patents for a series of inventions. Published here for the first time, his picturesque narrative clarifies the striking similarity between the slave trade in tropical Africa and in the United States. Parker constantly mentions slave breeding, a shameful enterprise not often discussed. Over a period of years he assisted hundreds of fugitives en route to Canada and elsewhere. His narrative is a worthwhile addition to the literary slave narrative tradition that includes Charles Webber's Underground Railroad, James McGowan's Life & Letters of Thomas Garrett, and Wilbur Siebert's Mysteries of Ohio's Underground Railroad. Highly recommended for all libraries collecting materials on African American studies. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/96.]Edward G. McCormack, Univ. of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Long Beach
School Library Journal
YAParker's recently discovered manuscript is action-packed adventure from his first memories as an eight-year-old slave in chains to his defiant involvement in leading fugitive slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad station in Ripley, Ohio. Parker's early experiences made him "designing, hateful, and determined." He became an iron molder by choice but an abolitionist by chance. This book presents the man's personal history and many of the episodes he accidentally experienced or willingly engaged in to bring other African Americans to his "Promised Land." The original document is printed with only minimal editing. Illegible writing has been guessed at; missing words have been added and placed in brackets. A necessary purchase for libraries wanting to extend their collection of African-American leaders or their coverage of the Underground Railroad during America's Civil War.Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A rip-roaring adventure yarn lies at the heart of this recently discovered autobiography.

Fortunately, editor Sprague, of Morehead State University, mostly lets Parker speak for himself, which the former slave does eloquently. So eloquently, in fact, that the reader wonders at Sprague's assertion that this account "has the slight rough edge associated with oral history." The rough edges seem nearly all smoothed over—probably by Frank Moody Gregg, the white reporter to whom Parker dictated his wonderful tale. Parker (18271900) was a slave whose owners taught him to read and gave him a useful trade. Iron molding was so lucrative, ultimately, that Parker used his wages from it to buy his freedom. He started up a business of his own, married, and had several children, three of whom went on to graduate college. As fascinating as his revealed life was, however, the true excitement of this account comes from Parker's secret activities in the Underground Railroad in Ripley, Ohio, a hotbed of abolitionism when Parker moved there in 1849. Parker tells of traps and daring rescues, near escapes and noble sacrifices. One man gave up his own freedom so that a husband and wife could escape together. Another woman, the "Eliza" of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, crossed the Ohio River with her baby as the ice cracked under her and dogs barked at her heels. Although Parker was not directly involved in Eliza's escape, it is because of her that this autobiography exists at all: It was while researching Harriet Beecher Stowe's tale that Frank Moody Gregg stumbled onto the amazing Parker.

The rest is history of the best kind—both highly entertaining and informative.

Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post
“John P. Parker was an extraordinary man . . . a person who spent much of his life facing racial battles yet saw the world through colorblind eyes. . . . As a slave seeking escape and then as a free man aiding others, fighting 'my own little personal war on slavery,' [Parker] lived a perpetual Perils of Paul and did so with unending zest. . . . Now he can be given his due.”
Nell Irvin Painter
“Riveting…Astonishing and believable.”
Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
“John P. Parker was an extraordinary man . . . a person who spent much of his life facing racial battles yet saw the world through colorblind eyes. . . . As a slave seeking escape and then as a free man aiding others, fighting 'my own little personal war on slavery,' [Parker] lived a perpetual Perils of Paul and did so with unending zest. . . . Now he can be given his due.”
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post Book World
“John P. Parker was an extraordinary man…He seems to have been that true American rarity, a person who spent much of his life facing racial battles yet saw the world through colorblind eyes…He lived a perpetual Perils of Paul and did so with unending zest…Now he can be given his due.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393348019
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/15/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
168
Sales rank:
438,635
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

John P. Parker (1827 – 1900) was an American abolitionist, inventor, iron moulder and industrialist. He helped hundreds of slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad based in Ripley, Ohio.
Stuart Seely Sprague was a professor in history at Morehead State University from 1968 to 1995. His areas of concentration included Appalachian history and African American studies.

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His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago