North Star to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad

Overview

Imagine escaping from the terrors of plantation slavery, only to live for years in a swamp full of biting insects and deadly snakes. Picture yourself making a dangerous journey to freedom, guided by nothing but courage and the North Star. Think of beginning a new life in a new country, only to fall prey to bounty hunters.

The stories of the people who made up the Underground Railroad, that amazing network of quiet farm houses, peaceful country lanes, and busy city streets that ...

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Overview

Imagine escaping from the terrors of plantation slavery, only to live for years in a swamp full of biting insects and deadly snakes. Picture yourself making a dangerous journey to freedom, guided by nothing but courage and the North Star. Think of beginning a new life in a new country, only to fall prey to bounty hunters.

The stories of the people who made up the Underground Railroad, that amazing network of quiet farm houses, peaceful country lanes, and busy city streets that reached from the slave-owning areas of the southern United States to the free states of the north and on to Canada, are among the most moving in our history.

Meet some of the men and women who planned daring and ingenious ways to escape slavery, such as the resourceful Henry Box Brown, who mailed himself to Philadelphia's Anti-Slavery Society in a box, and the strong-willed Harriet Tubman, who fled with nothing more than a scrap of bread and the clothes on her back, and then returned to the south year after year to help others find their way to freedom.

North Star to Freedom draws on the stories of the Underground Railroad's courageous passengers, whose extraordinary spirit broke their own chains, and the brave conductors, who risked their lives to help others simply because they believed that every person had the right to live free. More than just a book about the worst injustices of slavery, North Star to Freedom is ultimately about resourcefulness, compassion, and hope.

Period posters, photographs, and paintings help to make North Star to Freedom a living history for readers of all ages.

Details the history of the Underground Railroad from the roots of slavery through the post-Emancipation era by focusing on the lives of the participants.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
This lively, well-documented history of the Underground Railroad actually covers more than is suggested by the title. Interweaving many quotes from letters, journals and other primary sources with a dramatic but balanced writing style, the writer chronicles the history of slavery from ancient Egypt, through its growth in the Americas, until its end after the Emancipation Proclamation. This book would be an excellent way to supplement American History textbooks (in grades 5 to 12), which often only touch on this part of U.S. history. An introduction, index, map, chronology, bibliographies and notes on text and photo sources are included, and add to the value of this engrossing work.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Gena Gorrell was raised a Quaker and therein lies part of her inspiration to write North Star to Freedom: The Story of the Underground Railroad. Gorrell's historical context slips children back in time and into understanding. For example, in the 1830's, people were amazed by the speed of steam-powered trains. As a result, they chose the railroad as the metaphor for a network that "whisked" runaway slaves to freedom. Gorrell's book is filled with illustrative photographs and art as well as anecdotal stories of daring individual escapes and brave Underground Railroad conductors. Gorrell turns history into a story that children will love to hear.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-A number of innovative and well-researched titles about the Underground Railroad have been published in the 1990s. North Star to Freedom adds to the wealth of information and anecdotes about this important chapter in history because the focus of the book, and the research on which it is based, is centered in Canada, the ultimate destination for many slaves. After recounting a general history of slavery, Gorrell tells of the involvement of Canadian Quakers and abolitionists in aiding and welcoming the runaways. She includes individual accounts of slaves who settled there; among the prints and posters that profusely illustrate her narrative are impressive studio photographs of ex-slaves who prospered in their new home. Brief vignettes introduce each chapter and add human interest to the author's factual account. Told from the British and British-Canadian viewpoint, this history adds a new dimension and perspective to the story of the Underground Railroad. The book contains notes, a bibliography, and other evidence of careful research. It is clearly written and will be useful both as an introduction to the subject and as a supplement to other titles about the period already on the shelves.-Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Subtitled "The Story of the Underground Railroad," this is a compassionate and clear-eyed history of slavery and the brave people who rose up against it.

Through conscientious research, Gorrell traces slavery's origins as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece, showing just how deplorable the policies of the US were: In ancient societies, slaves were eventually permitted to buy their freedom, after paying off debts, but in this country, the dark color of Africans was used as "proof" of their "natural inferiority." Students who take democratic liberties for granted will gain a more immediate, emotional sense of slavery's horrors from the brief first-person introductions in each chapter. Throughout, Gorrell intelligently explains the economic realities of slavery and its role in the rise of the southern states' aristocracy; she shows how this issue essentially divided the country for years, making armed conflict inevitable. The chapters on the Underground Railroad are full of intriguing facts about secret hiding places and codes, but most riveting of all are the true stories of slaves who escaped their captors: Henry "Box" Brown, who shipped himself in a crate to free Philadelphia; William and Ellen Craft, a married pair of slaves who disguised themselves as a slave and his rich male owner and traveled to freedom. With numerous black-and-white photos and period line drawings, this is an indispensable and inspirational tool in any classroom.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385326070
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/11/2000
  • Pages: 184
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.46 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Gena K. Gorrell is a writer and editor who, raised as a Quaker, has long had a personal interest in the Underground Railroad.
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Read an Excerpt

But the lure of freedom was powerful, and slowly—in whispers, from mouth to mouth—word got around that escape was possible. A slave who reached the free states in the North could hide among free blacks, and could with luck avoid recapture. A slave who reached the distant and mysterious land of Canada could be free—truly and legally free. The trip would be difficult and dangerous, but the reward was overwhelming. Many slaves made up their minds to run away.

But it wasn't easy to escape. Slaves were valuable property, and they were watched closely. Many couldn't leave their homes without written permission. Once they were on the road, they were suspected by anyone who saw them. In some places they weren't allowed to ride trains or even cross bridges without a written pass. A slave riding a horse on the open road was assumed to have stolen it. Even carrying food or clothing was dangerous, as it suggested that you weren't on your way home. So most fugitives had to travel by night, on foot, with nothing to eat but the scraps they could find or steal as they went. And all the way, they knew they might be stopped, searched, questioned, and even seized, at any moment.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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