Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America

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HarperCollins, Mar 29, 2005 - History - 540 pages
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An important book of epic scope on America's first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for change

The civil war brought to a climax the country's bitter division. But the beginnings of slavery's denouement can be traced to a courageous band of ordinary Americans, black and white, slave and free, who joined forces to create what would come to be known as the Underground Railroad, a movement that occupies as romantic a place in the nation's imagination as the Lewis and Clark expedition. The true story of the Underground Railroad is much more morally complex and politically divisive than even the myths suggest. Against a backdrop of the country's westward expansion arose a fierce clash of values that was nothing less than a war for the country's soul. Not since the American Revolution had the country engaged in an act of such vast and profound civil disobedience that not only challenged prevailing mores but also subverted federal law.

Bound for Canaan tells the stories of men and women like David Ruggles, who invented the black underground in New York City; bold Quakers like Isaac Hopper and Levi Coffin, who risked their lives to build the Underground Railroad; and the inimitable Harriet Tubman. Interweaving thrilling personal stories with the politics of slavery and abolition, Bound for Canaan shows how the Underground Railroad gave birth to this country's first racially integrated, religiously inspired movement for social change.

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Bound for Canaan: the underground railroad and the war for the soul of America

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Countless black and white Americans operated the Underground Railroad, defying slaveholders and the federal government to escort fugitive slaves over land or by sea to freedom--and risking severe ... Read full review

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Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of the Underground Railroad came mainly from a few slave narratives, snippets of it mentioned in history books, and from a few biographies that captured the essences of those who gave their lives for the cause. Never have I read a book that was so richly researched on the Underground Railroad the way Fergus M. Bordewich has done in BOUND FOR CANAAN. Without a doubt, this book puts in perspective how the Underground, a racially integrated network shrouded in secrecy, sets the stage for America's first civil rights movement towards social change. This book is an extraordinary achievement and brings enlightenment to a little known topic in American History.  

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About the author (2005)

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of several books, including Bound for Canaan, Killing the White Man's Indian, and My Mother's Ghost, a memoir. The son of a national civil rights leader for Native Americans, he was introduced early in life to racial politics. As a journalist, he has written widely on political and cultural subjects in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, American Heritage, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Reader's Digest, and many other publications. He was born in New York City, and now lives in New York's Hudson River Valley with his wife and daughter.

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