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The Underground Railroad
A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's desperate bid for...
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Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

Created: 10/27/16

Replies: 15

Posted Oct. 27, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1358

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Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America, especially in the time of slavery and abolitionism?


Posted Oct. 30, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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bestmartin

Join Date: 02/20/13

Posts: 71

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

No. it didn't change the way I viewed history but the story was way more graphic than I have read.


Posted Oct. 30, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annw

Join Date: 04/25/14

Posts: 3

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

I agree. It was not uplifting but real. She survived BUT how many did not?
I would guess that it took courage and many did not.


Posted Oct. 30, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
mildas

Join Date: 05/11/16

Posts: 7

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

The Underground Railroad did not change the way I view American history but it did open my eyes to the graphic brutality of slavery. They were treated worse than animals. It is a wonder that some slaves survived and found freedom. But even then "free" negroes were deceived into sterilization and had limited rights.


labas
Posted Oct. 31, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorianbc

Join Date: 04/25/11

Posts: 25

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

The Underground Railroad did not change the way I look at history, but is so important to keep this dark time in history in the forefront of our memories.


Posted Nov. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 164

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

I think it's important to realize that Whitehead wasn't only talking about the history of slavery in America, but about America itself, from its beginnings right down to the present day. He sees all of our history being shaped by the racist attitude of "manifest destiny" described by the slave-catcher Ridgeway, and this makes our Declaration of Independence, as Cora sees it, an illusion, just as the museum exhibits she took part in were sanitized illusions of our slave trade. She thinks, "The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters... But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others....created equal was not lost on her. The white men who wrote it didn't understand it either, if all men did not truly mean all men. Not if they snatched away what belonged to other people, whether it was something you could hold in your hand, like dirt, or something you could not, like freedom. The land she tilled and worked had been Indian land....Stolen bodies working stolen land."

She later learns from Martin of the importing of cheap labor from Europe, Irish and Scottish immigrants encouraged to regard themselves as racially superior to blacks, encouraged not to notice that despite their nominal freedom, they were being exploited equally. Fiona is an example of this. (This is historical fact: politicians did encourage resentment of blacks by unskilled white labor to prevent them from uniting within the labor movement, and it worked, despite the fact that immigrant workers were treated much the same way as black workers, slaves or freemen, and often could not vote.) Cora thinks that "a new wave of immigrants would replace the Irish, fleeing a different but no less abject country... The engine huffed and groaned and kept running. They had merely switched the fuel that moved the pistons."

Cora's perspective I think is the author's. She sees that greed is behind the systemic racism; in a way the racism is used as a rationale for maintaining this social order of haves over have-nots, as Ridgeway later reveals: "I prefer the American spirit, the one that calls us... to conquer and build...and destroy what needs to be destroyed. To lift up the lower races. If not lift up, subjugate. And if not subjugate, exterminate. Our destiny by divine prescription..." It's not random that Cora's response is, "I need to visit the outhouse."

Some may object to this view of our history, but I have to say, as a longtime student and retired teacher of American history, Whitehead's view is grounded in historical fact. It wasn't new to me, but the way he wove so many aspects of it together into the strong pattern he highlights makes this view more compelling.

And he shows the full picture, not just the dark side but the saving grace, in showing us men like Fletcher and Sam Lumley and Martin, who are willingness to face up to the truth, and act on their principles, risking their own lives and well-being. And he shows us, in Cora, the importance of facing up to the problem of racism: in the phony museum exhibit, she learns to choose one patron each hour to stare down: " The weak link-- she liked the ring of it. To seek the imperfections in the chain that keeps you in bondage. Taken individually, the link was not much... As a community, they were shackles. If she kept at it, chipping away at weak links... it might add up to something."

He leaves Cora's fate open, as if to say, despite our dark history, if we face up to it, the future can be different, there is hope.


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
garyr

Join Date: 10/23/12

Posts: 15

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

Doesn't change my outlook,always new that everything you were taught in schools wasn't always right.but this book was a different way of looking at things


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beverlyj

Join Date: 12/22/11

Posts: 58

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

No, it does change the way I look at American history as I have been interested and studying history for some time.
I am more upset about the history that is taught in schools and how the history of slavery is glossed over and those who wonder why we still need to discuss mention slavery.


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sjd

Join Date: 10/31/16

Posts: 2

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

It certainly reinforced the fact that American history, as taught in the NYC Public Schools, minimized the truth that American "freedom" was a myth for a significant population of our country. I read this book as a first generation American, who was instilled with the concept that "only in America" can one be really free. The reality of having one's ancestors wrenched away from their homelands, arrive in chains and enslaved for centuries has created a pit in my stomach that won't go away.


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kellyo

Join Date: 09/15/16

Posts: 36

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

It doesn't necessarily change the way I look at the history of America, but it did make me think about how our society still has a long way to go in terms of equality/freedom for all. There have been improvements made with the ending of slavery & segregation, but there is still racial tension and prejudice. Women can now work and vote, but often make less then men doing the same work. Our society is becoming more tolerant of different religious beliefs, gay, lesbian and transgender people, however, you only have to turn on the news to see we still have a long way to go.


Posted Nov. 07, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
N*Starr

Join Date: 03/13/14

Posts: 35

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

Yes. It's not that I haven't read about the horrors of slavery, I have. It's that stories create an emotional connection to horror that text books and history lessons leave blank. It's the emotional connection that makes the experience even more terrible and memorable.


Posted Nov. 11, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
meredithk

Join Date: 06/10/13

Posts: 27

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

Yes, When first learning about the underground railroad in grade school I have had the opportunity to study it further and realize how brave people were to risk life and liberty to obtain a better life.


Posted Nov. 13, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 92

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

I have to answer this question in two ways:
No, it does not change the way I look at history because I was taught about what took place in early America, that countless men, woman, and children were deprived of basic human rights and their dignity and freedom, but
Yes, it does change the way I think about the history of this country because this book provides me with a clearer and cleaner picture of that history - ironic as it is presented in fiction - and one in which those who suffer the most become the leading character and the heroes. Their pain and suffering is made real, told in living color, and not glossed over for presentation in a classroom. The government of each state is presented more realistically and not all states are lumped together as dealing with the situation in one way or another. Those who are portrayed as working on the Underground Railroad seem more real to me than I was taught about them in school - and even they face realistic outcomes as do Whitehead's main characters. This is a subject I regrettably have neglected over the years and this fictional piece makes me aware of what I have overlooked and how much work is ahead - still - for this nation.


Posted Nov. 23, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marganna

Join Date: 10/14/11

Posts: 111

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

No, the book did not change the way I look at the history of America. I realized I have not read much about the actual underground railroad. This book made me want to learn more about that aspect of slavery & the heroic efforts to save them. It was a very painful book to read. At this time this book is not on my book club list as a future read. After reading many realistic, sad stories, we have decided we need to read a few lighter stories - not stories of people overcoming adversity & surviving but a book or two with a heart warming story. Those books are actually difficult to find. Suggestions?


Posted Jan. 23, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
elizabethk

Join Date: 06/11/11

Posts: 11

RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

No, it did not change the way I look at history of America. However, it awakened the subject.


Posted Feb. 02, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 160

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RE: Does The Underground Railroad change the way you look at the history of America?

While the book doesn't change the way I look at American history, it does make me more aware of the fact that our history contains many shameful chapters, slavery among them. The book reinforces the need to confront these shameful and sad chapters to be sure that nothing like that ever happens again. Telling the story from Cora's viewpoint made it very real. I hope this book will be taught in high schools around the United States when the classes get to the pre-Civil War era.


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