As I was trying to decide which of my recent reads to spotlight for Black History Month, I said, "Why pick just one?" So here are three titles I've finished this month that look at black life in the early 19th century.
It is much easier to understand why the other two authors mention Harriet Jacobs in their books. Her testimony is powerful and sweeps away some of the comforting lies about slavery told in both the north and the south.
(I listened to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl free with Audible Plus.)
(I received my copy of Black Elders: The Meaning of Age in American Slavery and Freedom free through the publisher and NetGalley. Opinions are my own.)
Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America was my favorite of these books, partly because it was most useful for a writing project I am considering. I started out with a library copy and ended up purchasing my own so that I could mark it up and use it for future reference. If you are interested in the Underground Railroad beyond the vague mention that it received in high school history, pick up this book. I was constantly amazed by the testimonies and statistics compiled. It's one of those books that make you realize just how much you don't know.
There's a lot of information here and a lot of people to keep track of, which seems to frustrate some readers, but this book is worth the effort. It tells the story of the Underground Railroad in a comprehensive way, going into great detail about freedom seekers and those who helped them where such historical information is available while stripping away any romantic ideas readers may have of how easy or common escape really was. It was humbling to read about so many people - men and women, black and white - who sacrificed so much to stand up to the horrific slaveholding power. The testimonies are stirring enough to make one wonder, "Would I have the courage to do the same?" I see this book becoming a much-used resource in my research library.
I have a few more books related to the Underground Railroad and America's Civil War on my TBR, so let me know if those are something you'd like to see featured more here. What are you reading for Black History Month?