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Front Line of Freedom: African Americans and…

Front Line of Freedom: African Americans and the Forging of the…

by Keith P. Griffler

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The African-Americans who took it upon themselves to liberate themselves and other people from bondage before the American Civil War were placing themselves in serious danger. If captured after attempting to gain their freedom having an ear cut off was just one of the horrors that they could face. If they were free and living north of the Ohio River they lacked any legal protections and kidnapers, who had the protection of law, could seize them, take them south of the river and sell them into bondage without risk of prosecution. For these reasons and others there is little documentation, outside of memoirs written years after the fact, of African- American involvement in what has come to be called the Underground Railroad.

The scarcity of documentation is why this book, Front Line of Freedom, stands out from other histories on the subject. Professor Griffler found the sources that do exist, his 14-page bibliography lists almost an entire page of period newspapers that he scoured for information, and put the evidence together to demonstrate that the people who benefited from the Underground Railroad were its motivating force as well as vital participants.

I believe that reading this book is necessary to gain a full understanding of the Underground Railroad and that anyone researching the subject will find something useful it the bibliography.

Griffler, Keith. Front Line of Freedom. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. ( )
  TLCrawford | Jul 20, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0813122988, Hardcover)

" The Underground Railroad, an often misunderstood antebellum institution, has been viewed as a simple combination of mainly white "conductors" and black "passengers." Keith P. Griffler takes a new, battlefield-level view of the war against American slavery as he reevaluates one of its front lines: the Ohio River, the longest commercial dividing line between slavery and freedom. In shifting the focus from the much discussed white-led "stations" to the primarily black-led frontline struggle along the Ohio, Griffler reveals for the first time the crucial importance of the freedom movement in the river's port cities and towns. Front Line of Freedom fully examines America's first successful interracial freedom movement, which proved to be as much a struggle to transform the states north of the Ohio as those to its south. In a climate of racial proscription, mob violence, and white hostility, the efforts of Ohio Valley African Americans to establish and maintain communities became inextricably linked to the steady stream of fugitives crossing the region. As Griffler traces the efforts of African Americans to free themselves, Griffler provides a window into the process by which this clandestine network took shape and grew into a powerful force in antebellum America.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:35 -0400)

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