Bound for Canaan (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
The Underground Railroad was a pre-Civil War movement which combined clandestine action to aid men and women fleeing slavery with political efforts to make enslavement of human beings illegal throughout the United States. Taking advantage of increasingly available primary and secondary materials on the Underground Railroad and its role in the abolition movement, Fergus M. Bordewich in Bound for Canaan chronicles the numerous routes by which African American slaves fled their masters and credits numerous persons who made the system work.
Bordewich takes the title for his history of the Underground Railroad from the words of Frederick Douglass, former slave and fervent abolitionist:We [slaves] were at times remarkably buoyant, singing hymns, and making joyous exclamations, almost as triumphant in their tone as if we had reached a land of freedom and safety. A keen observer might have detected in our repeated singing of
O Canaan, sweet CanaanI am bound for the land of Canaan,
something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We meant to reach the North, and the North was our Canaan.
Bordewich’s title also seems a deliberate echo of that of Kate Larsen’s acclaimed Bound for the Promised Land (2003), a biography of Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman.
This study of the...
(The entire section is 1825 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
American Heritage 56, no. 2 (May, 2005): 20.
Booklist 101, no. 11 (February 1, 2005): 933.
Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 2 (January 15, 2005): 94-95.
Library Journal 130, no. 2 (February 1, 2005): 95.
The Nation 280, no. 20 (May 23, 2005): 46-49.
The New Yorker 81, no. 15 (May 30, 2005): 91.
Publishers Weekly 252, no. 5 (January 31, 2005): 56.
The Wall Street Journal 245, no. 61 (March 29, 2005): D6.
(The entire section is 37 words.)