Get on Board Critical Essays

James Haskins


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

One of Haskins’ intentions in his book is to recognize the active role of African Americans in the history of the United States. On a couple of occasions, he states directly that most historical accounts have been written from a white point of view, and he wants to remedy this situation. One could say that Haskins wants to rewrite American history from a black perspective, and the story of fugitive slaves is a logical point of departure for such an enterprise. For example, Haskins observes that the first person to die in the events leading up to the revolutionary war was Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave who was killed in 1770 in the Boston Massacre. Haskins relates this anecdote in order to compel the reader to think of the American Revolution as something other than a rebellion by white colonists of European descent. The revolutionary war was also the beginning of organized abolition movements. Haskins further forces the reader to question the generally accepted version of American history by calling to attention the racist attitudes of a famous white American who is usually considered to be the hero of the revolutionary war: He notes that George Washington complained in 1786 about the Quakers, who had helped one of his slaves escape to freedom.

Haskins mentions numerous forgotten books, many of them narratives written by escaped slaves who participated in the Underground Railroad. He cites so many such books that Get on Board becomes something of a history about the writing of the history of the Underground Railroad. Haskins...

(The entire section is 634 words.)