Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad

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Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad

Author: Mary Kay Ricks
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 448
Cover Price: $ 25.95

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When 77 slaves attempted a daring escape down the Potomac River in a schooner called the Pearl in 1848, the nation's capital--especially the dozens of prominent citizens whose domestic slaves had disappeared--was shaken by the news. In returning to this audacious but largely forgotten episode in Escape on the Pearl, Mary Kay Ricks follows the stories of many of the slaves who made the perilous attempt and in the telling gives a short history of the last decades of American slavery and the country it divided.

But most fascinating is her portrait of Washington, D.C., in the years before the Civil War, where North and South came together on territory where slavery was still legal, and where, for the African American residents of the city, the relative freedoms of the North and the terrors of transport to the brutal plantation slavery of the Deep South felt equally close. Escape on the Pearl is Mary Kay Ricks's first book, after years of research on abolitionism and local D.C. history.

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Background Information

A system of secret transportation known as the Underground Railroad conducted ruanway slaves from the Deep South to freedom in Canada. Abolitionism was the movement, centered in the North, that abolition of slavery even in those states that had practiced it since the founding of the country. The Deep South consists of the core states of the Confederacy, which seceded first and remained loyal to the Democratic Party until 1964.