African American History Month

February is African American History Month.  During these days of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, there is much talk about the issue of slavery as a cause of the conflict. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a best seller when it was published in installments from 1851-1852, fueled the debate about abolition and slavery. The library has a good selection of books about the experience of slavery. Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk about Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation edited by Ira Berlin gathers first person accounts.  John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom traces the institution in the English colonies and then the United States; he details the way of life of the enslaved people and their struggle for freedom.

The Library of Congress has a remarkable online collection of interviews with slaves who were born between 1823 and the early 1860s.  The audio files on “Voices from the Days of Slavery”  are supplemented by biographies of each person.

If you missed or forgot these two television productions, now might be a good time to check them out. Ken Burns’ PBS production, Civil War, discusses the impact of slavery on the north as well as the south. Alex Haley’s Roots follows the story of his ancestor Kunta Kinte as he was sold into slavery and his and his family’s struggle for freedom. The Underground Railroad follows the route slaves took as they tried to escape to the north.

 Kaolyn Smardz Frost’s book, I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, recounts the inspiring tale of Lucie and Thornton Blackburn who were aided by the African American community and managed to escape to Toronto. Another book which delves into the Underground Railroad is Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad by Ann Hagedorn.

– posted by Brenda, Reference Services

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