Escape from Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom

Escape from Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom


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Eliza and her baby, running across the ice. Selena and Cornelia Jackson, masquerading as boys. Henry Box Brown, shipping himself north in a wooden crate. Jane Johnson, risking everything to testify against her former owner in court. Ellen Craft, posing as her husband's owner.

Escaping from slavery against overwhelming odds, these people were helped by courage, ingenuity, and the informal network known as the Underground Railroad. Here are their gripping stories, told by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Charles Lilly, and accompanied by information about slave laws of the era, key Underground Railroad leaders, and a bibliography.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780064461696
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/15/1998
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 766,697
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.26(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Doreen Rappaport is well known for her groundbreaking approach to multicultural history and literature for young readers. Her many books include Victory or Death: Stories of the American Revolution; We Are The Many: A Picture Book of American Indians; and Martin’s Big Words, winner of the Jane Addams Book Award. She and her husband divide their time between New York City and a rural village in upstate New York.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The River of Ice

"We need the money, and Eliza'll fetch a good price. She's young, and a good looker and a good worker."

Eliza's master's words stunned her. He was selling her. Not that she hadn't always known it was a possibility. Like all slaves, she lived with the gnawing reality that at any moment she could be sold and uprooted from her loved ones. But Eliza's owners had always been so kind to her that she had lulled herself into forgetting reality. Their kindness had vanished with their need for money. Within a few days Eliza would be separated from her two-year-old daughter, Caroline.

She knew what she had to do. She couldn't let anyone take Caroline from her. She couldn't lose this child. She had already buried two others.

She waited patiently all day for the darkness and the quiet. She had done her chores efficiently but not too efficiently, not wanting to draw attention to herself She had listened to her mistress' talking, ignored what she was supposed to ignore, nodded where she was expected to nod and answered when she was expected to answer. She had carefully controlled her every facial gesture and tone of voice so she wouldn't give away her angry feelings, so that her owners wouldn't suspect that she had overheard their plan to sell her.

Now it was almost time. Caroline was asleep, wrapped in a blanket made from saved scraps of wool. Eliza was tired too, but she didn't dare sleep. She needed to leave a few hours before daylight so she could cross the river when it was light. If she gave in to her weariness, she might not get up in time. She lay awake, thinking about the journey ahead.

When shethought it was time, she scooped Caroline up from the floor and took her in her arms. "Be good, darling, don't cry now," she whispered, worried that the other children and the adults in the cabin would awaken.

She tiptoed out of the cabin. When she stepped outside, the night air bit into her face. She pulled the blanket farther over Caroline's head and looked up at the sky. There was the single star, the one that pointed the way to freedom. She followed it down to the other stars, grouped together like a drinking gourd.

"If I thirsty before I cross the river to freedom, I drink from the sky." She laughed silently at her joke.

There was no sound but her feet quietly touching the cold ground as she walked the five miles through the woods toward the river. She knew all about the river, the long, narrow river that separated the slave state of Kentucky from the free state of Ohio. She'd heard stories of slaves who swam or rowed across it. Eliza had dreamed of crossing that river ever since she was old enough to realize she was a slave. She had talked with other slaves about what it would be like to be free, but she had never thought she would be brave enough to escape. But all that had changed today. Today, with her master's words, she had found a courage she hadn't known she possessed.

Crossing would be easy. The river was always frozen over at this time of year. Her feet, clad in thin-soled shoes, were cold now and would be even colder by the time they touched free ground, but that was a small price to pay for freedom. She pulled Caroline closer and ran along the narrow path that led to the river.

In less than two hours, at daylight, she spotted the river. She raced eagerly toward it. When she reached the riverbank, she saw that the ice had started to thaw. It was broken up some and was slowly drifting by in large cakes. Her heart sank. Crossing was impossible now. She would have to hide and wait for the cold night wind to swoop down and freeze the water some more.

Her eyes searched in both directions for a sign of shelter, for a place where she might rest while she waited for the river to freeze again. She had heard there were free colored folks living along the river who helped runaways. There were a few cabins in the distance. But how would she know which cabin held friends? She wouldn't, but she would have to take a chance.

She pulled the blanket away to reassure herself that Caroline was still sleeping. "Thank you, Lord, for keepin' her still." Then she ran down the path alongside the river. It was a while before she came to a small cabin, not much bigger than the cabin that she had shared with ten others. Black smoke was rising out of its chimney. Dared she stop and ask for help? Her eyes scanned the landscape again. There was no place to hide near the river. And no place in the woods. And even if she could find a place, Caroline might not survive in the freezing cold. What choice did she have? Her master would soon discover she was gone and start tracking her down.

Escape from Slavery. Copyright © by Doreen Rappaport. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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