Type
Essay
Pages
4 pages
Word Count
941 words
School
Lamar University
Course Code
Composition

Bound for Cannan Review

November 11, 2018
Bound For Canaan. By Fergus Bordewich. (New York: Amistad, 2005. Pp. xi + 540.
Acknowledgements, preface, maps, introduction.)
With the history of the Underground Railroad comes the ugly, yet determined history of
early America. Because “few veterans of the underground left detailed memoirs” (Bordewich,
xvi), the history of the railroad is trapped amongst the physical components and the investigation
of all individuals involved. For most citizens in America the Underground Railroad is
remembered as a secret passageway who’s purpose was to move slaves from the South to the
North in hopes of finding freedom and equality. While these things are true, the Underground
Railroad also stood for much more. It provided hope for oppressed African Americans and was
the product of the obvious idealogical motivations, but also political and religious motivations.
In “Bound for Canaan” by Fergus M. Bordewich, the author provides a detailed explanation of
the growth of the Underground Railroad through the crucial characters and the motivations they
possessed.
The book begins with a powerful image of a young boy named Josiah Henson, witnessing
his father coming home with his ear cut off. Shortly after we learn that the boys mother had been
sexually assaulted by her overseer and had been defended by Henson’s father. Because his father
had lifted his hand “against the sacred temple of a white man’s body” he would have been
destined for punishment so he fled, just to be caught. He was suffered 100 lashes and “was then
held up against the whipping post and his right ear fastened to it with a tack” as the black smith
then cut his ear off. Josiah’s father was then shipped off to a location he and his mother were
unaware of. Josiah Henson grew up and “would eventually become one of the most famous
fugitive slaves of all…[and] a conductor on the Underground Railroad” (15). This powerful
introduction sets the stage for the true story behind the Underground Railroad and the sacrifices
and motivations of those involved. Following this bold introduction, Bordewich creates the
setting by numbering the millions of African Americans shipped to the Americas throughout the
1600s, 1700s, and the early 1800’s, leading to the development of the Underground Railroad.
After setting a powerful tone Bordewich dives directly into the self-contradicting political
figure and president, Thomas Jefferson. The author explains that “Jefferson’s racial dilemma…
was very much that of the nation itself in the early years of the nineteenth century.” (33).

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