My guest this month is a fellow member of the Authors Helping Authors group, or AHA. We assist each other by getting the word out about our books, by tweeting, posting, or blogging about them. We also turn to each other for writing advice. Linda Carroll-Bradd is one member who is consistently aiding others in many ways. Like me, she writes sweet historical novel, but most of hers are set in the American West. Her newest release is quite different, and I asked her to share a bit about the background behind Freedom’s Path. She kindly obliged, so I’ll turn this space over to her.
Quilts and The Underground Railroad
By Linda Carroll-Bradd
From the moment Africans were put onto slave ships in their native country, they probably thought of ways to escape. Imagine being torn from everything and everyone you knew and loved and being transported across an ocean and deposited into an unfamiliar land. Through many years, enslaved people worked to figure out how to escape. Probably more important was the destination. All their efforts would have been for naught if they didn’t reach a place where slavery didn’t exist.
My recent release, Freedom’s Path, deals with one of the ways escaping slaves received guidance. An acknowledged pioneer of the Underground Railroad was Isaac T. Hopper who helped slaves in Pennsylvania and New York as early as 1787. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 or the ordinance written into the U.S. Constitution or legislation enacted by individual states (Vermont abolished slavery in 1777 when the state was created with land split off from New York) often spurred citizens who disagreed to become involved. The area served on the U.R. was huge, encompassing any land between the southern states and the Canadian border that lay east of the Mississippi River. What I found interesting as I researched the subject was that the routes took many forms. Some were actual underground rail cars that had been abandoned from mines. Other routes involved railroad cars or by river or by sea. Many involved the escapees walking the entire way and being hidden in barns, root cellars, ice houses, and caves.
A method for signaling the escaping slaves on the direction of the route was the use of certain quilts hung over a fence or on a clothesline. In preparation on the plantation before an escape was made, a poem was learned about what quilt patterns to look for and what each meant. In conjunction, many plantation blacksmiths were involved in sending messages through the beats they made with a hammer on their anvil. (a familiar messaging system used in their native African countries)
Risks abounded for both escaping slaves and those who aided their escape. I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the subject enough to pick up a copy of Freedom’s Path so you can learn about an individual who served as an agent on The Underground Railroad.
Blurb for Freedom’s Path:
Working at the Deerbourne Inn provides Sidonie Demers the perfect cover for helping on the Underground Railroad. The quilt patterns she selects direct escaping slaves to the safest route. The cause is personal for octoroon Sidonie whose mother and grandmother escaped bondage years earlier.
Army Corporal Colin Crawford arrives in Willow Springs, disguised as a salesman, to locate abolitionist activity. Raised anti-slavery, he’s conflicted about upholding the Fugitive Slave Act but believes in fulfilling his duty.
The attraction is irresistible, but what happens when their true identities are revealed?
Freedom’s Path can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo, and The Wild Rose Press.
Look for Linda Carroll-Bradd at her blog and on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to learn more about her and her current work!
Linda is offering an ecopy of Freedom’s Path to one person who leaves a comment.
Linda, this book sounds fascinating. The UR has always interested me. As a kid, I thought it was, literally, a railroad that traveled underground. LOL It’s amazing what people were willing to risk their lives for–both the slaves seeking freedom and the “agents” who helped them.
I’m sure you weren’t the only student who thought that, Diane! It’s wonderful when important events in history can be taught through stories like Linda’s.
Diane, I was fascinated to learn that underground tunnels are present at certain places on the routes. Thanks for stopping by.
Fascinating is the word, I agree. I grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs, and we certainly learned a great deal about slavery, (three years of Virginia history), but now that I live in Kentucky, it hit even harder, this being the base of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There are many huge homes that are so obviously “Masters’ Houses”. One near me is very run-down and creepy. I never understood why it bothered me to go past it, then I found that it has a terrible history as the home a slave-trader who literally ‘sold slaves down the river’. It’s said to be very haunted and if any house were to be, it would be such a house.
Songs were used: “Follow Drinking Gourd” taught slaves to head due north by looking for the Big Dipper and following the North Star.
The New Christie Mistrals had a hit of it in the ’60s
Linda’s book mentions those songs, too.
Tonette, Wow, you have firsthand knowledge of the situation. By living where you have, you are surrounded with the aura of the past. Interesting how our intuition knows more than our brains do. Thanks for commenting.
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Very interesting post, Linda. I didn’t realize quilts were used for signaling.
It’s amazing how resourceful these people were! Thanks so much for visiting, Alina.
Alina, I was especially fascinated to learn about the quilt connection because the act of hanging out a quilt could have been done by anyone. The fact also shows that many unnamed people were involved in fighting the injustice.
This book sounds entertaining and educational! Best of luck with the new release!
Marissa, I try my best to slip in the facts so they fit the story. Thanks for stopping by.
Wow, I agree, the book sounds fascinating, Linda!
LOVE your cover
Good luck and God’s blessings
Pam, I appreciate your comments.
Hi! The book sounds awesome! I really enjoyed learning more about it!
Kara, I appreciate the encouraging words. Thanks.
I’ve long been fascinated by the efforts of many — during turbulent times — who risked so much to help unfortunate individuals make their way to places they could live and work in freedom.
We’ve visited at least one house which had a teeny hatch — near a staircase, as I recall — which opened into a small “room” hardly large enough to crouch or sit in. Yet, there were times an entire family might have stayed there until it was safe to travel on.
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Jeff, how interesting to have seen such a place. When my husband and I travel, we love ferreting out “living” museums to find such treasures.
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This book sounds amazing. The Underground Railroad has always been fascinating to me. There are places near here that are rumored to have been stops.
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