Railroad of Courage tells the story of the journey Rebecca, a twelve-year-old girl enslaved with her parents on a South Carolina plantation, takes to freedom in Canada on the Underground Railroad.
The story is fast-paced and action-packed. The reader is taken through South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and New York to Canada as Rebecca and her family meet other people on their journey, aided by freed Blacks and white abolitionists. Constantly on the lookout for patrollers, bounty hunters and federal marshals, the travellers journey by night on foot, raft, wagon, steamboat, handcar and passenger train while battling fatigue and illness.
This fictional account is well researched and includes historical events and figures including some of the conductors on the Underground Railroad. While many know of Harriet Tubman, the men and women, Black and white, who helped Tubman on her many trips back and forth from the southern United States and Canada are not as well known. These historical figures along with events outlined in the book provide a great opportunity for further inquiry.
The theme of courage is evident throughout. Slavery was a cruel, inhumane practice; it took a lot of courage for enslaved peoples to leave. The risk of getting caught was great and the consequences were severe. People travelled often under the cover of night. In this story, Rebecca and her fellow travellers waded through alligator and snake infested waters and experienced the bitter cold of winter for the first time. Bounty hunters were on the lookout for runaway slaves everywhere. Passengers on the Underground Railroad often had to place their hopes and, indeed their very lives, in the hands of strangers.
This book is suitable for students in grades 4 through 8 and connects to the Social Studies curriculum in grades 6, 7 and 8. The Underground Railroad led to Black settlements in St. Catharines and Buxton, Ontario, which adds to its suitability for students in this province.
Nicole Brown is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.