Railroad author Bordewich
to discuss new book in Madison
MADISON, Ind. (March 2005) Author Fergus M.
Bordewich will be making a stop in Madison, Ind., on March 31 for a
signing and discussion of his book, Bound for Canaan, the Underground
Railroad and the War for the Soul of America.
Bordewichs book tells a story about how the Underground Railroad
became what he calls the greatest movement of civil disobedience
since the American Revolution, engaging thousands of citizens in the
active subversion of federal law and the prevailing mores of their communities.
M. Bordewichs book Bound for Canaan features
Due to the areas rich Underground Railroad history,
Bordewich speaks frequently about Indiana and Madison in his book.
Ive read the book and it is quite good, said Joe Carr,
executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Madisons
involvement makes this an ideal location for a signing.
Bordewich visited Madison and spent a couple of days researching the
intricate, well-organized Underground Railroad routes that took hundreds
of runaway slaves through the area. He recalls his visit as one
of his most productive days I have ever spent doing research.
The story in Madison is unusually dramatic because of its location
on the river, right on the front line between free and slave states,
said Bordewich. The area is also unusual in the respect that the
history there is so well documented.
Overall, Bordewich says, Underground Railroad history is better documented
than many people think. The quality of the material in Indiana and in
Madison, possibly because of the large number of people that were involved
in the movement there, he says, is better than most other places.
I have encountered some of the most knowledgeable people and best
research in the state of Indiana, said Bordewich. It is
one of the best organized states in the country in terms of Underground
Bordewich has written for publications such as The New York Times, Harpers
Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, American Heritage and Readers Digest,
and many other top publications. Bound for Canaan is his fourth book.
His interest in human rights began as a child growing up in a neighborhood
in New York that was said to have been settled by fugitive runaways
of the Underground Railroad. I grew up close to the story,
he said. Additionally, I write a great deal about human rights,
and the Underground Railroad sits at the forefront of those issues.
Bound for Canaan tells the stories involving abolitionists
who lived and worked in Madison and Indiana. The book tells stories
of men such as George DeBaptiste, a free black man who led hundreds
of runaways north to freedom, and Levi Coffin who assisted freedom
seekers primarily in Fountain City, Ind. DeBaptistes former home
is marked today in the Georgetown district of downtown Madison,
an area named a Historic District on the National Historic Register
Bound for Canaan is not an academic book.
It is written as a fast-paced narrative rooted in thorough research,
said Bordewich. Not only is it a story about Underground Railroad history,
it also examines the role that the Underground Railroad played in the
abolition of slavery, the precipitation of the Civil War, and the larger
issue of race relations in the United States. Underground Railroad history
is not about tunnels and hidey holes but about people of extraordinary
courage who changed the way people thought about slavery, explained
It is a story about people, morality and courage, he said.
I hope that the book will help to lift the subject of the Underground
Railroad out of the realm of legend and restore it to its rightful place
in the struggle for human rights in American History.
The Bound for Canaan signing
and discussion will be held at 6 p.m. on March 31 in the Heritage Center
at the Jefferson County Historical Society, 615 W. First St. The book
will be available for purchase at the Historical Society that evening.
For more information, call the Historical Society at (812) 265-2335.
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