Walker's Bookshelf

What It Means To Be Free

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a literal and figurative exploration of the historical Underground Railroad of mid-19th century America.  Whitehead takes the reader on-board a literal underground railroad that takes slaves from one unknown destination to the next. The railroad serves as a metaphor for the harrowing realities encountered by slaves fleeing bondage. The story follows a runaway slave named Cora as she travels from Georgia to Indiana. Throughout her journey, she witnesses how slaves who yearn for freedom and liberty often end up bloodied, beaten, and dead.

The Underground Railroad is not just any modern slave narrative. The message it sends is fierce, audacious, and grand. Colson Whitehead holds a mirror to modern-day America and asks us what it means to be free.


Beloved by Toni Morrison

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved (publisher’s description).

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin (publisher’s description).

Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

A tale set in a modern America where the Civil War never happened and the country has forged a dubious agreement with four states that still enforce slavery follows the experiences of a talented black bounty hunter who makes discoveries about his mysterious past while infiltrating an abolitionist group to catch a high-profile runaway (Minerva).