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Thursday, March 28, 2019

GET on BOARD: THE STORY of the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Jim Haskins



Published in 1993 by Scholastic.

Levi Coffin House, a major stopping point of the
Underground Railroad
Jim Haskins' introduction to the Underground Railroad is aimed at grades 4-7. It is a solid little history of the origins of the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad and slavery. It mostly focuses on the heroes of the abolitionist movement, but it does its best to try to work in a lot of individual stories of the Underground Railroad.

For example, I enjoyed the letter that Jermain Wesley Loguen wrote to his former owner (he had run away) when she demanded that he pay for himself. It was the perfect blend of snark and indignant refusal.

The longest biography in the book goes to Harriet Tubman with Frederick Douglass coming in a close second. That is appropriate since their stories are extraordinary. Haskins does a real solid job of introducing the two real-life people that the most famous African American characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin are based on and then reminding the reader of them when he discusses the novel and its impact.

However, it is not a perfect book. The pictures are, on the whole, very poor - much like a poor photocopy of a photo.

There is a problem when Haskins discusses Levi Coffin, who is sometimes called the President of the Underground Railroad as a testament to his commitment to the cause and the number of runaway slaves that he helped. Haskins makes it sound like Coffin's home is near Cincinnati (on the East Fork of the Ohio River - which doesn't exist, according to Google) but he discusses and shows a picture of his home in Fountain City. I have been to the Levi Coffin house many times in the last few years (they have a tour and a visitor's center -it's worth your time to visit) and I know that the Coffin family lived near Cincinnati at one point in time but then moved to Fountain City, Indiana. Google tells me that it is 79 miles from Cincinnati, which means that Haskins has confused the two locations.

But, on the whole, this is a nifty introduction to the Underground Railroad.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: GET on BOARD: THE STORY of the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Jim Haskins.

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