This week we received the eloquent and insightful foreword to our book from SUNY New Paltz Professor A. J. Williams-Myers.  A scholar of African-American history in the downstate region of New York State, Professor Williams-Myers has for many years been interested in the Underground Railroad and published an article in Afro-Americans In New York Life and History about its operation in New York City.

We were elated by his positive and supportive reaction to Secret Lives . . .  and would like to extract some brief passages from it.

In terms of what the Underground Railroad can be seen to have been [are five responses]: Humanity joined together against inhumanity; A moral challenge to an immoral mindset; An added thread to an unfinished journey of human freedom; Quilting of the American Dream – Freedom!; and ultimately, Black and White in defiance of the law to rescue the enslaved.  All five speak to what authors Tom Calarco and Don Papson write about so well in their book.”

I thought this observation to be an apt description of the contents of our book.  He also zeroed in on part of what makes the book significant:

“a missing and/or added link to fathoming the internal dynamics of New York City’s crucial, center stage, operable role in keeping the Freedom Line up and running . . . .  [that] not only heralds [Gay’s] center stage contributions to the ongoing operations of the Freedom Line, but as well heralds an apparent, little known key agent of his, Louis Napoleon.”

Myers-Williams sums up his analysis with a very powerful recommendation:

It is through Gay’s Record that our knowledge not only of New York City’s key role at the center of operations on the Freedom Line in and out of the city is stronger, but through its entries we, the readers, are as well privy to an enhanced, more personalized look at those operations from within, figuratively speaking, the Command Post.  The authors, Tom Calarco and Don Papson have used the host of entries from that Command Post to tell of the heroic and committed few who assisted so many to Freedom.  The tale they tell of New York City’s role in the Underground Railroad “is that it was a moral challenge posed to a nation that had lost its moral compass; and around which rallied morally committed individuals whose freedom was not worth much so long as others were enslaved. …”1 And what a tale have they told.   

1.       A. J. Williams-Myers, "Some Notes on The Extent of New York City's Involvement In the Underground Railroad," Afro-Americans In New York Life and History, Vol. 29, No. 2 (July 2005): p. 74.


 


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A. J. Williams-Myers
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The remarks are grippingly engaging, yet so historically enlightening as to the raison d'etre of the Underground Railroad.

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