It is extraordinary that two books are simultaneously bringing Sydney Howard Gay’s riveting and remarkable 1855-1856 Record of Fugitives to light.

Eric Foner’s comprehensive Gateway to Freedom,  which was recently released,  highlights accounts from Gay’s RecordSecret Lives is the first book to publish all of Gay’s stories and to compare them with stories William Still wrote of the same fugitives before he forwarded them to Gay. Secret Lives  has full accounts of the George Kirk and Lemmon cases which made Gay’s chief collaborator, Louis Napoleon, the most famous black Underground Railroad agent in New York City. Secret Lives also contains the first Underground Railroad biographies of Sydney Howard Gay and Napoleon ever published.

Secret Lives discloses how Gay transformed himself from a defender of slaveholders’ rights into an abolitionist. It follows the bitter conflict which severed his friendship with Frederick Douglass,  explains why Douglass acknowledged the work of Napoleon and ignored Gay, and it reveals why Gay and William Still did not recognize Frederick Douglass’ Underground Railroad work.

Gateway to Freedom and Secret Lives are complementary studies. Gateway to Freedom whets the appetite. Secret lives  fulfills our need to know more.


 


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I like the list of the agents that were connected to Gay and Napoleon. The list includes Rev. J.B. Smith of Toronto. Rev. Smith was also involved in the rescue of Patrick Sneed, aka Watson who was interviewed by Benjamin Drew in his book, a North side view of slavery.
Rev. Josiah B. Smith was the minister of the AME Church on Sayer Street, later BME. And he was from New England.
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