Eric Foner’s comprehensive Gateway to Freedom, which was recently released, highlights accounts from Gay’s Record. Secret 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.