The Maryland based Underground Railroad Free Press published the below Bordewich and DeCaro reviews of my book and film in their November newsletter. This is a well known site for Underground Railroad information in the Northeast United States. It is great to get the information about our Midwest Underground Railroad operations a wider audience.
First, let me say that your film is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen on the UGRR. The visuals are varied and engrossing, the music is excellent, and — most important — you deliver a huge amount of material concisely and interestingly, and clearly explain the geographical relationship of places to each other, as well as the relationships of your many historical characters.
Gary Jenkins continues his examination of Chattel slavery in America. He courageously looks deep into our history and exposes the details of the fight over slavery in the Midwest. It is both challenging and inspiring. The film makes this history come alive. Keep on keeping on, Gary! Kevin Willmott, Filmmaker, CSA – Confederate States of America.
Overall, it is a valuable work informationally because, as you know, there is little popular understanding of the regional issues relating to antebellum slavery and the antislavery movement, and things tend to be generalized, so this is valuable. More importantly, your documentary showcases a number of important figures–especially John Ritchie, who is a real gem, and for whom I am most grateful for your work of revealing in FREEDOM SEEKERS. Indeed, what you’ve contributed is priceless–you’ve provided a framework for understanding the western URR, Kansas/Missouri dynamics, and various dimensions of the antislavery crusade out west, and have done so in an interesting, well produced, and beautifully portrayed storyline, employing excellent local historians and experts. I both enjoyed it and learned from it, and I highly recommend it. I would be most eager to promote it on my blog (for what that’s worth). This is a documentary that can bridge between popular and academic audiences, and it is a tool that can educate students and scholars alike. Dr. Louis DeCaro Jr. “Fire from the Midst of You”: A Religious Life of John Brown(NYU Press, 2002), John Brown–the Cost of Freedom(International Publishers, 2007)
JOHN BROWN AND THE LAST TRAIN, which is the only contemporary publication that I know about relating to Brown’s 1858-59 liberation effort. Certainly it is the most readable, with wonderful illustrations and helpful inserts, along with a bibliography of sources. I have some older works done about Brown’s trek across Iowa, but your book brings it alive and organizes it quite effectively. Thank you for making this contribution to the literature. Dr. Louis DeCaro Jr.