It Happened on the Underground Railroad

Excerpt from the chapter “On a Dare”

Photo credit: Robert N. Dennis, Public Domain

It was well after midnight when John Parker crept up to the back of a slave owner’s house in Kentucky and slipped through the kitchen door. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw the light of a candle shining out from underneath a bedroom door. He imagined he could hear snoring. It seemed like a simple enough mission. All he needed to do was sneak undetected into that bedroom, steal an infant, and then find a way to make his exit without being detected and shot. Mindful of the squeak of floorboards, he took another careful, heavy step into the room.


Excerpt from the chapter “Downriver”

Photo credit: George W. Young

John Fairfield was a man possessed. He angrily pulled on his boots, grabbed his whip, and stormed out of his cabin. News that one of his two slaves had escaped was bad enough, but hearing that his boat was also missing infuriated him. He stomped down to the saltworks along West Virginia’s Kanawha River, demanding that his remaining slave be summoned. In front of a gathering crowd, Fairfield accused the frightened man of being involved in the disappearance. He cracked his whip near the slave’s head, ignoring the man’s repeated denials of wrongdoing. 
What the crowd around them didn’t realize, however, was that Fairfield, the self-important businessman, was not really from Louisville, Kentucky, as he claimed. Nor was he using his real name. And the “slave” whom he was currently berating was actually a free man from Ohio.


Excerpt from the chapter “Follow the Drinking Gourd”

Photo Credit: Mr. Edward O. Clark, Public Domain.

Barney turned and looked at his reflection in the mirror. There stood the slight form of a young twenty-five-year-old woman dressed in a blue gown and cape with long white gloves. Her head was adorned with a frilly bonnet. Lace encircled her face. Her eyes, a combination of hazel and blue, peered out from a complexion of white and pink greasepaint. The transformation was unbelievable, but Barney couldn’t help but worry what kind of punishment he might receive if he were caught impersonating a white woman.