One thought on “03 Underground Railroad”

  1. I really felt for Cora. It was interesting to see her perspective change as she moved through the underground railroad and experienced “freedom.”

    In South Carolina, Cora was happy and basked in her freedom as she learned how to read and slept in the first real bed she had ever slept in. But slowly she started to realize that things were not as they seemed. Her perspective changed when she came to work in the museum: “There had been no kidnapped boys swabbing the decks and earning pats on the head from white kidnappers. The enterprising African boy whose fine leather boots she wore would have been chained belowdecks, swabbing his body in his own filth. Slave work was sometimes spinning thread, yes; but most times it was not. No slave had ever keeled over dead at a spinning wheel or been butchered for a tangle. But nobody wanted to speak on the true disposition of the world. And no one wanted to hear it. Certainly not the white monsters on the other side of the exhibit at that very moment, pushing their greasy snouts against the window, sneering and hooting. Truth was a changing display in a shop window, manipulated by hands when you weren’t looking, alluring and ever out of reach.

    “The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freemen had fled theirs. But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others.”

    and here: “With the surgeries that Dr. Stevens described, Cora thought, the whites had begun stealing futures in earnest. Cut you open and rip them out, dripping. Because that’s what you do when you take away someone’s babies — steal their future. Torture them as much as you can when they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.”

    While holed up in the attic in North Carolina:
    “What a world it is, Cora thought, that makes a living prison into your only haven. Was she out of bondage or in its web: how to describe the status of a runaway? Freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close but from outside, from the empty meadow, you see its true limits. Being free had nothing to do with chains or how much space you had. On the plantation, she was not free, but she moved unrestricted on its acres, tasting the air and tracing the summer stars. The place was big in its smallness. Here, she was free of her master but slunk around a warren so tiny she couldn’t stand.”

    “Cora hadn’t left the top floors of the house in months but her perspective roved widely. North Carolina had its Justice Hill, and she had hers. Looking down over the universe of the park, she saw the town drift where it wanted, washed by sunlight on a stone bench, cooled in the shadows of the hanging tree. But they were prisoners like she was, shackled to fear. Martin and Ethel were terrified of the watchful eyes behind every darkened window. The town huddled together on Friday nights in the hope their numbers warded off the things in the dark: the rising black tribe; the enemy who concocts accusations; the child who undertakes a magnificent revenge for a scolding and brings the house down around them. Better to hide in attics than to confront what lurked behind the faces of neighbors, friends, and family.”

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