In 1825, five young, free black boys in Philadelphia were lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, but were met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives. Over four long months, their captors, members of the nation's most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers, drove them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Their ordeal took them to the marshes of Mississippi and beyond—shining a glaring spotlight on the Reverse Underground Railroad, a black market network of human traffickers and slave traders who stole away thousands of legally free African Americans from their families in order to fuel slavery’s rapid expansion in the decades before the Civil War. Determined to resist, the boys formed a tight brotherhood as they struggled to free themselves and find their way home. Through incredible twists of circumstance, and by means of their own brave resourcefulness, they succeeded. In Stolen, historian Richard Bell introduces us to these five boys, whose courage forever changed the fight against slavery in America. Join us for a talk about their rare story, and about the role that newspapers played in determining its outcome, from helping to identify and locate the kidnappers, to shaping public opinion in both the North and the South on the boys' case for freedom, to inspiring abolitionist journalists to craft stories that appealed very strategically to readers' emotions, a tactic later taken up by all sides of the partisan divide, and one we still recognize in our own media landscape. Please note: this event takes place on Zoom; registration is required. Presenter: Richard Bell teaches Early American history at the University of Maryland. He has received several teaching prizes and major research fellowships including the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award. His first book, We Shall Be No More: Suicide and Self-Government in the Newly United States, was published in 2012. He is also the author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home.
Date: Thursday, June 18, 2020
Time: 7:00pm - 8:30pm