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I've Got a Home in Glory Land

A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad

Karolyn Smardz Frost

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction
 
No one will ever know how many runaway slaves traveled the routes of the Underground Railroad. Only a handful of those who escaped ever revealed its secrets. I've Got a Home in Glory Land chronicles an unknown story of this clandestine and illegal system, the most important social justice movement of nineteenth-century America.
 
In 1831, a black man could be a slave when standing on the south bank and a free man on the north. On the day before Independence Day of that year, Thornton Blackburn waited wharfside in Louisville, Kentucky, with his bride, Lucie, who was about to be sold "down the river" to the brutal and sexually exploitative slave markets of the Deep South. This would essentially guarantee that husband and wife would never meet again. But Thornton and Lucie, clad in their finest holiday-making clothes, had devised a brilliantly audacious escape in broad daylight.
 
Pursued to Michigan, the couple was captured and sentenced to return to Kentucky in chains, but Detroit's black community rallied to their cause. The resultant Blackburn Riots of 1833 were the first racial uprising in the city's history. Thornton and Lucie were spirited across the river to Canada by sympathetic freedmen, but Michigan's governor demanded their extradition, and their masters, eager to make an example of them, were willing to spend far more than the former slaves' market value to return them to servitude. Canada's defense of the Blackburns set the tone for all future diplomatic relations with the United States over the thorny issue of the fugitive slave. The Blackburns settled in Toronto, but they never forgot those for whom emancipation was a distant and uncertain dream. Working with prominent abolitionists, Thornton and Lucie made their home a haven for runaways. Thornton would endanger his freedom one last time when he secretly returned to the United States to bring his mother—whom he had not seen in more than a dozen years—to liberty.
 
When the Blackburns passed away in the 1890s, they left no family to preserve their legacy. It was not until their small house, filled with artifacts that speak eloquently of their daily lives, was excavated that the truth of Thornton and Lucie's heroism was rediscovered. I've Got a Home in Glory Land is the result of decades of research by the author, who supervised the dig of the Blackburn site.

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I've Got a Home In Glory Land
KENTUCKY1WADE IN THE WATER, CHILDREN25 DOLLARS REWARDThe subscribers will give for the apprehension and return of a colored man named THORNTON, who absconded from our employ on the 3rd or 4th day of July, inst. Said Thornton is about 5 feet, 9 or 10 inches high; stout made and of a yellow complexion; light eyes, and of good address; had on when he left a blue cloth coat, and pantaloons; boots, and a black hat.WURTS & REINHARD--Louisville Public Advertiser, July 7, 1831IT WAS JULY 3, 1831, the day before Independence Day, and Thornton Blackburn stood casually
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REVIEWS

Praise for I've Got a Home in Glory Land

"Karolyn Smardz Frost's superb research has produced a wonderful account of the underground railroad, elevating Thornton and Lucy Blackburn to their rightful place in the dramatic story of pre-Civil War slave resistance, abolition, and African American life on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. This finely detailed account depicts a truly international antislavery movement." —James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, coauthors of Slavery and the Making of America and Hard Road to Freedom
 
"A deep-digging work of rich historical recovery, I've Got a Home in Glory Land is really two books: a biography of two famous runaways and a sifting of the rock-filled times in which they lived." —Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family and Peninsula of Lies

"To retrace the journey of a runaway slave from the Ohio River Valley all the way to Canada is an immense challenge and a rare accomplishment. In her well-researched and well-written book, Karolyn Smardz Frost has done just that -- and more. Bravo for Frost who has saved a remarkable story from the fate of other important histories that have been lost. Only by piecing together such stories and revealing the bold choices runaway slaves were forced to make, the dangers they faced, and the courage required to forge ahead, can we ever fully grasp how difficult it was for a slave in antebellum America to achieve freedom and just how desperate people can be to get free." —Ann Hagedorn, author of Beyond the River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Karolyn Smardz Frost

  • Karolyn Smardz Frost is internationally recognized for her work in public archaeology and history. A native of Toronto, she now lives in Collingwood, Ontario.
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I've Got a Home in Glory Land

A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad

Karolyn Smardz Frost

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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