The Underground Railway by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When a recent arrival from Virginia tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.
Trigger & Content Warnings:
- Racism & racial slurs
- White supremacy & the Klu Klux Klan
- Rape & sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Suicide & attempted suicide