The Story of a Nation Built on Murder, Theft, and Cruelty

The Underground Railroad Other Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad will become a canonical text, if it isn’t already. The novel shares affinities with the works of Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, and Frederick Douglass, while contributing to contemporary discourses on race. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, Whitehead’s storytelling is vivid while his critique of America’s fundamental principles is dynamic. The Underground Railroad is told through the life of the runaway slave, Cora. The novel begins on a Georgian plantation owned by the sadistic Mr. Randall. He enacts brutal violence in order to satisfy his own thirst for profit while creating a culture of subservience. Cora escapes the plantation assisted by another slave named Caesar. As she moves North, each state presents a different manifestation of terror. Throughout the novel Cora faces fear, humiliation, and the toxicity of systematic racism. Arguably these are the common characteristics of many slave narratives. However Whitehead’s novel stands alone for the raw parallels to contemporary society. The author does not lean on moralism to convey the text’s power, yet it’s impossible for any reader to avoid the correlations. At times the […]

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