Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about John P. Parker, a hero of the underground railroad:
John P. Parker (1827 – January 30, 1900) was an American abolitionist, inventor, iron moulder and industrialist. Parker, who was African American, helped hundreds of slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad resistance movement based in Ripley, Ohio. He rescued fugitive slaves for nearly fifteen years. He was one of the few black people to patent an invention before 1900. His house in Ripley has been designated a National Historic Landmark and restored.
His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad
Mr. Parker was a businessman, an inventor, and a wonderful storyteller. He also was born into slavery, failed in escaping but succeeded in purchasing himself (and his freedom), and aggressively worked to help many people liberate themselves from the bonds of slavery. His autobiography is more fun to read than most fiction. In fact, Frank Gregg, a newspaperman and acquaintance of Parker’s, originally interviewed Parker to learn the true details of the Eliza story in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. After hearing the details of Parker’s life Gregg turned it into a book of fiction titled “Borderland”
Stuart Sprague and Robert Newman assembled “His Promised Land” from Gregg’s handwritten transcript of his interview with Parker. They found it in the Duke University archives and took great pains to decipher Gregg’s handwriting. We are better off for their efforts. Some of the stories he tells have been recounted elsewhere, Eliza’s escape of course (although Parker admits only knowing about it second hand), trapped on the steamboat to Maysville, and contemplating a daylight raid into Kentucky to rescue a band of refugees from bondage. John Rankin, who worked with Parker published an autobiography and Gregg was not the only person to interview Parker so many of his adventures have been recorded but the benefit here is hearing them in his own words. Gregg interviewed Parker something in the 1880s. Parker had twenty years to tell his tales and mentally edit them into short dramas. He tells them in plain English, not the in the stilted language “educated” men used at the time. (Although Parker did spend a little time at Yale.) The difference is easy to see in a few pages that were missing from the original document that Sprague filled in with an excerpt from Gregg’s novel “The Borderland”. Parker is a much better storyteller.
I could go on and on with praises for the book until I filled more pages than the book, it is only 151 pages. I won’t. All I will say is read it. Get your children to read it. It is that good.