Escape on the Pearl: The Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Railroad

New York, NY: William Morrow & Company, 2007. First edition [stated]. First printing [stated]. Hardcover. xi, [5], 432 pages. Map. Occasional footnotes. Illustrations. Appendix A--The Edmonson Farm. Appendix B--The Fugitives. Notes. Index. Inscribed by the author on t-p. Inscription reads To Peter-- Best, Mary Kay (Chris's mom). A former attorney at the Department of Labor, Mary Kay Ricks has written about Washington history in numerous publications including the Washington Post. Mary Kay Ricks's unforgettable chronicle brings to life the Underground Railroad's largest escape attempt, the seemingly immutable politics of slavery, and the individuals who struggled to end it. Escape on the Pearl reveals the incredible odyssey of those who were onboard, including the remarkable lives of fugitives Mary and Emily Edmonson, the two sisters at the heart of this true story of courage and determination. On the evening of April 15, 1848, nearly eighty enslaved Americans attempted one of history's most audacious escapes. Setting sail from Washington, D.C., on a schooner named the Pearl, the fugitives began a daring 225-mile journey to freedom in the North—and put in motion a furiously fought battle over slavery in America that would consume Congress, the streets of the capital, and the White House itself. Derived from a Kirkus review: Compelling narrative of a little-known episode in the long struggle to abolish slavery in America. The residents of Washington, D.C., may have been torn on the issue of slavery, but in 1848, the “curious institution” was still practiced there; moreover, Ricks writes, the Upper South—the District, Virginia and Maryland—was increasingly important as a source of slaves for the Deep South, in what Ricks calls “the internal slave trade.” Punishment for those who aided runaway slaves was severe, and it was thus quite daring of the abolitionists and slaves alike to undertake an attempted mass escape on the schooner Pearl. On April 15, 1848, about 70 slaves, including a tight-knit group of siblings, gathered in twos and threes on a dock not far from a slave pen just south of the National Mall—a prison that, Ricks notes, was promoted as “next to the copy of the Declaration of Independence also preserved here, the greatest curiosity to be seen at the Federal City.” The schooner slipped away and was well on course for the North and freedom, but then it hit one of the Chesapeake Bay’s frequent tempests; a pursuing posse of Georgetown deputies caught up with the Pearl, returned its cargo to slavery and jailed the would-be liberators, who, as Ricks notes, represented a widespread and varied group of interests throughout America, from country preachers to Wall Street magnates. Ricks has a keen eye for sites of the slaves’ voyage that can be visited today. She has an equally strong sense, well reflected in her pages, of how the now largely forgotten incident figured into the fierce pro- and antislavery battles of the time, which would soon end in civil war. A valuable account, closing with a moving summary of the fate of the Pearl’s people and their descendants. Condition: Very good / Very good.

Keywords: Gamaliel Bailey, Joseph Bruin, William Chaplin, Daniel Drayton, Emily Edmonson, Frederick Douglass, Edward Sayres, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Edmonson, Horace Mann

ISBN: 9780060786595

[Book #85061]

Price: $60.00

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