Praise for Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America

EXCERPTS: From The Intro

REVIEWS: Wall street Journal | Publisher’s Weekly | New Yorker | American Heritage | Civil War History | The Smithsonian | Kliatt | the Washington Post | the afrolumens project | the atlantic

“The network of abolitionists devoted to helping slaves find their freedom wasn’t described as ‘underground’ for nothing. Records of its operations are scarce. Yet in ‘Bound for Canaan’, Fergus M. Bordewich illuminates the lives and times of the Underground Railroad’s stationmasters, conductors and passengers. He has written an excellent book that is probably as close to a definitive history as we’re likely to see. ”—Wall Street Journal

“If you can read only one book (on the Underground Railroad, read Bound for Canaan).”—The essential underground railroad curriculm

“Most American history textbooks paint a romantic picture of the the Underground Railroad. In his new book Bound for Canaan author Fergus Bordewich challenges those images, telling the story of a bi-racial movement animated by moral outrage, religious fervor and radical politics.”—National Public Radio

Listen to Fergus Bordewich interviewed on National Public Radio

“The author’s skill in unearthing long-buried sources of information in an area of history where so little was written down, is impressive. The rediscovery of contemporary voices such as Josiah Henson, a slave who won his freedom in a harrowing cross-country escape with his family in tow, adds new insight to the better-known sagas of harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Together they tell a story that, as Bordewich so eloquently puts it, “is no more ‘black history’ than it is ‘white history:’ it is American history, and it swept into its orbit Americans of every hue.’”—Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch

“The book is comprehensive, authoritative, and a darn good read.”—Albany (NY) Times-Union

“...must reading for anyone interested in American history. This is history the way it should be written — totally accessible, and filled with details and descriptions not easily found elsewhere.”—KUOW, Seattle, WA

“ important addition to our often murky conception of mid-19th century America... sweeping.” —St. Petersburg (FL) Times

“...excellent... I tried to read a section of this book aloud to my wife, and after one page found myself so overcome by emotion that I couldn't speak. Bordewich alternates stories that are very sad, and embarrassing, with uplifting accounts of the people who got away and the good folks who helped them. All in all, it’s a part of American history that everyone should know—and great reading, too.”—Providence (RI) Journal

“A vivid reconstruction of abolitionism’s most daring act of rebellion. Rich in detail and solid storytelling: sure to awaken interest in the peculiar anti-institution.”Kirkus Reviews Starred

“This is a masterful story—a deeply American story—of the human quest for freedom. This multi-racial movement is still a beacon of hope in our present dark times.”—Cornel West, University Professor of Religion, Princeton University, and author of Race Matters

“This fast-paced narrative is the best account we have of the network of back roads and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to freedom in that Promised Land.”—James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

“Fergus Bordewich has done the nearly impossible. It has been over 100 years since a comprehensive work like this has been written on the Underground Railroad. Bound for Canaan liberates us all from the myths of the Underground Railroad, and shines a bright light on the real inner workings of what was once a powerfully secret and wholly illegal operation.”—Kate Clifford Larson, Ph.D., Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero

(For more on Harriet Tubman please visit

“A while back I got a manuscript from the folks at Amistad—it is the cat’s ass!!!! Do you see those dark circles under my eyes?? Well I’ve been up late cause I can’t put it down. Lovely writing without being preachy—and piles of food for thought. What he has to say about Jefferson is worth the price—those founding fathers were perhaps not all they are cracked up to be—this book has made me think and has stuck to the brain pan more than most.”—Nancy Brown, R.J. Julia Booksellers

“A wrenching, highly personalized account of this great American exercise in civil disobedience. Bordewich’s book not only documents a vital passage of American history, it also provides essential reading for anyone surveying the moral landscape of present-day America.”—Jack Kelly, Dutchess Magazine

“Bordewich draws mainly from primary sources to craft a rich, spellbinding, and readable narrative for lay readers. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.”Library Journal Starred Review

“Bordewich brings to life the drama and extraordinary personalities involved in the underground railroad.”Booklist

“A clear, utterly compelling survey of the Railroad from its earliest days in Revolution-era America through the Civil War and the extension of the vote to African Americans in 1870. The men and women of Bordewich’s remarkable account will remain with readers for a long time to come.”Publishers Weekly Starred Review