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Freedom by Any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love, and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad

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"Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true," says Betty DeRamus in the introduction to "Freedom by Any Means.""According to the usual story, slaves gained their freedom by running away, being freed by their owners, buying their way out of bondage or having someone else buy them. But how do we account for people like John Bowley, who "Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true," says Betty DeRamus in the introduction to "Freedom by Any Means.""According to the usual story, slaves gained their freedom by running away, being freed by their owners, buying their way out of bondage or having someone else buy them. But how do we account for people like John Bowley, who bluffed his and his family's way to freedom, or Althea Lynch, whose cooking sprang her from jail? And what about all those who managed to win their freedom by sidestepping tricks and traps or winning lawsuits?" Bowley, Lynch and dozens of others are as vivid and surprising as the very real characters who made the veteran journalist's first book, "Forbidden Fruit," a best-seller. "Essence" magazine described "Forbidden Fruit" as "a rich collection of true slave-era tales that are at times haunting, often riveting, but always triumphant in the end." The same can be said of "Freedom by Any Means," which takes a broader look at the various extraordinary ways that enslaved and dehumanized people achieved freedom and the means to a self-determined life. Among these people are visionaries who not only survived against the odds, but prospered -- building businesses, owning land and other property. The historical research that grounds this beautifully written narrative is drawn from unpublished memoirs, census records, government reports, periodicals, books and much more. The story of slavery and the African American experience before the Emancipation Proclamation "isn't one story," according to DeRamus, but rather a multitude of stories. This book reveals how men and women were willing not just to risk their lives to escape the slave system, but able to use their intelligence and cunning to manipulate the court system, outwit slave traders and brave the unknown in order to assert their humanity.


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"Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true," says Betty DeRamus in the introduction to "Freedom by Any Means.""According to the usual story, slaves gained their freedom by running away, being freed by their owners, buying their way out of bondage or having someone else buy them. But how do we account for people like John Bowley, who "Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true," says Betty DeRamus in the introduction to "Freedom by Any Means.""According to the usual story, slaves gained their freedom by running away, being freed by their owners, buying their way out of bondage or having someone else buy them. But how do we account for people like John Bowley, who bluffed his and his family's way to freedom, or Althea Lynch, whose cooking sprang her from jail? And what about all those who managed to win their freedom by sidestepping tricks and traps or winning lawsuits?" Bowley, Lynch and dozens of others are as vivid and surprising as the very real characters who made the veteran journalist's first book, "Forbidden Fruit," a best-seller. "Essence" magazine described "Forbidden Fruit" as "a rich collection of true slave-era tales that are at times haunting, often riveting, but always triumphant in the end." The same can be said of "Freedom by Any Means," which takes a broader look at the various extraordinary ways that enslaved and dehumanized people achieved freedom and the means to a self-determined life. Among these people are visionaries who not only survived against the odds, but prospered -- building businesses, owning land and other property. The historical research that grounds this beautifully written narrative is drawn from unpublished memoirs, census records, government reports, periodicals, books and much more. The story of slavery and the African American experience before the Emancipation Proclamation "isn't one story," according to DeRamus, but rather a multitude of stories. This book reveals how men and women were willing not just to risk their lives to escape the slave system, but able to use their intelligence and cunning to manipulate the court system, outwit slave traders and brave the unknown in order to assert their humanity.

30 review for Freedom by Any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love, and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad

  1. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Erhardt

    I am grateful this book crossed my path. It breathes great life into the little we knew of the Civil War in America. Before this book, I had learned the Civil War as a short and bloody war that threatened to tear our growing nation apart over slavery. And Harriet Tubman was the only hero who helped rescue hundreds of enslaved people. That was it. In Freedom by Any Means, Betty DeRamus nudges awake the truth and stories of the awesome struggle of other people around the period of the Civil War wh I am grateful this book crossed my path. It breathes great life into the little we knew of the Civil War in America. Before this book, I had learned the Civil War as a short and bloody war that threatened to tear our growing nation apart over slavery. And Harriet Tubman was the only hero who helped rescue hundreds of enslaved people. That was it. In Freedom by Any Means, Betty DeRamus nudges awake the truth and stories of the awesome struggle of other people around the period of the Civil War who railed against slavery in any way they could, who resisted and fought against beliefs and a system founded on those beliefs to keep enslaved people ignorant, hopeless, dehumanized, demonized, and monetized. If You think Black Lives Matter is some kind of joke today... Psh. This book reminds us that our Black citizens are descendants of righteous, courageous, determined, and ingenious heroes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I really wanted to love this book. What an amazing topic! And parts of it truly were enjoyable and the writing did hint at DeRamus being a phenomenal author. But the stories were just too disjointed to be enjoyable. At times it felt more like what a young college students accomplish when they write everything they were able to learn about a topic into an essay. I couldn't quite make myself finish this book. I really wanted to love this book. What an amazing topic! And parts of it truly were enjoyable and the writing did hint at DeRamus being a phenomenal author. But the stories were just too disjointed to be enjoyable. At times it felt more like what a young college students accomplish when they write everything they were able to learn about a topic into an essay. I couldn't quite make myself finish this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Sebesta

    Written in a style quite unlike most histories -- it's closer to a romance novel. The author manages to find more interesting stories than almost any other author in the same amount of space, possibly because she's got the most interesting part of the Antebellum Period practically to herself. The Underground Railroad is straight up fascinating. It's more than fifty years of desperate passion, crazy courtroom battles, gunfights and people mailing themselves to Boston. But the way the book is writt Written in a style quite unlike most histories -- it's closer to a romance novel. The author manages to find more interesting stories than almost any other author in the same amount of space, possibly because she's got the most interesting part of the Antebellum Period practically to herself. The Underground Railroad is straight up fascinating. It's more than fifty years of desperate passion, crazy courtroom battles, gunfights and people mailing themselves to Boston. But the way the book is written is a bit maddening, it's just a collection of anecdotes that are written in a sort of nonchalant style and never begin or end. Here's a person who did this or that. Here's another person, who never met them, who lived somewhere else, did other stuff. Sometimes she uses particularly dire framing devices, like the chapter in which she awarded Oscars to escaped slaves. But I do give her credit for sheer mass of interesting anecdote.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Ayers

    Fascinating book. I did sometimes wish the narrative was more specific to particular people. The author has a tendency to start talking about someone, and then broaden the narrative to talk about everything that was going on during that time, using long lists of events and dates and names. Then the story narrows to that particular person again. This made me lose focus sometimes -- I would rather have the intensely focused story of the person told all at once, with all the "and here's the OTHER s Fascinating book. I did sometimes wish the narrative was more specific to particular people. The author has a tendency to start talking about someone, and then broaden the narrative to talk about everything that was going on during that time, using long lists of events and dates and names. Then the story narrows to that particular person again. This made me lose focus sometimes -- I would rather have the intensely focused story of the person told all at once, with all the "and here's the OTHER stuff that was going on!" to come either before or after. However, that's a personal preference, and overall the book is a remarkable collection of personal, moving stories and achievements.

  5. 4 out of 5

    RYCJ

    Quite a few creative liberties were taken, making for a very 'entertaining read while still leaving much of its soul in place. A number of the stories I've however read in other books, but liked the idea of having a "central" resource pulling together so many stories of those who fought against American slavery. Quite a few creative liberties were taken, making for a very 'entertaining read while still leaving much of its soul in place. A number of the stories I've however read in other books, but liked the idea of having a "central" resource pulling together so many stories of those who fought against American slavery.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kim Hampton

    I enjoyed the stories in this book, but I wish some of them had been explained in more detail.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Excellent research book for the underground railroad. Provides the human stories that made this a legend. Lots of love stories and wild schemes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I put it down after 2 chapters. I was looking forward to amazing stories of courage and will, not lists of names, places, and events. Ah well, it's a good idea.... I put it down after 2 chapters. I was looking forward to amazing stories of courage and will, not lists of names, places, and events. Ah well, it's a good idea....

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chelinda

  10. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vannessa

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue Gabianelli-danneker

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  17. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    A bit disjointed and stilted. Very interesting though

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marla Glenn

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

  20. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Karen Brown

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tina Larson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dusky Literati

  28. 5 out of 5

    Khari Toure

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jazmin Lauren

    Stories of different ways that slaves got their freedom etc

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Pepler

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