The Ivy is pleased to welcome Richard Bell to discuss his new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home.
Stolen is the gripping, true story of five free black boys who were kidnapped from Philadelphia in 1825 and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South—and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice. Jill Lepore writes in a blurb, “Richard Bell’s heartbreaking and searing account of their story chronicles not only the agonies and atrocities of slavery, but the fragility of freedom, and the dauntlessness of resistance.”
While there is much information available about the Underground Railroad, very little has been written about the reverse Underground Railroad, the black market network of human traffickers and slave traders who stole away thousands of legally free African Americans from their families. Most of those kidnapped could not read or write, and despite their families’ best efforts to track them down, they were never heard from again.
The story of these five boys—Cornelius Sinclair, Sam Scomp, Enos Tilghman, Alex Manlove, and Joe Johnson—has never been told before. Drawing on over four years of research in archives across a variety of states, Bell, a professor of Early American History at the University of Maryland, uses this extraordinary narrative to trace the complicated history of the reverse Underground Railroad and its role in igniting the Civil War. With Stolen, readers will find an impeccably researched and vital work of American history, but also a deeply emotional and riveting story that they will not soon forget.
Richard teaches Early American history at the University of Maryland. He has received several teaching prizes and major research fellowships including the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award. His first book, We Shall Be No More: Suicide and Self-Government in the Newly United States, was published in 2012.
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