Flee North

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Flee North:

Thomas Smallwood is the KING of trolling 1800s slaveowners.

Quick synopsis:

The story of an extremely successful branch of the Underground Railroad in the 1840s.

Fact for Non-History People:

After helping slaves escape, Smallwood would write and articles that Torrey published mocking the slaveowners for “losing” their slaves. Again, Thomas Smallwood is THE MAN.

Fact for History Nerds:

The first use of “Underground Railroad” might have been uttered by a policeman complaining about Smallwood’s ability to get away with freeing slaves.

My Take on Flee North:

Slavery was evil and despicable. Any reasonable person would agree. Scott Shane’s Flee North adds a new adjective, messy. Flee North mostly follows the daring adventures of former slave, Thomas Smallwood and his literal partner in crime, Charles Torrey. Both men would actively help slaves flee north towards safer environments in increasingly dangerous ways that would put both men’s lives in danger.

This conceit is enough for a great book, but what takes it to the next level is Shane’s parsing out of just how many different viewpoints came into conflict during this time. Abolitionists were not all the same. Many people understand that, but Shane highlights those major differences while holding up both Smallwood and Torrey as heroes who were not always the easiest to get along with. Everyone could fall under the term, “abolitionist” but they were not all attempting to reach the same goal. This book is a great read for someone who wants to leave more about the nitty gritty of the Mason-Dixon line during the time of slavery. It adds a tremendous amount of detail that most books skip right over.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Celadon Books.)


An excellent book for anyone interested in this time period. Buy it here!

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Flee North by Scott Shane
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