This is a remarkable true story of Cecelia Jane Reynolds who escaped the Underground Railroad and returned for the sake of her family.
Born into bondage in Louisville, Kentucky, Cecelia was only fifteen years old in 1846 when she made her perilous journey across the Niagara River. With a fellow freedom-seeker’s aid, she reached Toronto where she married Underground Railroad conductor Benjamin Holmes and began a new life. But she never forgot the beloved family members she had been forced to leave behind.
I find it so sad when people have to flee where they lived and were born. They have to leave behind everyone they know and love too. Unless you go through how hard this is, you really won’t know first-hand. Karolyn Smardz Frost does a splendid job describing this feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Cecilia risked her own freedom when she wrote to her Kentucky owners asking the price of her mother’s liberty. The letter rekindled her relationship with Fanny, the Louisville belle who was both her mistress and the closest companion of her childhood, and began a twenty-year correspondence entirely unique in the annals of the Underground Railroad.
Cecelia’s struggle to raise the needed funds carried her across the Atlantic and from the Rochester, New York of the great Frederick Douglass to the battlefields of the Civil War. At the end of the war, she returned to Kentucky with her wounded husband and two small children. But hooded Night Riders roamed the countryside, terrorizing newly freed Blacks. It was to Fanny that Cecelia turned and these two very different women resumed the previous but unequal friendship that would endure for the rest of their lives.
This book is beautifully written and a well-researched piece of narrative nonfiction. It is a book that readers will love and read and reread for many years to come.
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by: Irene S. Roth