Reader’s Forum–Harry Kresky

Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad is inspiring.  It tells the story of Americans, black and white, working together to protect slaves who fled north to escape bondage.  In New York City, Foner’s focus, fugitive slaves were prey to bounty hunters sent north by their owners to seize them and take them back to slavery under

Harry Kresky speaking on "Can we make political reform popular with the American people?".  A panel at the National Conference of Independents, 2015.  Pictured with Chad Peace, Independent Voter Network (l) and John Opdycke, President, Open Primaries (r).

Harry Kresky (c) speaking on “Can we make political reform popular with the American people?”–A panel at the National Conference of Independents, 2015. Pictured with Chad Peace, Independent Voter Network (l) and John Opdycke, President, Open Primaries (r).

the country’s “fugitive slave laws.” When legal measures failed – as they often did – anti-slavery activists sometimes physically intervened to liberate captured men, women and children (some of whom had already been legally freed but could still bring a good price on the slave market) and helped them move north to upstate New York, New England and Canada.  This militancy hastened the end of slavery, and forced the hand of the slaveholding south by demonstrating, in Lincoln’s words:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.  I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other.  Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

It is significant, in my view, that the impetus to Foner’s book was the discovery by Madeline Lewis, one of his Columbia College students (who also worked as the Professor’s dog walker), of a contemporaneous document that described in great detail the efforts of Howard Gay and others to protect fugitive slaves and help them continue on the road to freedom.  Scholarship, searching the archives, can be the impetus for creative and politically important literary efforts.

Thank you Eric Foner and thank you Madeline Lewis who, like me, abandoned scholarship to become a lawyer.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters.

P4P Conference Call

With Eric Foner

 Sunday, April 19th, 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 805 399-1200 

Access Code 767775#

 

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