Recently read and reviewed a novel called The Underground Railroad. I reacted quite negatively to it because it was filled with meaningless (to me) anachronisms. There may be a deeper reason I reacted so negatively to the inaccuracies in the book – a familial reason. See the following: “But if a Kentucky slave could get into Cincinnati and find safe haven for a few days there was a network of safe havens up into Ohio through many different routes, eventually (leading) to Canada.” What’s interesting to me is that my mother’s family lived in Covington, Kentucky (directly across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio) at that time as well as in Loveland, Ohio. Both towns were stations on the Railroad.
Important to note my great-grandfather was a political refugee from Ireland (came into the country in shackles) and ran a mercantile/general store in Loveland – and could very easily have supplied and hidden runaways.It is possible he knew Levi Coffin since they were both merchants in the area. Do I know Great-grandpa Tierney was involved in moving slaves north? Nope, but it would have been possible. He would have identified with slaves fleeing persecution and bondage. He had fled English oppression of the Irish at the time of the “Famine” in 1848.
Our family has a long history of liberal and even radical activism (Grandma fought for women’s right to vote. Grandpa was in the IWW and for a time was a Communist). I of course fought for women’s rights and marched against the Vietnam War). So I have started playing “what if” – it’s what writers do. What if an Irish Catholic immigrant family who has fled to America to escape English persecution gets involved in helping runaway slaves move north into Canada? What happens to the family? What risks do they run? A new NaNoWriMo novel perhaps?