This story of two halves begins with young James Woodman, a free black, running his successful livery stable in Maryland, where he is also a member of the local militia. Then the British attacks the region in what is often referred to as the Second War of Independence (1812-1814), and sack Washington DC. Despite James’ good standing with many white people in his community and his sterling service in the militia, he’s dogged by bigotry and anti-black persecution. Finally, he decides to return to the tiny community of his childhood where he can safely raise a family—the tiny community of Gettysburg.
The second half of the story jumps some years to follow James’s activities as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad. It also details the changes in his once-friendly-to-blacks Gettysburg haven. Persecution finds him again. Can he survive?
If you’re interested in the history of this period, the terrible dangers suffered by anyone with dark skin, or abolitionists of any color, you’ll discover a fascinating insight into how it was to stand true against bigotry and persecution despite the great personal cost. In the main, the book is well-written and well-researched, though it would improve with shorter chapters. However, I’m invested enough in James’s story to seek out the sequel! Journey: The Story of an American Family is a well-paced, deeply moving, historical fiction.