"Beyond the age of information is the age of choices." Charles Eames. Hartman, Carla and Eames Demetrios. 100 Quotes by Charles Eames, p. 40.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: The Underground Railroad on Long Island: Friends in Freedom

Velsor, Kathleen G. The Underground Railroad on Long Island: Friends in Freedom. History Press, 2013. 144 pp. ISBN 978160497705. $19.99 paper, $9.99 Nook & Kindle.

Kathleen G. Velsor's purpose for writing this history book is to describe the existence of an active Underground Railroad on Long Island and how it evolved and was shaped by Quakers. She also continues the research she did for an earlier work, Angels of Deliverance: the Underground Railroad in Queens and Long Island. She begins by providing historical overviews of colonial Long Island, slavery, and growth of the Society of Friends. Chapters follow about Elias Hicks and his anti-slavery ministry among Quakers; the generations of families committed to abolition; and the Underground Railroad passage from North Carolina to Long Island.

Velsor demonstrates extensive Quaker participation in the nation's growing antislavery movements, as well as their leadership in Underground Railroad activity on Long Island by pulling together varied documents, personal narratives, newspaper notices, and letters. Underground Railroad participation, in particular, can be difficult to research since those involved often took great pains to avoid discovery and left few contemporaneous records. Although her narrative is compelling, it is not always clear how she reaches conclusions. More detail about this process would be welcome.

Her work suffers from occasional careless editing and fact-checking. In one chapter, she references the first census of Maryland (taken in 1790) for the death of a man in 1814. She refers to Liberia as an island. In some instances, endnotes don't match the text they reference and bibliographical entries are incomplete.

Although this book is not a genealogical study, family historians will enjoy Velsor's book since it provides social and historical background for 18th and 19th century Long Island. Her descriptions of marriages and relationships among key Quaker families (such as Hicks, Mott, Jackson, and Post) are useful starting points for genealogical research.

Libraries and individuals with strong interests in Long Island history should consider purchasing in order to broaden their existing collections. It's also widely available at libraries throughout the US. The review copy was purchased from an online vendor.