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Speaking of Books: Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home

Richard Bell received his PhD from Harvard University and his BA from the University of Cambridge. His research interests focus on American history between 1750 and 1877 and he welcomes enquiries from graduate students working in this period.

Prof. Bell’s new book is Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home. It is the recipient of a 2017 NEH Public Scholar Award and will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 8, 2019. Stolen is the true story of five boys who were kidnapped in the North and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South—and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice. In Philadelphia in 1825, these five young, free black boys fell into the clutches of the most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers in the United States. Lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, they were instead met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives.

Over four long months, their kidnappers drove them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Determined to resist, the boys formed a tight brotherhood as they struggled to free themselves and find their way home. Their ordeal—an odyssey that took them from the Philadelphia waterfront to the marshes of Mississippi and then onward still—shines a glaring spotlight on the Reverse Underground Railroad, a black-market network of human traffickers and slave traders who stole away thousands of legally free African Americans from their families in order to fuel slavery’s rapid expansion in the decades before the Civil War.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020
4:00PM - 5:30PM
McK 6137