It is time now that the colored race should know something of the steps which led from Egypt to Canaan, something of their own contributions to the grand march of the tribes across and beyond the Red Sea. There are no slaves beneath the starry flag. All may read who will, and what they will. For the colored man no history can be more instructive and inspiring than this, of his own making, and written by one of his own race. The generations are growing in light. Not to know of those who were stronger than shackles, who were pioneers in the grand advance toward freedom; not to know of what characters the race could produce when straightened by circumstances, nor of those small beginnings which ended in triumphant emancipation, will, in a short time, be a reproach.
This History of the hardships and struggles of those of their own race is more for them than for mankind at large. It furnishes the world proof that, though slaves, they were nevertheless men. It furnishes them proof that the heroic abounds in their race as in others, and that achievement follows persistent effort, as well with them as with others. The volume will be not only their admiration but constant encouragement. In its pages one is not invited to hard, dry reading. It is narrative in style, simple in language, and possesses the thrill and pathos of a novel. In all its parts it is an evidence of the saying that “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
The author scarcely needs an introduction to the public. He is a scholarly, successful business man of Philadelphia, who has long been identified with churches, charities and every project for ameliorating the condition of his race. His word in all things is as good as his bond. An ardent member of the Anti-Slavery Society, and an active officer of the Underground Railroad Company, he made his book as a business man makes his ledger, viz.: by noting daily the transactions of the day. How he preserved them does not matter much now, but if a certain loft in the chapel of an old cemetery could speak, it might a tale unfold.
The volume is quite large and commanding in appearance. It consists of about 800 pages, clearly printed on beautiful white paper, making the largest book ever written by a colored person in this country.
An attractive feature of the book, one which has added largely to its cost, and one which greatly enhances its value to the reader, is its illustrations. These are over seventy in number, and they are made to illustrate the most striking portions of the work. They represent night escapes and day encounters, on land and river, receptions on the soil of freedom, characters of note among the fugitives, and many of those among the anti-slavery people whose names have become historic. It is seldom a volume is seen which so abounds in apt and striking illustration.