East City Bookshop welcomes Dr. Richard Bell with his new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home, in conversation with University of Maryland professor Christopher Bonner.
“’BOY LOST,’ read the advertisement placed in a newspaper by the father of one of the five free boys kidnapped in Philadelphia in 1825. Richard Bell’s heartbreaking and searing account of their story chronicles not only the agonies and atrocities of slavery, but the fragility of freedom, and the dauntlessness of resistance.” - Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States
A gripping and true story about 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, reminiscent of Twelve Years a Slave and Never Caught.
Philadelphia, 1825: five young, free black boys fall 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 are instead met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives. Over four long months, their kidnappers drive them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Determined to resist, the boys form a tight brotherhood as they struggle to free themselves and find their way home.
Their ordeal—an odyssey that takes 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.
Impeccably researched and breathlessly paced, Stolen tells the incredible story of five boys whose courage forever changed the fight against slavery in America.
Dr. Richard Bell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and is author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home. He has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for teaching faculty in the Maryland state system. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Historical Society, as an elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Christopher Bonner specializes in African American history and the nineteenth-century United States. He will publish his first book, A New Republic: Black Protest and the Creation of American Citizenship, in March 2020 with the University of Pennsylvania Press. This book centers free black Americans in the legal transformations of the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. Originally from Chesapeake, VA, he earned his B.A. from Howard University and Ph.D. from Yale University.