The Gospel of Freedom: Black Evangelicals and the Underground Railroad

Gospel of Freedom book cover.

University of Kentucky Press

Release Date

Tuesday, August 9, 2022


Wilbur H. Siebert published his landmark study of the Underground Railroad in 1898, revealing a secret system of assisted slave escapes. A product of his time, Siebert based his research on the accounts of white, male, northern abolitionists. While useful in understanding the northern boundaries of the slaves’ journey, this account leaves out the complicated narrative of assistance below of the Mason-Dixon line. In The Gospel of Freedom: Black Evangelicals and the Underground Railroad, author Alicestyne Turley positions Kentucky as a crucial “pass through” territory for escaping slaves and addresses the important contributions of white and black antislavery southerners who united to form organized networks to assist slaves in the Deep South.

Drawing both on family history and lore, as well as a large range of primary sources, Turley shows how free and enslaved African Americans directly influenced efforts to physically and spiritually resist slavery and how slaves successfully developed their own systems to help others enslaved below the Mason-Dixon Line. Illuminating the roles of these black freedom fighters, Turley questions the validity of long-held conclusions based on Siebert’s original work and suggests new areas of inquiry for further exploration. Picking up where other scholarship left off, this book seeks to fill the historical gaps and promote lost voices of the Underground Railroad, unveiling these invisible “tracks” for the first time.

About the Author
Alicestyne Turley, PhD, is director of Freedom Stories for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Dr. Turley was the founding Director of the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education at Berea College, and the founding director of the Underground Railroad Research Institute at Georgetown College.

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