I Came as a Stranger: The Underground Railroad


160 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88776-667-6
DDC j971'.00496





Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University in Hamilton.


This brief and copiously illustrated history of the Underground Railroad
should take its place beside Daniel Hill’s classic Blacks in Early
Canada: The Freedom Seekers (1981) as a general reader’s first stop
for information on this fascinating subject.

Speaking primarily to young readers, Prince begins by succinctly
tracing Canada’s own slave-owning past. Although most African slaves
were destined for cash crop plantations in warmer climes, slavery was
common in New France and the custom continued when what is now Canada
became a collection of English colonies. Though, as Prince notes, slaves
were not always African—white settlers were sometimes captured and
sold—Africans and Aboriginals were most often the ones pressed into
servitude. Well-known Canadian heroes such as Joseph Brant owned slaves,
and Prince reprints a will, typical of the time, which bequeaths “six
Negro slaves” to their owner’s offspring.

Prince’s narrative is most adept at setting slavery in its historical
context, indicating how the shifting jurisdictions caused by French,
British, and American conflict impacted slavery and freedom. Some
northern states, for example, actually abolished slavery before the
British Empire did in 1834, causing many early fugitives to run south,
rather than north. Canada emerged as a refuge for runaways during the
middle 19th century.

This is a fine book, and the bonus list of historical sites makes it a
complete resource for teachers who may want to supplement a unit on the
subject. Highly recommended.


Prince, Bryan., “I Came as a Stranger: The Underground Railroad,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/22664.