The autobiography of John P. Parker, a former slave and "conductor” of the Underground Railroad, could be best described as the life time battle of one man against slavery of the African American people. In his own definition of this great injustice, that sadly effected many lives, Parker describes slavery as a phenomenon that "was the making of a human being as an animal without hope . . . and that slavery's curse was not pain of the body, but pain of the soul"(Parker, p26). This troubled him so much that he devoted his life to make a change. Although he often risked his own life along the way, he not only fought for his own freedom, but for the freedom of other slaves as well.
His struggle takes place during the darkest time for blacks, particularly in the southern regions of the United States, and part of the most shameful of American history. Slavery was introduced in 1619 as a response to a shortage of labor in southern plantations. By the 1700s, the height of slavery, enslaved blacks came to outnumber whites in the south almost two to one. Between 1730 and 1760, as a response to a fear of black revolts, laws were passed to establish white control over the status of black slaves, enshrining it into law (Mckay, p895). Economics led to the social and legal institutionalization of black slavery, racist arguments were a means of justifying that institutionalization. In the last throws of the struggle, only years before Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, that led the way for the eventual abolishment of slavery, Parker's struggle is significant because it was against a centuries old practice and a deeply entrenched institution in Southern states.
Parker's memoirs reveal an interesting account of the life of a slave in the mid 1800's and, more important, as an Underground Railroad participant The Underground Railroad was a network of free African Americans and sympathetic whites that concealed, clothed, and guided fug...
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