A Different Kind of Christmas, by Alex Haley

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=leartojugg-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0517162695&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrBook 47 of 50 Book Challenge
Book 4 of the Holiday Reading Challenge

1855.  Fletcher Randall is the North Carolinian son of a plantation owning state senator, studying at Princeton.  One day, he is befriended by three Quaker brothers, who take him home to Philadelphia, introduce him to a successful black businessman, and bring him to a meeting of local abolishionists supporting the Underground Railroad.  And his mind is blown

He goes back to school feeling angry and imposed upon.  Then he starts to do some research.  Later, he goes back to Philadelphia and volunteers his services.  The rest of the story is about how he sets up the escape of a group of slaves – some of whom work at his own home – over his Christmas vacation.

This book is all of 101 pages long.

I did not believe for one minute that this kid spent one weekend in Philadelphia, half a semester reading up on slavery and abolition in the library and suddenly has that kind of a change of heart.  Having said that, it was a compelling tale.  The glimpses of how the Railroad worked.  How each person along the line might have contributed.  The likely and unlikely supporters.  The human consequences of doing the right thing.  This could have been an epic. 

The short description given of the Quakers, for example.  They don’t accuse, or argue or get visibly angry.  They use their calm and patience and persistence to win others over to their side.  There’s a lesson for this lovely holiday season.  (Although admittedly, the Quakers were awfully manipulative.  And presumptuous.)  I would have loved to see those characters fleshed out further.

It seems that Haley just meant to deliver a short holiday tale to remind us that once there was A Different Kind of Christmas.  For that, it works.

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