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John P. Parker

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His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave And Conductor on the Underground Railroad.

When we think of the conductors of the Underground Railroad many think of Harriet Tubman and her only, but if we study history carefully we will find out that she is not the only conductor worth mentioning. John P. Parker has to be one of the most underappreciated figures not only in African American history but American history in general. If everyone was aware of this true American hero’s story, without question he would be a household name. The autobiography of John P. Parker is very well written and will have any reader on the edge of their seat throughout the entire book. The accounts of his experiences both as a slave and as a conductor of the Underground Railroad are extremely descriptive and would make any reader feel like they were right there with Mr. Parker feeling his pain, anger, pride, bravery, and even his humor. Although there are many themes that you can find in this book, we are going to focus on his bravery, cleverness, and freedom as the three themes to discuss. The first theme we are going to discuss is freedom. John Parker’s life includes many experiences that would influence his love and aspiration for freedom. At the young age of eight years old, he was sold and forced to walk from Norfolk, Virginia to Richmond, Virginia chained to an old man who would be whipped to death. “This experience set him on fire with hatred and desire to gain his freedom” (p.20). John Parker was owned by a doctor who had sons that would smuggle books to him. The doctor would also encourage Mr. Parker to learn the trade of iron molding. This situation would influence his aspiration for freedom because he had the ability to read and also knew the trade of iron molding and was fully aware of his potential as a free man. When John Parker finally did get his freedom, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he would help others on their journey to freedom. In Cincinnati he would have his first experience helping runaways get their freedom when he helped a local barber by rescuing his family from slavery. This was the first of many successful rescue missions. The next theme we will talk about will be cleverness. Mr. Parker was so clever that he could easily avoid authority as well as slave owners and even managed to convince a widow to purchase him from his master for $1,800 and was able to purchase his freedom from the widow in just 18 months by working in the iron foundry. John Parker was a very brilliant and clever man that lived a double life. By day he would work as an iron molder and by night he would take slaves across the Ohio River. He was a brilliant inventor with patents to a sugar mill, tobacco press, and soil pulverizer. Parker was a terrific businessman also. He was the owner of a foundry and blacksmith shop at a time when many black businesses were failing. The final theme that we will cover will be bravery. John Parker was very heroic and resilient. For almost fifteen years John Parker helped slaves escape to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The dangers of getting caught helping slaves escape include jail time or even death. A good example of John Parker’s bravery would be when he snatched a whip out of a white nurse’s hand and began beating her because she was physically abusing her patients and Mr. Parker had had enough. This was particularly brave because no slave in their right mind would ever strike a white woman and still be around to talk about it. Perhaps the bravest thing about John Parker was that even after he had acquired his freedom he still risked his life and freedom day and night just to make sure other slaves had the same opportunity as he had. In conclusion, this book gives a realistic understanding of what a conductor of the Underground Railroad would experience assisting slaves to freedom. He was truly a Jack of all trades because he was a slave, an inventor, a freedom fighter, and a businessman. I am ashamed to say that I did not know who John P. Parker was prior to reading this book, but at the same time I am proud that I now have knowledge of this great hero in American history. It really surprises me that his story is not much popular.

Florida State University Ouma Nimmo 750 words…...

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