Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




English (MA)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Lesley Larkin


Much of the discourse in the nation is centered on the racial divide in America. This essay traces that divide back to American slavery, using a visit to five historical plantations and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad to illustrate the persistence of injustice beyond slavery to Jim Crow laws, color-blind rhetoric, and mass incarceration. At each plantation, I encounter a varied history of slavery and find that many of these historical sites trivialize the experience of the enslaved. The Whitney Plantation is the exception, focusing solely on the stories of the enslaved and revealing the power of narrative to undo the lies believed about American history. Borrowing from the Whitney’s example, I turn to the neo-slave narrative, The Underground Railroad, to better understand the story of the enslaved. This novel reveals the true history of enslavement, highlighting both the profit and violence of the institution and reflecting the many forms of oppression in the black American experience from the time of slavery to today. The protagonist Cora’s fight to embrace her own personhood and the personhood of others, despite the systematic denial of her own humanity, reveals empathy as the source of hope for America’s future.

Access Type

Open Access

Justification for Restricting Access