Cora is a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation when the story begins. She is an "outsider". Her mother escaped and left her when she was a young girl and she fends for her self as best she can. The Randalls own the plantation and the slaves. The elder Randall dies and James and Terrance inherit. Neither of them are what you would term "good" masters. Terrance, in particular, is a sadist. When another slave, Caesar, gives Cora the chance to run away with him, she takes it and thus begins her experiences on the Underground Railroad. She and Caesar meet good people and evil. They have near-captures and during one, Cora kills a white assailant. Now she is doubly cursed as an escapee and a murderer. Colson Whitehead cleverly intertwines Cora's story with other typical characters of the pre-Civil War era in the United States. The plights of the slaves and the horrors they were subjected to are revealed in a way that doesn't dwell on the inhumanity but works to imbue admiration for those black people suffering them. The novel goes back and forth through time and although Cora doesn't always know what fate befell people she loved, we do. It was a dark time before the Civil War and Whitehead evokes it so well.
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