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Taste of Freedom

This is the third in the series featuring my fictionalized character Phyllis Wallace Lewis. Phyllis was a real person held as a slave by my ancestors in Kentucky (Down the River). She proved popular among readers so I invented a life for her to include Trace of Hope and now Taste of Freedom where she gets involved with the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

Taste of Freedom is set when the Fugitive Slave Law is enacted in 1850 as a compromise between slave and free states to preserve the Union. The slave states, through their politicians and newspaper editors, complained that free states did not do enough to return fugitive slaves. As almost an afterthought in the Compromise of 1850 the law allowed slave holders to go north, seize suspected fugitives, take them to court, and render them back south. The purported fugitive was not entitled to speak on his or her behalf and was not entitled to counsel. Further, slave agents could demand the assistance of citizens in apprehending suspected fugitives. To refuse was a violation of law punishable by fine and imprisonment.

At first, the law was welcomed in the white North, but African Americans were terrified of being seized and taken south whether they were fugitives or not. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, just moved to Canada. Gradually, opposition to the law grew and some states enacted "personal liberty" laws and prohibited local officers from assisting in renditions. More whites joined the cause of abolition of slavery.

The Fugitive Slave Law along with events like Bleeding Kansas and the Dred Scot Decision that were drumbeats leading to secession and war.

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