Nearly two decades ago, author Colson Whitehead began thinking about writing about the Underground Railroad. “I remembered when I was a kid, I first heard those words…I thought it was a literal train beneath the earth,” he says. He put pen to paper and the result was the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad. In it, the historic secret network of safehouses for runaway slaves becomes a make-believe set of tracks and tunnels beneath southern cities and towns. The book tells the story of Cora, a runaway slave who makes various stops along the railroad in her search for freedom. Whitehead recreates the terror black people in the pre-Civil War era faced. It’s an essential read to understand America’s past and present, according to The New York Times. In this episode, he talks about the novel and about the process of writing.
“Aspen Ideas to Go” is a weekly show featuring fascinating speakers who have presented at the Aspen Ideas Festival and other public programs offered by the Aspen Institute. For a curated listening experience, subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or find an archive of episodes here. The views and opinions of the speakers in the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.