The Past as a Lens for the Present

Colson Whitehead explores America’s fraught racial history through his acclaimed novel The Underground Railroad.
Photo credit: Michael Lionstar
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Colson Whitehead on OWN

While Oprah was promoting the movie Beloved, a group of journalists asked her why we needed another story about slavery. Here, she and Colson Whitehead, author of the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection, The Underground Railroad, discuss why those stories matter more than ever.

Program Topics

  • Revisiting the Underground Railroad

    Colson Whitehead addresses the powerful complexities associated with writing about slavery. His lectures are frank and powerful, highlighting the research used to construct his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and a #1 New York Times bestseller, The Underground Railroad chronicles a young slave’s escape to freedom in the antebellum South.  In Whitehead’s conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.  As Whitehead re-creates historical terrors, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day.

Available in hardcover, paperback, eBook, or anabridged audio book
320 pages; August 02, 2016

The Underground Railroad


—President Barack Obama

“Potent. . . .  Devastating. . . . Essential.”

—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
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