I was daydreaming at a stoplight recently when the sound of thunder shook me from my reverie. It was pulsing rhythmically, and there seemed to be a faint whistling or screeching sound, as if I was in a hurricane or tornado.
In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery. The new air of freedom brought an unintoxicated euphoria. But a century later, freedom was redefined, this time as an absence of responsibility. The new air of license was inhaled and produced an intoxicated forgetfulness of anything that smacked of authoritarian inhibitions or paralyzing parameters.
What was life like for Kentucky slaves who lived so close to the Ohio River that they could see freedom’s shore? What distinctive anxieties plagued their masters? What special opportunities existed for local abolitionists?