Discussion Questions

Read: The Underground Railroad chapters “North Carolina,” and “Ethel”

1. The below video is a rendition of “Strange Fruit”, a poem written in 1937 and made nationally famous in 1939 when jazz legend Billie Holiday sang and recorded it. The poem was written as a response to the wave of lynchings throughout the South in the early decades of the 20th century. After listening, consider what connections between the 20th century and the 19th century Whitehead is making in his “North Carolina” chapter. How does this strengthen the commentary on racial history he began earlier in the novel? NOTE, I’ve also included a link to the lyrics, if you’d like to read them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Web007rzSOI (Links to an external site.)

LYRICS: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/billieholiday/strangefruit.html (Links to an external site.)

2. How is North Carolina (and Cora’s experience there) similar to South Carolina? How is it completely different? Make sure to utilize

3. The attached document is an excerpt from Harriet Jacob’s famous autobiography “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” Whitehead has openly discussed taking research from this text when writing the “North Carolina” chapter. What similarities do you see between Cora’s experience in North Carolina and Jacobs’ experience? Why would he allude to Jacobs’ story?
Harriet Jacobs Handout-1.pdfPreview the document

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