Hidden in Plain View

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Cindy Metzger
Ms. Asher
APUSH/ Period 3
February 25, 2011
Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline L. Tobin
Slavery was an extended, often cruel, time in American history; it would take an all-out war before this evil institution was to be abolished. However, while in captivity, many slaves did not merely except their life in shackles. Instead, many fought back and even escaped, using various methods to do so, which Jacqueline L. Tobin documents in Hidden in Plain View. Tobin wrote this book to enlighten the reader to the various methods used to escape from bondage, using both direct and indirect sources, though, ultimately, giving the reader many questions left unanswered.

Tobin’s purpose in writing Hidden in Plain View was to document the clever systems slaves used to help them escape to freedom. Most predominately, Tobin describes the African art of quilt-making and the system it created that would signal each step in the slaves’ journey to freedom, from preparation to escape into the North. Tobin included both detailed descriptions and actual pictures of the various quilted patterns, including the wrench, which symbolized a helper to the slave (p.48). To add to the significance of the quilted squares, Tobin journeyed in the slaves’ footsteps, demonstrating their methods of seeking food, getting their bearings, and finding shelter. All of these tasks had instructions which were symbolically represented in the quilts created by slaves. Furthermore, Tobin went on to talk about the various other methods used by slaves to escape. These included the use of a coded language, especially that created by Frederick Douglass (p.136). Tobin included in the book some of his writing’s which, if read by the right person, a slave, would symbolically represent the journey to freedom (p.140). In addition, Tobin talked about the system created by the plantation blacksmiths to use drum beats to represent times of secret meetings and included examples of songs, especially hymns,...
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