Evelyn Millstein - Author
Evelyn Millstein is a librarian with two masters degrees, one in Library Science; the second in Health Care Delivery Systems. She has studied African American history for 70 years. The Underground Railroad : A Movement That Changed America is her first published book.
Most of her career was spent as a special librarian. When she retired at sixty- five she embarked on a second career as a part- time librarian in Michigan’s Eastpointe Memorial Library. While working at the reference desk helping students and their parents, she began to realize the flawed way that African American history was being taught in most of our educational institutions. Every February during Black History Month, she saw classrooms filled with discussions about African American contributions to our nations history and culture. As soon as Black History Month was over African Americans no longer had any part to play in the history of our country.
This is especially glaring in the way educators teach about slavery and the causes of the Civil
War. Lesson plans are filled with discussions of what presidents, congressmen, and political leaders of our nation were doing to resolve the issue of slavery. Very little classroom
discussion was devoted to what slaves themselves and their allies were doing to abolish that institution. Evelyn began to study the impact of the thousands of slaves who fled the South on
the national debate over slavery. This led her to research the role the the legendary Underground Railroad had on the history of our country.
The first thing Evelyn discovered was that most historians were not taking this movement seriously. For example David Potter in his epic study The Impending Crisis 1848-1861 stated that he believed that the Underground Railroad was merely a gigantic propaganda device, that most fugitives escaped on their own. Furthermore, Potter, along with other historians, claimed that the number of fugitives who actually escaped was so small that it never made much of a difference in the struggle against slavery. This raised a serious question for Evelyn. If the problem of runaway slaves was not an important issue for slaveholders, why did the South fight so hard to pass a tough new Fugitive Slave law in 1850?
Evelyn learned something even more impressive about the Underground Railroad; the Railroad was the first bi-racial movement in American history led by African Americans. She discovered some other surprising facts. First, contrary to the opinion expressed by many historians, the Underground Railroad was a well organized movement both in the South and in the North. These facts inspired Evelyn to write a new and different book about the Underground Railroad.
She already had twenty years of experience educating black and white library patrons about African American history. It began during Black History Month when, because of her reputation as an expert in black history, patrons would turn to her for help on their black history projects. Teachers also relied on her help in preparing lesson plans. Soon many teachers asked her to make presentations to their classes on African American history.
Evelyn so enjoyed working with young people that she took another part time job as librarian in a charter school. In this school she helped the faculty integrate African American studies into the school’s social studies curriculum. One summer she helped the director of social work at a Salvation Army youth home develop and run a six- week project for the kids around black history.
In 2012 Evelyn retired from both of her jobs and spent the next three years completing this book. The Underground Railroad: A movement That Changed America was written as a labor of love by a woman who has dedicated her life to promoting the truth that African American history is an essential part of American history.
What They're Saying about The Underground Railroad: "Millstein's book joins Fergus Bordewich's landmark 2005 Bound for Canaan as a comprehensive history of "the war for soul of America." Quoted from July 2015 issue of Underground Railroad Free Press. See it at http://www.urrfreepress.com/index_files/July_2015.pdf For more commentary,click here.