Freedom by Any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad

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DeRamus's first work, "Forbidden Fruit," highlighted the extraordinary acts of courage and love by blacks in the American slave era. This latest work is a collection of inspiring stories of how slaves used the law--against all odds--to gain freedom for themselves and loved ones.
"Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true," says Betty DeRamus in the introduction to Freedom by Any Means. "According to the usual story, slaves gained their freedom by running away, being freed by their owners, buying their way out of bondage or having someone else buy them. But how do we account for people like John Bowley, who bluffed his and his family's way to freedom, or Althea Lynch, whose cooking sprang her from jail? And what about all those who managed to win their freedom by sidestepping tricks and traps or winning lawsuits?" Bowley, Lynch and dozens of others are as vivid and surprising as the very real characters who made the veteran journalist's first book, Forbidden Fruit, a best-seller. Essence magazine described Forbidden Fruit as "a rich collection of true slave-era tales that are at times haunting, often riveting, but always triumphant in the end." The same can be said of Freedom by Any Means, which takes a broader look at the various extraordinary ways that enslaved and dehumanized people achieved freedom and the means to a self-determined life. Among these people are visionaries who not only survived against the odds, but prospered — building businesses, owning land and other property. The historical research that grounds this beautifully written narrative is drawn from unpublished memoirs, census records, government reports, periodicals, books and much more. The story of slavery and the African American experience before the Emancipation Proclamation "isn't one story," according to DeRamus, but rather a multitude of stories. This book reveals how men and women were willing not just to risk their lives to escape the slave system, but able to use their intelligence and cunning to manipulate the court system, outwit slave traders and brave the unknown in order to assert their humanity.

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