Lane’s Trail and Amazon’s Underground Railroad

The Lane Trail is a route from the east and north into Kansas that allowed settlers from those regions to avoid Missouri and the ruffians who might accost them on their way to Kansas. Established in 1856, the trail was named after James H Lane, who from the mid-1850s through the end of the Civil War was the face of the Free State/Union movement in Kansas. At the time, pro-slavery Missourians, feeling that settlers from the east were trying to influence the free or slave state status of their neighbor, Kansas, would stop many settlers bound for Kansas, take their possession, or in some other way force them back to whence they came.
The trail was marked with Lane Chimneys, which were small piles of stones along the route to keep the travelers on the correct route. By early 1857, the immigrant traffic on the trail had slowed as Kansas’ status as an eventual free-state became clearer. At this point, the Lane Trail became a route used by the Underground Railroad and abolitionists like John Brown to help runaway slaves get further north.
This week’s topic of The Lane Trail prompted me to also include my review of Amazon’s “Underground Railroad”. I am a big fan of historical television shows and particularly those that center around the Civil War, (check out my review of Showtime’s “Good Lord Bird” in April) so I was excited when I heard that this show was coming to Amazon.
The show is a series with 10 episodes with each lasting about an hour with the exception of Episode 7, which only lasts 20 minutes. Very strange. The show has its positives and negatives. Starting on the positive side, while not really my area of expertise, the acting seemed good and it is well filmed although several of the scenes occur in the dark and make them difficult to see what is happening. I’m also not a slavery expert, but I thought the depiction of slavery in the deep south was both sobering and fairly accurate. They were off to such a good start.
On the negative side, this series is not anywhere near historically accurate. In fact, the book, “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, on which this is based, won awards in the science fiction category. I wish I had known that prior to watching the show and expecting a historically accurate story. I don’t want to provide any major spoilers for anyone who intends to watch, but to give an example, the “underground railroad” in this show is an actual full-sized railroad that runs underground at least from South Carolina to Indiana. A remarkable feat of engineering for the 1850s, or today for that matter. Ridiculous.
There are other fictional components of the show, but the “railroad” should give you an idea of the scale of the inaccuracies. My problem with the show is that the previews lead one to believe that it was going to be a series centered around the real underground railroad, which is certainly topical in our society right now. It is not. It would have been more accurate to call this show “The Underground Railroad in Outer Space”. That way viewers would have known what to expect.

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