How to Read ‘The Underground Railroad’ Before You Watch the Amazon Show


Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel The Underground Railroad poses a question: what if the the Underground Railroad was not just a network working to bring enslaved people to freedom, but a real, actual railroad? When the book came out, it instantly became a hit with readers. In fact, the book was so well-received, it won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award, and many others. Now, it’s coming to your screens.

Amazon Prime and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) are teaming up to create The Underground Railroad in TV form, premiering on May 14. The show follows Cora Randall, a young slave desperate to become free in antebellum Georgia. Soon, she quickly discovers that the path to redemption is no metaphor—it’s actually in the form of a train, with engineers, conductors and other slaves all using secret tracks and tunnels hidden deep within the South.

The cast for this show is absolutely stacked. Thuso Mbedu plays Cora, and Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, and Joel Edgerton also star. The show has been in the works since shortly after the book came out in 2016, so it’s been a long time coming.

While you might be planning on bingeing the entire series when the show premieres, you don’t actually need to wait so long to get familiar with the story. Order The Underground Railroad from an online retailer (we recommend so you can support a local bookstore!) and familiarize yourself with the author’s epic piece of literature. Even if you need to take a break once in a while—and chances are you will, because the subject matter is naturally very heavy—it’s a book you won’t regret having on your bookshelf any time soon.

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