Latest Issue

Colson Whitehead’s new slavery novel contains misery—but is crisply unsentimental about plantation life

Whitehead’s boldest stroke is to make the historical underground railroad a literal secret railway line

By Sameer Rahim   September 2017

The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead (Fleet, £7.99)

In a 2009 article for the New York Times, Colson Whitehead cutely described the kind of novel that he, as an African-American, was expected to write: “The Southern Novel of Black Misery,” where you “slip on your sepia-tinted goggles and investigate the legacy of slavery that still reverberates to this day.” So it was a surprise to many when Whitehead, best known for his social satire of the black middle-class environment in which he grew up and also for writing a zombie novel,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect