Skip to Main Content

Freedom by Any Means

Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad

Following up Betty DeRamus’s Essence bestselling Forbidden Fruit, Freedom by Any Means follows the story of extraordinary acts of courage and love by Blacks in the American slave era with beautifully written and inspiring stories of how slaves used the lawagainst all oddsto gain freedom for themselves and loved ones.

In Freedom by Any Means, Betty DeRamus explains that “Much of what we think we know about African American history isn't completely true.” Slave freedom isn’t limited 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 history doesn’t account for the slaves who bluffed their way to freedom, sidestepped tricks and traps, won lawsuits, or even gained their freedom by their cooking.

Riveting and surprising, DeRamus captures the tumultuous lives of the humans in inhumane situations who were able to salvage their families and marriages and achieve freedom together against tremendous odds. It 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. Freedom by Any Means also features the return of many of the beloved figures from her previous book Forbidden Fruit, including Lucy Nichols, Al and Margaret Wood, and Sylvia and Louis Stark.

This inspiring account, steeped in rich historical research, attests to the resolve of the human spirit and reveals how men and women were willing to risk it all to escape the slavery.

Photo Credit:

A veteran and award-winning journalist, Betty DeRamus was the jury's pick and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. She has been awarded a Michigan Press Association Award, as well as a Deems Taylor award for a profile of Roberta Flack published in Essence. DeRamus was one of an international group of select journalists who toured Central African refugee camps under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and one of a small group of journalists outside Verster prison in 1990 when Nelson Mandela finally left his cell. She has written about African American history for Essence, LIFE, North Star Journal, and Black World. She is a former commentator for The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, The Michigan Chronicle, and the British Broadcasting Company.

More books from this author: Betty DeRamus