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This Month's Theme:
Inside Stories

This month's selections take you into the hearts and minds of our protagonists. Books for November

Modern Medea: A Family Story of Slavery and Child-Murder From the Old South
by Steven Weisenburger

Sunday, Nov. 2 at 6:30/5:30 am CT and 11:30/10:30 pm on KET2

On a cold January night in 1856, eight enslaved Northern Kentuckians, including Margaret Garner and her four children, crossed the frozen Ohio River en route to Canada and freedom. The next morning, an armed posse of 11 white men, led by Margaret's owner, surrounded the Cincinnati house where the runaways were hiding.

In the melee that followed, Margaret murdered her 2-year-old and attempted to kill her remaining children. This tragic event, the inspiration for Toni Morrison's Beloved, is the starting point for Modern Medea, former University of Kentucky professor Steve Weisenburger's well-researched account of the Garner case.

Once the Garners were taken into custody, a different drama began to unfold, this one centered on the conflict between state and federal law. Should Margaret be tried for murder by the state of Ohio? Or should she be returned to Archibald Gaines, in keeping with the federal Fugitive Slave Act?

As Weisenburger skillfully demonstrates, this dilemma went to the very heart of the deepening conflict between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces. Margaret herself became a rallying point for both sides, her act of infanticide transformed into a symbol of slavery's evils or—for Southern sympathizers—proof that black people were inferior beings that required the supervision of their masters.

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