Colson Whitehead’s moving account of the multidimensional sufferings inflicted by the American system of slavery amounts to a searing indictment of the origins of U.S. society. Through vivid portrayals of numerous victims and perpetrators, he demonstrates the durable effectiveness of systemic violence and terror. Picturesque moments and elements do not mask the pervasive, grotesque realities of crimes of this magnitude and scale. The Underground Railroad offers a bleak portrait of human nature, especially that of European Americans. The rare flickers of hope that emerge are in constant danger of being snuffed. Whitehead’s manifest storytelling skills make this a compelling read, but – by design – not a pleasurable one. Rather, this book inspires reflection on the road we have taken thus far. And, implicitly, it calls for action to stand against forces of division, discrimination, and oppression that are again on the rise in our country.