I grew up adjacent to the Niagara Frontier area (across the river from Buffalo, New York), which, along with the Windsor, Ontario region across the river from Detroit is one of the foci of this book. I remember a few less-than-enlightening historical markers of crossing points and churches that had been used by these Black communities, but little remained that gave a sense of the lives once led there. So I was interested in what these authors had retrieved even though I wished they had made more of it.
Just to give a taste, an ongoing theme of the communities seems to have been a controversy over "begging," the practice and consequences of soliciting support from white allies to help escaped slaves and free blacks get started in a new country. Frederick Douglass, himself an escaped slave and major abolitionist leader who did not join the exodus to Canada but did run some of the more stable Black newspapers from upstate New York, was drawn into the fray, publishing both sides. Tobin and Jones report the argument he got into with Dr. Martin Delany who later served as commanding officer of Black troops fighting for the Union, but in earlier decades promoted Black emigration back to Africa and self-sufficiency in Canada. He particularly despised white abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, an extremely propogandistic novel attacking slavery.
Controversies about "the begging" repeatedly divided Canadian Black leaders as they accused each of profiting from donations or becoming dependent. Tobin and Jones quote another author rather than offer their own interpretation of the issues:
All of this seems extremely contemporary: people whose need forces them to ask for and use help from individuals and institutions that belong to the class that holds them down necessarily chew over the implications of "the begging." The anthology The Revolution Will Not Be Funded is a fine contemporary example.
Obviously I'm not urging anyone to run out and acquire From Midnight to Dawn, but the authors provide a tantalizing peak at some significant historical by-ways.