Viola Davis

A powerful symbol of resistance, the Underground Railroad inspires a wave of books, plays, TV and more

A powerful symbol of resistance, the Underground Railroad inspires a wave of books, plays, TV and more

When WGN America’s drama “Underground” debuted last winter, it seemed like a cultural outlier. Stories from the Underground Railroad had long been relegated to nonfiction or the broad and simplistic brushstrokes of children's books. Even as stories about the horrors of oppression (“12 Years a Slave”) and the civil rights movement (“42,” “Selma,” “All the Way”) entered the mainstream, the Underground Railroad remained overlooked.

Lately, however, slaves’ flight to freedom has became a jumping off point for an array of creative endeavors. A few weeks after “Underground,” with its soundtrack curated by executive producer John Legend, came Barbara Hambly's mystery novel, “Drinking...

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