Chariot on the Mountain by Jack Ford
1. Discuss how slaves were treated in Virginia prior to the Civil War. How were slaves viewed by the justice system in the antebellum South?
2. What was Mary Maddox’s relationship with Kitty prior to her husband’s death? How and why did Mary’s relationship with Kitty change after her husband’s death?
3. What was Kitty’s relationship with Samuel?
4. How did Kitty view Mary and their relationship before Samuel passed away?
5. Why did Mary choose to free Kitty and her children?
6. How were runaway slaves treated in Virginia once they were captured?
7. Why would Fanny Withers risk her social stature to aid Kitty in her escape from Virginia?
8. Why would the attorney, Zephania Turner, agree to represent Kitty knowing that his decision would be unpopular among his friends and family?
9. Knowing that slaves were considered property and, as a result, not usually allowed to testify in legal matters, how did Kitty intend to have her case heard in court?
10. What did the jury’s indication that in the event the court should find in favor of Kitty the damages would be only one cent, suggest about their view of the value of a slave’s life?
11. Why did the trial judge initially rule against Kitty?
12. What was the basis for the judge’s subsequent findings that led to Kitty’s freedom?
ABC’s The View host, Sunny Hostin, selected Chariot on the Mountain as one of her favorite Summer books! Click here to watch.
Based on little-known true events, this astonishing account from Emmy and Peabody
Award-winning journalist Jack Ford vividly recreates a treacherous journey toward freedom, a time when the traditions of the Old South still thrived—and is a testament to determination, friendship, and courage . . .
Two decades before the Civil War, a middle-class farmer named Samuel Maddox lies on his deathbed. Elsewhere in his Virginia home, a young woman named Kitty knows her life is about to change. She is one of the Maddox family’s slaves—and Samuel’s biological daughter. When Samuel’s wife, Mary, inherits her husband’s property, she will own Kitty, too, along with Kitty’s three small children.
Already in her fifties and with no children of her own, Mary Maddox has struggled to accept her husband’s daughter, a strong-willed, confident, educated woman who works in the house and has been treated more like family than slave. After Samuel’s death, Mary decides to grant Kitty and her children their freedom, and travels with them to Pennsylvania, where she will file papers declaring Kitty’s emancipation. Helped on their perilous flight by Quaker families along the Underground Railroad, they finally reach the free state. But Kitty is not yet safe.
Dragged back to Virginia by a gang of slave catchers led by Samuel’s own nephew, who is determined to sell her and her children, Kitty takes a defiant step: charging the younger Maddox with kidnapping and assault. On the surface, the move is brave yet hopeless. But Kitty has allies—her former mistress, Mary, and Fanny Withers, a rich and influential socialite who is persuaded to adopt Kitty’s cause and uses her resources and charm to secure a lawyer. The sensational trial that follows will decide the fate of Kitty and her children—and bond three extraordinary yet very different women together in their quest for justice.
Praise for Chariot on the Mountain
“Coming from one of this country’s most well respected legal minds, Kitty’s stunning journey, legal maneuvers and ultimately the trial portions, pop off the pages with a compelling clarity that only someone like Ford can provide.”
—Dan Abrams, ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor
“Jack Ford, noted legal historian, journalist, and former trial attorney, conjures up in
rapid-fire, muscular prose the haunting, historic tale of a young, defiant slave in rural Virginia of 1846, who sues a white man over her freedom.”
—Jerome Charyn, author of Jerzy
“Jack Ford crafts a harrowing tale of flight and fear . . . and he reminds us of the toxic legacy of human bondage, through one woman’s fierce determination that it will not be visited on her children.”
—Jami Floyd, Host, All Things Considered, WNYC New York Public Radio
“A tautly plotted, swiftly moving tale that throws light on the complex connections between kinship, conscience, and justice during slavery.”
—Sabra Waldfogel, author of Sister of Mine
“Chariot on the Mountain fast became one of my favorite books. Jack’s writing is so rich and beautiful, you feel like you’re there in the room with these characters. This book tells the story of redemption and unsuspecting allies, ultimately proving there is good in all people. For anybody who loves legal thrillers and the history of our country, this book is a must read!” —Sunny Hostin, Co-Host of ABC’s The View, ABC Senior Legal Correspondent