Character List and Analysis
Cora is born a slave on the Randall plantation in Georgia. Her mother runs away when Cora is 10 or 11 years old, leaving her to fend for herself and become fiercely resilient and independent. Caesar, another Randall slave, recognizes these qualities and persuades her to run away with him. During their escape, a white boy tries to capture Cora, and she hits him repeatedly on the head with a rock, causing his death and making her wanted for murder. Cora and Caesar travel the underground railroad to South Carolina, where Cora is given forged papers identifying her as a freewoman named Bessie Carpenter. “Bessie” works first as a maid for a white family, then as an actor in museum displays that depict slave life. When the slave catcher Ridgeway captures Caesar, Cora escapes alone to North Carolina. She hides for months in an attic before Ridgeway captures her. A freeborn black man named Royal rescues her from Ridgeway in Tennessee. Royal takes her to the Valentine farm in Indiana, where she lives for months despite Royal’s propositions that they marry and move to Canada. Cora is in love with Royal but never tells him. The Valentine farm is attacked by a group of white vigilantes who shoot and kill Royal but not before he urges Cora to escape through an abandoned branch of the underground railroad. Ridgeway captures Cora, who leads him to the abandoned railroad station. She escapes along the tracks and emerges days later, accepting a ride from a wagon driver headed west.