Fugitive slave epic wins more glory

Karolyn Smardz Frost’s award-winning book I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad recently received yet another grand nod – honourable mention for the prestigious Albert B. Corey Prize in 2007-2008.  

Right: Karolyn Smardz Frost. Photo by Lindsay Lozon

“Winning second place for the Corey is like being nominated for an Oscar in historian circles,” says Smardz Frost, who has taught history in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies for many years. “It can’t get much better than this.”

Given jointly every two years by the American Historical Association and the Canadian Historical Association, the Corey Prize celebrates the best book in Canada-US relations. The 2007-2008 award was presented at the Canadian Federation for the Humanities & Social Sciences Congress at Carleton University in May.

I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land, a biography that reviewers said reads like a novel, also won the Heritage Toronto Award of Merit and Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2007. It reached No. 4 on the Maclean’s bestseller list and was reviewed in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

It took Smardz Frost 20 years to research and write I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land. Since Thomas Allen Publishers released the book in 2007, she has travelled far and wide to talk about the epic story she unearthed about Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, two fugitive slaves who escaped from Kentucky in 1831 and forged a new life in Toronto. Click here to hear her speak about her research odyssey or read more in the October 2008 issue of YorkU magazine.

Smardz Frost is currently working as research associate in the York Centre for Education & Community in the Faculty of Education. Trained as an archeologist, she has taught students at Atkinson College how to conduct new research in Toronto history for many years. Most recently, she has also taught African-Canadian history.

This year, her students nominated her for TVO’s “Big Ideas” Best Lecturer Competition and she ended up one of 20 semifinalists. “What an honour,” she says.

She has also been associated with York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples since its foundation.

Smardz Frost co-wrote the first book on Toronto’s African Canadian heritage, The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! (Natural Heritage Books, 2002). She also co-edited Ontario’s African-Canadian Heritage: Collected Writings by Fred Landon, 1919-1974 (Dundurn Press, 2008).