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300 Miles to Freedom

Distributed by New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by W & B Productions and Trilok Fusion Media
Directed by Richard Breyer & Anand Kamalakar
DVD, color, 33 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Underground Railroad, History, African American Studies

Reviewed by Patricia B. McGee, Coordinator of Media Services, Volpe Library & Media Center, Tennessee Technological University

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 1/26/2012

300 Miles to Freedom is the engrossing story of the journey of John W. Jones, who along with his two half brothers and two friends, armed with pistols, knives, and food for four days, escaped from the Ellzey plantation in Leesburg, Virginia. Using a mix of Jonesí own words, period music, and interviews with historians, ministers, the descendants of slaves and those who now live along the path of his escape to freedom, the film vividly recreates Jonesí journey.

Jones, 27 years old and illiterate, arrived in Elmira, N.Y. with exactly $1.46 in his pocket. Jervis Langdon, a local abolitionist, aided him, and eventually Jones was able to attend school. He was taught to read by a fellow student, a fourteen year old boy named Luke, and became the sexton at the First Baptist Church. Jones, an active member of the Underground Railroad, assisted more than 800 fugitive slaves to escape to Canada. When the Civil War commenced, the Union established a prison camp at Elmira. Jones had charge of the burial of the Confederate soldiers who succumbed to the appalling conditions of the camp. He was paid the princely sum of $2.50 for each burial, and he ensured that all the deceased were properly identified and interred with dignity and respect. When he recognized the body of John Rollins, son of the overseer on the Ellzey plantation, he wrote to the family of their loss and assisted them after the war in having the body returned to Virginia. By the time of his death in 1900, John W. Jones had achieved literacy and prosperity and earned the profound respect of the Elmira community.

300 Miles to Freedom is a superb resource for use in the classroom. The film provides an excellent overview of just how a fugitive slave might have navigated along the Underground Railroad. The narrative is fast paced, the music enhances the story, the interviews are well done, and the voice over narration in the words of Jones himself is both informative and very moving. Highly recommended for all collections.