Author Scott Shane at First Parish

Author Scott Shane to speak about his book FLEE NORTH

Scott Shane will talk about his new book FLEE NORTH at First Parish in Cohasset on Sat., Dec. 16, 2023, at 2 p.m. Recently named by Publishers Weekly one of the 10 best books of 2023, FLEE NORTH tells a true story of the underground railroad and the domestic slave trade in the 1840s — with Scituate and Boston angles as well.

The book’s extraordinary central character, Thomas Smallwood, was born into slavery, bought his freedom, became a shoemaker in Washington, D.C. and began to organize mass escapes from bondage — and to write about the escapes in satirical dispatches for an Albany newspaper. Author Scott Shane was able to locate the old copies of the newspaper in a Boston Public Library warehouse.

Thomas Smallwood’s younger white sidekick, Charles Torrey, was born in Scituate and had joined the antislavery movement in Massachusetts before moving to Washington. The third character, Hope Slatter, was the largest slave trader of the era — and a mortal enemy of Smallwood and Torrey.

Scott Shane was a journalist for 15 years at The New York Times, where he was twice a member of teams that won Pulitzer Prizes, and for 21 years at The Baltimore Sun. His wife, Francie Weeks, grew up in Cohasset.

“This is a great opportunity to learn about an inspiring story with a local angle,” said Dr. Kate Sullivan, director of education at First Parish.

Shane will speak in person at First Parish in Cohasset, 23 N. Main St., Cohasset. This free event is open to the public. For more information, email

Reviews of FLEE NORTH

“FLEE NORTH restores to American history one of the most daring African American abolitionists…who not only courageously fought slavery but brilliantly satirized it.” — Henry Louis Gates Jr.

“This vibrant character study of Black abolitionist Thomas Smallwood and his odd-couple partnership with white abolitionist Charles Torrey uncovers astonishing new information about the history of the Underground Railroad…. An exhilarating narrative that reads like a thriller.” — Publishers Weekly — named one of the 10 best books of 2023

“A gripping story told at a brisk pace in the no-fuss prose of a practiced reporter….The kind of story we sorely need at a time when there is no shortage of opportunities for inspiring acts of heroism.” — Washington Post