The Long Way Home

Written by Kevin Bannister

Murphy Steele is not old enough to do a man’s work when he and Thomas Peters run away from their owner. They are easily captured and brutally flogged. With a second escape, both are branded R on their cheeks as runaways. The third time, their captor takes them to Wilmington, North Carolina, and keeps them for his own.

The American Revolution comes to Wilmington with a fleet of British warships. Lord Dunmore promises to free any escaped slaves who will serve as soldiers. After the war, they will be given land. Murphy and Thomas eagerly arrange another escape and join the Royal Ethiopian Regiment, soon renamed the Black Pioneers.

Thus begins The Long Way Home. Basing his novel on actual persons and events, Kevin Bannister takes an utterly unique look at the American Revolution through the eyes of a second, smaller group of people who win their freedom in battle. However, their war ends badly. Murphy, Thomas, and other Black pioneers have a choice – return to slavery in North Carolina, or follow withdrawing British troops and Loyalists to Canada. There, they find prejudice equally pervasive and land of their own an elusive dream.

I loved The Long Way Home. It’s told in an easy, conversational style, with vivid language that puts you right in the action. Thomas Peters was instrumental persuading over 1,000 freed blacks to return to Africa, where they founded Freetown, Sierra Leone. Mr. Bannister’s story ends with that hopeful beginning, and a note which says he’s working on a sequel. I can’t wait to read it.