Terrance Randall Quotes in The Underground Railroad
Cora rarely thought of the boy she had killed. She did not need to defend her actions in the woods that night; no one had the right to call her to account. Terrance Randall provided a model for a mind that could conceive of North Carolina’s new system, but the scale of the violence was hard to settle in her head. Fear drove these people, even more than cotton money. The shadow of the black hand that will return what has been given. It occurred to her one night that she was one of the vengeful monsters they were scared of: She had killed a white boy. She might kill one of them next. And because of that fear, they erected a new scaffolding of oppression on the cruel foundation laid hundreds of years before. That was Sea Island cotton the slaver had ordered for his rows, but scattered among the seeds were those of violence and death, and that crop grew fast. The whites were right to be afraid. One day the system would collapse in blood.
Confined to the attic, Cora is forced to spend many hours without any distraction or human interaction, an experience that forces her to reflect on her memories and concoct fantasies (and nightmares) about the future. While she spends a lot of time turning over the memories of her escape in her mind, she doesn’t often think about the 12-year-old boy she killed during the conflict with the hog hunters. Her experiences since running away have illuminated for her the extent to which she is a manifestation of white people’s greatest fears, and also that it is this fear—even more than economic incentives—that fuels the system of slavery.
This passage explores the way in which this fear both empowers and disempowers Cora and other black people who choose to rebel. On one hand, Cora realizes that white people consider her to be a threat, a fact that emboldens her and convinces her that one day “the system would collapse in blood.” Slavery and white supremacy are not inevitable—they are actually far more fragile than white people make it appear. However, in a more immediate sense, white people react to rebellion with increased brutality, “a new scaffolding of oppression.” This places those who rebel in a difficult position, as they know that not only do they risk their own punishment, but they also risk other vulnerable people being punished in their stead.