Just mention the Underground Railroad and the words evoke images of slaves huddled together, speaking in hushed tones, making plans with great fear and yet tremendous hope… of those with unspoken plans to escape entirely alone… of lonely walks through the dead of night… of traveling with extreme vigilance in broad daylight… of being concealed under the false bottom in the bed of a wagon carrying produce, hay or bricks, etc… of stowaways hidden aboard ships bound for northern cities… of being hidden in a home or barn until it was safe to move on again… all while living under the overwhelming fear of discovery at any moment by both passenger and conductor/stationmaster alike.
In reality, the abolitionist movement took tremendous faith and courage on the part of every participant on this train of sorts. Most often, it was facilitated by one’s faith in God and knowing that, as the U.S. Constitution says, “all men are created equal…” There was a spiritual impetus in seeking emancipation for a people who should not be held captive as someone else’s possession, regardless of how ancient the tradition of slavery might have been.
But, it also took bravery and self-sacrifice for a seemingly “hodge-podge” system to thrive in secrecy while operating within plain sight of those vehemently opposed to its intrinsic value. Unfortunately, many who considered themselves “good Christians” were just as adamantly opposed to freeing the slaves.
Abolitionists were involved in an act of civil disobedience like no other, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment upon discovery, never mind the slave who was disciplined/punished in varying degrees of severity, even to death. With all of that at stake, how did the “underground railroad” ever manage to pull out of the station on such successful clandestine lines?
Slavery has been around for centuries, essentially not long after recorded world history began, even recorded Biblical history… not that that makes it right. It was a well-established entity in the “old world” long before it arrived on America’s shores when, in 1619, a Portuguese trading ship sold 20 slaves to the English settlers at Jamestown. (Bordewich, p. 15) It was an institution already prevalent in England, as was the indentured servant. Though the indentured servant was eventually able to claim freedom by paying off his debt, not so the typical slave. Slavery was also well established in both the north and south of the burgeoning colonies before the leaders of the day rallied to seek our nation’s freedom from British rule.
It is also of note that roughly “two thousand American and British ships were engaged in transporting between forty thousand and fifty thousand Africans to the Americas every year” during the 18th century. (Bordewich, pp.17-18) In fact, it was this tremendously profitable venture which fed England’s industrial revolution of the 18th century. (Bordewich, p. 17)
An ocean away, England’s Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (citation 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73) was enacted by Parliament on August 28, 1833 to abolish slavery in the British Empire. It all began in 1772 with a ruling by Lord Mansfield in the Somersett Case that slavery could not be supported by law, thus setting free a particular slave. By 1783, as our nation’s war for independence was concluding, a movement to abolish slavery and the slave trade was just beginning within the British Empire.
With the Slave Trade Act of 1807 (enacted in 1808), slave trade effectively ended; unfortunately, slavery, itself, was not done away with. As the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron began patrolling the ocean off the coast of West Africa, they greatly reduced the slave trade. Yet, the trade continued with some captains tossing slaves overboard to avoid or reduce their fines. “Between 1808 to 1860, the West Africa Squadron captured 1600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.” Many freed blacks were then removed to Jamaica and the islands of the Bahamas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_Abolition_Act_1833
In 1823, the Anti-Slavery Society was established by William Wilberforce, a former member of Parliament. Having become an evangelical Christian in 1785, Wilberforce carried on a 20-year fight against the evils of slavery. In 1787, after meeting with a group of British abolitionists, he recorded in his diary that his life’s purpose was to end the slave trade. In parliament, becoming a leading abolitionist, he saw his cause through to the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. He continued to support the full abolishment of slavery even after his retirement from parliament in 1826. When his efforts were rewarded with passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, slavery ended in almost every corner of the British Empire, and Wilberforce died just three days later. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce
In the meantime, it was the notorious 18th century captain of a slave ship, John Newton, who realized the gravity of his evil ways as a foul-mouthed captain of ill repute when he, too, converted to Christianity. Captured and pressed into service for the Royal Navy in 1743 at a young age, he led a hard life, once being whipped on board ship for attempted desertion.
In March 1748, Newton called out to God during a severe storm when his ship almost sank. Every year thereafter, he recalled March 21st as the anniversary of his spiritual conversion to Christianity. (Parker, p.12) Though he continued in the slave trade despite his new-found faith, he treated others better, refrained from certain vices, and worked his way up to become captain of his own slave ship. Newton felt he was doing nothing different from other Christians at the time in both owning and selling slaves, eventually retiring from the sea in 1754. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Newton
Yet, it was Newton who later penned the words to one of our all-time favorite hymns, “Amazing Grace” – “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” (Parker, p.15) Written in December 1772 for his congregation’s New Year’s Day service, he gave the world a monumental hymn, the evidence of God’s grace in his life. (Parker, p.13)
In 1788, Newton published a pamphlet, “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade,” describing the appalling conditions of slave ships. He apologized for “a confession, which…comes too late… It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders." Newton also became an active supporter of Wilberforce’s campaign to end the slave trade. Newton died December 21, 1807. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Newton
The mistreatment of slaves was universally known. Being in the hold of a ship was difficult enough of a trial for they were typically pressed in together with barely enough room to move. Sickness and death, being tossed overboard for infractions, jumping overboard in suicide, or being jettisoned overboard as unnecessary cargo were just some of the fates awaiting the slaves en route. Then, being put on the auction block under close inspection, they were forced to endure yet more humiliation. In addition, there were often agonizing family separations of spouses and of parents and children.
Any slave found guilty of infractions (from some simple error, to running away, to murder) was punished, some more severely than others. Should a slave not perform up to expectations, he or she often met with discipline. Floggings or whippings, branding, mutilation of the ears or hands, cutting off of the ears or hands, hanging, overwork, and many other unsavory forms of punishment were meted out as seen fit by frustrated, angry and authoritative owners. Man’s inhumanity to man was evidenced in untold suffering, too despicable to enumerate in this article, something which we cannot begin to fathom or contemplate. To their credit, however, there were those who treated their slaves in exemplary fashion and whose slaves in turn were loyal and faithful servants, albeit still in a fateful bondage.
And yet, this evil was part of normalcy in a long-ago era. We are able, with hindsight, to see the injustice forced on other humans through our modern ideology and spiritual insight. Then, it was considered part of the established way of life, a substantial and valuable labor force. Their times and understandings were so different from our perspectives. There were those who saw the inequalities inherent within the slave trade even then, despite popular opinion to the contrary; and, gradually, the early abolitionists’ ideas took root and grew from their understanding of God’s inherent biblical truths.
Slaves began to arrive in New Netherlands as early as the 1630s; and, over the next few decades, the Dutch West India Company brought even more slaves to New Amsterdam’s docks. The company was more interested in the labor that slaves could provide, not so much perpetual ownership. The Dutch West India Company made significant profits from the slave trade, albeit not so much in New Netherlands as in Brazil and the Caribbean islands.
Though the Dutch did not believe that whites and blacks were equal, they tolerated the blacks among them, whether slave or free. And, though they, too, owned slaves, the Dutch lived a dichotomy by believing “it was morally wrong to buy and sell human beings…” (Shorto, p.273) Many, like Stuyvesant, felt their slaves were lazy and worthless, and treated them sternly. Yet, there were many Dutch settlers who freed their slaves after several years, believing that they had worked long and hard enough and were deserving of freedom.
Increasingly, New Netherland slaves were granted their freedom (manumission) by their owners between 1644 and 1664. (Shorto, p. 273) When the British took over New Amsterdam in 1664, its population of about 1500 included roughly 375 slaves. This was less than the 500 slaves in New Netherlands as of 1650, and more than those in both Virginia and Maryland. (Foner, p.28) Yet, sixty years later, the numbers had increased as 1446 slaves are found on the 1810 census in New York City, though only 518 remained enslaved ten years later. (Foner, p.43-44) Among the blacks of early New York, former slaves owned property and hired whites to work for them, while slaves were even able to file suit against their European white neighbors for infractions committed. (Shorto, p.273; Foner, p.28)
The Dutch allowed slaves to move about without fear of their running away, promoted their Christianization in the church, and established fathers as heads of their own households, not typically available to Southern slaves. Additionally, under the Dutch, not all slaves were held in as firm a grip as the Southern plantation owners were wont to do. Instead, some of the Dutch treated them as extensions of their family, later assisting them by granting their freedom along with helping some obtain land on which to settle. http://newyorkslavery.blogspot.com/2007/08/chapter-two.html
However, that is not to say there weren’t run-away slaves even in 17th century New Netherlands where free blacks provided safe havens for fugitives on their farms. Connecticut and Maryland offered freedom to escaped slaves, refusing to release them back to their previous owners. (Foner, p.30)
While researching my early New Amsterdam (New York City) ancestors, I discovered records of the Dutch Reformed Church contain baptism and marriage records of slaves. The same was true of some other early church records throughout the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, including the greater Albany-Rensselaer-Schenectady area of New York State.
By about 1700, Samuel Sewall of Massachusetts Bay Colony is noted to have written one of the earliest denouncements of the institution of slavery: “It is most certain that all Men, as they are the Sons of Adam, are Coheirs, and have equal Right unto Liberty, and all their outward Comforts of Life.” (Bordewich p.52) He also quoted Psalms 115:16 to support his anti-slavery belief, “God hath given the Earth unto the Sons of Adam, And hath made of One Blood, all Nations of Men, for to dwell on the face of the Earth.” (Bordewich, p.53)
Also, as early as about 1750, a Philadelphian, Anthony Benezet (a former French Huguenot), was known to have tutored blacks in his home for at least twenty years, educating them so they could hold down good jobs and be of benefit to society. Benezet’s work convinced Benjamin Franklin and many others that the philosophy of abolition and education was truly a worthwhile venture in assisting the plight of free blacks. They also began to understand that it was slavery which denigrated the blacks to remain less than what they were truly capable of achieving.
Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, embodied the dichotomy of a struggle endemic within our nation as a whole in dealing with the issue of slavery. Acknowledged in his writing of the U.S. Constitution is the biblical premise that “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with the inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” Though he himself owned slaves, he struggled with how to end the institution of owning another human being. He called it a “hideous evil,” while at the same time seeing blacks as an inferior race and necessary to a superior way of life. (Bordewich, p.34)
In 1784, Jefferson, as a member of the Continental Congress, helped draft a plan for settlers of the nation’s new lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River. The plan was meant to prohibit slavery in all western territory. Then, defeated by only one vote, hopes were dashed for preventing the spread of slavery. Out of this dichotomy which the nation struggled with, Jefferson wrote he “feared that the continuation of slavery would inevitably lead to bloody rebellion and race war.” (Bordewich, p.34) How right he was.
But, long before that bloody civil war began, there was a movement afoot to assist slaves in escaping their plight rather than turning them in to the law for bounty money, or back to their masters for certain discipline, aka punishment. In addition, most northern states had passed helpful laws by 1800 for the gradual abolition of their slaves.
The Fugitive Slave Act enacted by the United States government in 1793 was followed by state laws passed to aid the free blacks. But, the 1793 act also allowed slave owners, and especially kidnappers, to obtain legal papers for returning fugitive slaves in the North back to their owners in the South. With the Fugitive Slave Act, legal authorities could issue warrants to arrest any black, even if legally free, thereby granting immunity to slave hunters and kidnappers. Kidnapping of blacks, both free and fugitive, went unabated as it was often difficult to prove one's legitimate freedom. Free black children were kidnapped and spirited away into slavery, often into the deep South, never to see their family again. New York’s Manumission Society provided helpful legal assistance, but their efforts were often trumped by claims of kidnappers in front of clerks who simply did not care that they might be sending the wrong person into slavery. (Foner, pp.50-51)
Then, bursting onto the scene with a great labor-saving device, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin that same year of 1793 propelled the southern cotton industry prodigiously forward. Yet, while the machine contributed to the growth of cotton, it also enhanced the expansion of slavery. In 1800, there were just under 900,000 slaves recorded in the U.S.; this grew to around 1.2 million by 1810, increasing to just over 2 million by 1830. By the time the Civil War began, it is estimated there were about 4 million slaves in our nation. (Bordewich, p. 43)
It wasn’t until 1799, after the Revolutionary War, that New York State passed the Gradual Emancipation Act. They were “the next-to-last northern state to do so,” with New Jersey waiting until 1804. This law was meant to free slave children born after July 4, 1799, but it had no bearing on current adult slaves. In actuality, these “free” children would not be truly free until men had served 28 years as apprentices or indentured servants for men, or 25 years for women. A subsequent law enacted in 1817 freed all slaves born before 1799, but that did not even take full effect until July 4, 1827. And, all too often, the law was ignored as slaves were still brought into the north by their southern owners.
Subsequently, in March 1820, Pennsylvania became the first state in the nation to pass a law to defeat the purpose of the Fugitive Slave Act. In other words, slave hunters and kidnappers in Pennsylvania could face felony charges for their actions, be levied with a fine up to $2000.00, or spend up to 21 years in prison. (Bordewich, p. 136)
Six years later, Quaker influence reinforced the law by making it even more difficult for a slave owner to "retrieve" his former property without a legally executed warrant and sufficient court witnesses for corroboration. These laws effectively gave the green light to those Pennsylvania citizens involved in underground activity to act without fear of reprisal, especially in the rural areas near their southern state line, though it still necessitated that they operate discreetly. In the northern states, the blacks were considered free, but they kept one eye always alert, aware that at any time they could be tripped up, caught and taken south. (Bordewich, p. 136)
During the early half of the 19th century, the dreams of slaves for freedom continued to grow. In answer to these dreams came certain whites, along with free blacks, more than willing to assist them in gaining such freedom, despite threats and actuality of their own arrest and imprisonment. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1800, a plan for a major rebellion by slaves was discovered in Virginia. Hundreds of blacks were arrested despite the lack of solid evidence, and twenty-six were executed for their supposed involvement. Any free black who traveled without proper authorization was arrested and fined, or sold back into slavery. Even those with freedom papers were kidnapped and sold unless another white was willing to fight and/or pay for their rights. The laws were still not conducive to assisting the free blacks, let alone aiding those who sought to obtain their freedom. The efforts to provide help to fugitive slaves took a great amount of personal conviction and determination to go against the norm. (Bordewich p.44)
Soon enough, the percentage of free blacks in northern cities began to rise dramatically – some were free by manumission (released from slavery by their owners), others escaped bondage during the Revolutionary War, some fought with the colonial troops during the war and were thus rewarded with freedom, while others were simply fugitives who had made their way north. In the northern cities, the former slaves were treated as near equals by people who believed slavery was truly an evil. In short order, the fugitives realized they could disappear among their new-found friends, especially in areas settled by other free blacks. (Bordewich, p.45)
Almost by accident, it was the Quakers who initially led the early abolitionist work in the City of Brotherly Love… Philadelphia. How fitting! Theirs was a clandestine activity based on their religious faith and a belief they were honoring God by assisting the slaves to freedom... while most of the rest of the nation believed it was criminal activity to harbor and assist a runaway slave, thus punishable by law.
As a group, it was the Quakers who held to a higher standard of education amongst their own people, men and women alike, and this naturally extended to the blacks whom they helped rescue. With education, the blacks proved they were quite as capable as the whites in every endeavor, a novel idea to many who otherwise felt they were an inferior race.
As a fairly new Quaker, Isaac Hopper joined Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Abolition Society in April 1796. He was appointed to assist the city’s black poor in obtaining jobs and education for their children. His contacts in both the black and white communities at large were crucial to the overall success of his work. In 1801, he was given a more demanding job of navigating the legal system in assisting the victims of kidnappings, those being denied their liberty illegally, and those who were in the city illegally as runaway/fugitive slaves but were seeking refuge. And thus began an earnest assistance to those fleeing the bonds of slavery.
In the early 19th century, Hopper and his friends managed to find safe homes and jobs for fugitives locally in Pennsylvania, or in parts of New England. Hopper worked fearlessly, tirelessly, and surreptitiously to help untold hundreds flee the bonds of slavery, all while living under threats against himself and those who assisted him. He, with other Quakers, and some Methodists and Baptists who joined their ranks, felt morally bound by their faith in God to do everything within their power to help these poor people… one by one. It was this kind of cooperation that enabled the men in the Abolition Society and their non-member friends (including wives behind the scenes) to aid the fugitives as they were passed from one home to another until they reached a safe destination. Along the way, they were fed, clothed, sheltered, protected, and assisted in assimilating into northern society as free people.
And so, in due course, the Quakers essentially became the feet of the abolitionist movement. Without realizing they were creating a “railroad” of sorts, they set up a series of safe homes/havens along various routes. In this way, escaped slaves could travel safely from the southern slave states into the northern/northeast free states, and often on into Canada to begin a new life.
In the south, a group of abolitionist Quakers from Nantucket, a whaling port in Massachusetts, led the anti-slavery movement known as the North Carolina Yearly Meeting. They met in the town of New Garden, N.C. and became instrumental in assisting slaves on their way north. One young lad from this Quaker group, Levi Coffin, heard his father speak kindly to men in a “coffle” (i.e. gang of slaves chained together). Retaining an understanding in his heart of the inequality and devastating effect on the men being led away from their families, this incident played a major role in young Levi’s life.
By about 1808, the NCYM Quaker members began owning slaves in a trusteeship for the sole purpose of granting their freedom in assisting them northward. Some of these Quakers removed to the border states, i.e. lands north of the Ohio River, taking their “slaves” with them. Once in non-slave-owning territory, the trusteeship slaves were given their freedom or assisted in reaching better locations in the northeast or in Canada. Three routes were typically used in this order of preference:
1) traveling “through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky…crossing the Ohio River at Cincinnati;”
2) crossing “the mountains through Flower Gap, and [continuing] via Lexington, Kentucky, to the Ohio;”
3) and “the Virginia route, [which] was initially rough and steep…until they reached the Kanawha River in what is now West Virginia, where they could transfer to flatboats for an easy voyage to the junction of the Ohio River at Gallipolis.” (Bordewich, p.68)
The North Carolina Manumission Society formed in 1814 at the same Quaker town of New Garden. In 1818, they combined efforts with the American Colonization Society. Together, they sought to return the blacks to Africa and help them re-establish colonies there. By the time the company had dissolved with the advent of civil war, less than 15,000 blacks had sailed to Liberia since the British haven efforts in Sierra Leone had been aborted. But, it did not take long for word to get out, and slaves began to quietly seek the assistance of the Quakers in and around the New Garden area.
As young Levi Coffin matured into adulthood, he and his brother, Vestal (and later his son Addison), began formulating plans to remove slaves through the hostile southern country to the safety of northern free states. The Coffin family was prominent in the early beginnings of the southern “railroad,” with Levi being involved extensively after his brother’s death at age 34. Levi is also considered the most successful man with his brave and fearless ability to assist slaves on their journey north. His work was so effective, in fact, that slave hunters considered him “president” of the Underground Railroad. (Bordewich, p. 254[e] Levi Coffin photo caption)
An incident in about 1817/1818 brought the abolition movement to a head when a free black, Benjamin Benson, was kidnapped in Delaware by a slave trader, John Thompson. Benson was brought to the New Garden area in North Carolina and sold. When another slave learned what had happened, he alerted Vestal Coffin who, in turn, notified the authorities back up in Delaware. The state of Delaware, home to many Quakers, authorized Coffin and two other men to represent Benson in court. When Thompson learned that he would be arrested for what he had done, he quickly sent Benson off to Georgia where he was again sold. In court, Thompson claimed Benson did not exist and won his case. Not to be deterred, Vestal Coffin and friends managed to prove Benson truly existed, had been captured as a free man by Thompson, and sold. Under court order to bring Benson back, Thompson complied, at great personal cost, and Benson once again became a free man. (Bordewich p.72)
With this and a similar simultaneous case, it became evident that there existed a high level of assistance for slaves... and word continued to spread. It also appeared that the North Carolina Quakers were familiar with the efforts by their Philadelphia Friends in transporting slaves to freedom. Yet, “no blueprint for the network that the Coffins and their associates created survives, no map showing routes of escape, no list of safe houses.” (Bordewich, p.73)
The work of the “underground railroad” was all done by word of mouth… knowing those along the way who were willing to assist the blacks to freedom in the north… and those willing to provide a safe haven, willing to harbor a slave despite the threat of law. It took great courage to retain one’s wits and calmly outsmart the slave bounty hunters/traders for the journey northward was fraught with danger lurking at every turn. But, the work also took a firm determination of will and a belief that what they were doing in these acts of civil disobedience was ordained by a higher power… that they were doing God’s will in helping to free the slaves.
The nation itself, however, became embroiled in a bitter dispute over new states and their right to own slaves or not. In 1820, Congressional debate raged on both sides of the proverbial political aisle. Sen. Nathaniel Macon from North Carolina insisted that if restrictions were imposed on slavery, “[it] could only lead to a national catastrophe.” (Bordewich, p.80) Henry Clay from Kentucky felt that “the spread of slavery into western territories would actually benefit the slaves themselves…reducing whites’ fear of free blacks…” He also felt the institution of slavery would “fade away from natural causes.” (Bordewich, p.81)
Still, the overriding question remained whether Congress had “the power to restrict slavery when it admitted a new state to the Union.” To compromise, Missouri became a state which allowed slave ownership. The flip side of the compromise was that southern states grudgingly agreed to an exclusion of slavery in land north of what became known as the Mason-Dixon line as it extended westward. Ultimately, the compromise angered men on both sides of the argument rather than appeasing anyone, and there the matter festered. (Bordewich, pp.80-83)
From Boston in 1831, William Lloyd Garrison led the way with strong anti-slavery convictions in his first issue of “The Liberator,” America’s first abolitionist newspaper. “I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write with moderation… I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.” (Bordewich, p.106-107)
In August that same year of 1831, Nat Turner, a slave from Virginia, led a bloody revolt against whites as the assailants horrifically killed 60 men, women and children. Turner was executed after his confession, while up to 200 additional slaves were killed in retaliation without proof of their involvement. (Bordewich, p.105) This event only led to further restrictions on the slaves in every way possible, making life often more unbearable for the slaves as a whole.
The next year, 1832, Garrison founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society. The New York City Anti-Slavery Society was established in 1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society in December of the same year, with the New York Vigilance Committee forming in 1835. The cause which Garrison and others so avidly promoted garnered not only American but now international support. http://www.ushistory.org/us/28a.asp
Just as the abolitionists began to speak out more fervently against the evil of slavery, so the “railroad” become more active. Yet, blacks who reached the northern free states continued to live in fear that even those who were kind to them might, in reality, recapture them at any moment for bounty money. And, more often than not, those men and women traveling north went without spouse and family – it was simply too difficult a journey to escape together. After earning enough money, they attempted to purchase freedom for their loved ones, or hired someone to bring their loved one(s) safely north, albeit not always successfully.
As noted above, though there were no definitive routes north, there were typical avenues – with a different path for each person or group going north so as to avoid capture. The slaves often had little to no knowledge of what to do, or how and where to go in order to obtain the freedom for which they pined. They often heard “through the grapevine” of who to contact for assistance, but fear of recapture and “discipline” lay over their heads like a death pall. Because of that fear, and the fear of never seeing their family again, many refused to escape their bondage even when offered the chance.
Most fugitives traveling alone had no direction except to follow the north star. At times, their wait for clouds and bad weather to clear held the inherent risk of being recaptured. One slave eventually made it north after traveling farther south, mistakenly thinking he was going north. For each, the desire for freedom was so strong that they willingly took chances to flee, despite the very real risk and fear of capture. At times, they relied on meeting someone willing to assist them, some kind soul who could direct them to the next person willing to help move them northward.
They traveled silently from one place to another, through rough terrain of forest, marshes, creeks and rivers, and into towns where professional slave hunters and informants lurked. Whether alone or with a “conductor,” they carried very few possessions, wearing out their clothing and shoes (if they were lucky enough to have even one pair) from briars and simply walking, being fed, clothed and hid along the way by the kind souls at various stops on the line.
Gradually, the numbers of people willing to assist the fugitives grew over the decades as multiple routes with safe havens became available. Each successful step on the journey took the wit and cunning of those willing to give of their time in offering respectful assistance to another human. It also took ingenious ways to hide the fugitives and assist them from point A to point B to point C and so on until their destination was reached. The fear of being found out and of being reported to authorities was overwhelming at times to most, if not all, participants on both sides. For the conductor on the railroad, it might mean a steep fine or jail time, while for the slave it would mean punishment and the possibility of being sold into the “deep south,” far away from family and friends, or even death.
Even the abolitionists who assisted fugitives were at times beaten, stoned, egged, fined and served time behind bars for their work. It was simply their absolute convictions of faith which enabled them to endure their own hardships in order to help another human being. It was not easy being involved in this “openly clandestine” business to aide fugitive slaves. That is, many people knew exactly who was involved in the conveyance of fugitives on the road to freedom. At times, the slave hunters knew who was providing aide, keeping an eye on their activity, while those either on the sidelines or involved in transport knew who to direct fugitives to for assistance. But, out of fear for their lives and those of the people they assisted, utmost secrecy was crucial when there came a knock at the door from a fugitive seeking help.
As we noted earlier, most of the early conductors on the Underground Railroad were Quakers, but their early numbers steadily grew to include Methodists, Presbyterians and many other faiths. (Bordewich, p.139) Both preachers and abolitionists spoke publicly despite threats against themselves as they made inroads into the hearts of Americans. William Lloyd Garrison was one such man who influenced untold thousands of people with his abolition work, as did others who shared his sentiments. Obviously, their stand was unpopular as the news media proclaimed them "fanatics, amalgamists, disorganizers, disturbers of the peace, and dangerous enemies of the country." (Bordewich, p.144) Riots during convention meetings and attempted murder of abolitionists were not uncommon.
From these abolition society meetings, there arose many men who embodied the best and richest of society including Lewis and Arthur Tappan of Manhattan, Gerrit Smith, Robert Purvis and James McCrummel, two free blacks who formed the Philadelphia Vigilance committee, "one of the most efficient underground operations in the country." (Bordewich, p.144) Women, like Lucretia Mott whose impassioned speech was a novelty to most men, began to express themselves publicly. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and even Beriah Green, president of New York's Oneida Institute, the nation's first racially integrated college (Bordewich, p. 144) joined the ranks. William Lloyd Garrison penned the "Declaration of Sentiments" which defined the principles of the abolitionist movement and those involved with the Underground Railroad until America’s civil war. And yet, so many more were involved which this column simply cannot begin to enumerate.
But, there were also black men who reached the forefront in speaking against the cruelty of slavery. One of them was a former slave himself, Frederick Bailey. In 1838, he left behind his common-law wife, Anna, as he escaped from Baltimore to freedom in Philadelphia and then went on to New York City, two of the most important northern freedom cities. Meeting with men who could assist him, help was obtained for Anna to travel north where they were reunited and married. Encouraged to change his name, he became Frederick Johnson. Then, bound for Newport, Rhode Island, he presented a letter of introduction to Nathan Johnson, a prominent black man who would next assist them. Noting that Johnson was a very common surname among blacks in New Bedford, Massachusetts where they were to settle, Bailey again changed his name – to that of Frederick Douglass, destined to become one of “the most famous African American of his generation.” (Bordewich, p. 181) Douglass became a much sought-after speaker on the abolitionists’ circuit throughout America, also having the ear and admiration of President Abraham Lincoln.
Josiah Henson escaped the bonds of slavery with his family, removing to Canada where they could truly be free in every sense of the word as Canada refused to surrender former slaves to the United States. In 1827, Secretary of State Henry Clay wrote the Canadian government seeking an agreement to return fugitive slaves. Months later, the Canadian government determined “it is utterly impossible to agree to a stipulation for the surrender of fugitive slaves.” (Petry, p.48)
Freedom for the blacks in the north was still often less than what white society enjoyed. Henson was a born leader, a man who knew how to manage his affairs while assisting others. Struggling to survive in a strange land, Henson worked hard and ultimately owned land in Colchester, Canada, all while observing what it required for black communities to prosper. He, too, became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, assisting many slaves northward to freedom. His life’s example was used by Harriet Beecher Stowe as “Uncle Tom” in the book which propelled her to fame and which did so much more to propel the abolitionist movement forward.
Another slave, a brave young mother, left her husband and children behind in the dark of night, carrying her young infant tightly in her arms. It was the winter of 1838, and she left knowing that a slave trader was trying to buy her or her infant, separately. Though fearful of dying in the cold, or breaking through the Ohio River ice and drowning, she knew she had to try. Along with her infant, she carried a flat board. As she crossed the river, she repeatedly broke through. Pushing her baby up onto the ice, she climbed out with the use of the plank. Slowly she crept across the ice by pushing the baby ahead of her and using the board to move herself along, pulling herself up on it when she fell through the ice. Finally, reaching the northern shore, she collapsed, freezing cold and utterly spent, but on the free side of the river.
What she did not know was that a slave hunter had been watching her, and she was about to be captured. But, as he approached her, the man’s heart inexplicably softened when he heard her baby’s soft cry. Instead of capturing her for reward money, and returning her to meet certain punishment at the hands of her master, he unexpectedly told her, “Woman, you have won your freedom.” (Bordewich, p.215)
On bringing her to the village, he pointed out a farmhouse in the distance, a haven of safety and rest, a home on the Underground Railroad. Assisted by the Rankin family in fleeing onward into the arms of freedom, she became the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Eliza.” Her treacherous crossing over the ice-covered Ohio River became “the most famous rendering of a fugitive’s escape ever written.” (Bordewich, p.216)
Written in the Victorian era, and considered a romanticized version of actual events, Stowe’s 1852 novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly,” accomplished a tremendous feat. It not only brought respect to the abolitionists and their moral outrage at slavery, but it shed favorable light on the secret operatives of the Underground Railroad. On the other hand though, it greatly angered those in the pro-slavery camp. Stowe’s very popular book prompted President Lincoln to remark when greeting her at the White House that she was “the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war.” (Bordewich, p.370)
But, knowledge of Stowe’s story left Harriet Tubman unimpressed. Refusing to go with friends to see a play in Philadelphia based on “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Tubman stated, “I haint got no heart to go and see the sufferings of my people played out on de stage. I’ve seen de real ting, and I don’t want to see it on no stage or in no teater.” (Bordewich, p.373)
Despite her husband’s threat to report her should she ever escape, Tubman (born ca.1821) left him behind in 1849. She quietly fled during the middle of the night to the home of a white woman who had previously proffered help should she desire it. From Dorchester County in eastern Maryland, she both walked alone and was taken 90 miles north into Pennsylvania with the kind assistance of many along the way. She crossed into the land of freedom as the sun rose, remembering always that “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.” (Petry, p.101)
Though of short physical stature, Tubman was a woman capable of hard physical labor, proud to swing an axe like a man, preferring outdoor work over women’s housework. Having known much hardship as a slave, having been lent out in early childhood, having been whipped and beaten repeatedly, and having had her skull bashed in by a thrown keg meant for a fleeing man, Tubman knew how to survive. And, ultimately, she gained great success on the stage of life in assisting her people to their freedom.
With an unassuming yet authoritative air about her, Tubman had the ability to pass virtually unnoticed through the towns of Southern slaveholders, hiding her identity, “stealing” away numerous slaves on the road to freedom. But, that is not to say she didn’t face difficulties in helping slaves escape their bondage. It was not an easy venture for any free black, even with proper papers, to maneuver around in slave territory without being apprehended. Known to live in constant dependency on God during those times, Tubman is quoted as saying simply, “I tell de Lawd what I needs, an’ he provides.” http://www.harriettubman.com/harriettubmanplaque.html / http://www.harriettubman.com/index.html
When she brought out her brothers and some of their friends from Maryland, they stayed briefly in her parents’ barn where her father fed them. Hesitant to see their mother for fear emotions would give them away (Tubman had not seen her mother in several years), they left quietly, walking along muddy roads in the rains, circuitously through the woods to get around towns, eventually arriving at the homes of northern abolitionists. They arrived in Philadelphia and were given aid by her friend, William Still, of the Vigilance Committee. Still put Tubman and her fugitives on a train to New York City where Sydney Howard Gay gave assistance, putting them on another train to Albany, then Rochester, and finally taking a boat across Lake Ontario to St. Catharines, Canada. Canada – where so many fugitive slaves endeavored to establish a life in true freedom, often becoming wealthy in owning their own land and businesses.
William Still, a free black and secretary for the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee (the former Vigilant Committee), kept meticulous records of fugitive slaves and their conductors. Still published a book in 1872, “The Underground Railroad,” from his extensive trove of information on the fugitives and their experiences. (Foner, p.226) In turn, Still was in contact with men in New York City who, like Sydney Howard Gay, also kept detailed records of the fugitives they assisted. The extant records left by such men are among the limited but solid evidentiary proof of those who traveled the elusive and secretive Underground Railroad. Messages between offices or stops were disguised as to the real purpose, known only to those involved on the “railroad.” One such example reported by a visiting abolitionist was Still’s telegram to Gay of “‘six parcels’ coming by the train. And before I left the office, the ‘parcels’ came in, each on two legs.” (Foner, p. 164)
Tubman was called “Moses” by her people (Foner, p.191), “General” by John Brown (Bordewich, p.418) of Harper’s Ferry fame, and “Captain” by Sydney Howard Gay in New York City when he documented those whom she brought north to his office. Her bold courage and ability to successfully travel unnoticed among the “enemy” was reportedly unparalleled among “conductors” on the “railroad.”
By the time the Civil War began, Tubman had traveled 13 times into the South since she escaped bondage in 1849. She is believed to have brought out at least 70 fugitives, among them her siblings and parents, possibly indirectly assisting an additional 50 in leaving on their own. (Bordewich, p.351; Foner, p.190) Supposedly, over 300 slaves were brought north on 19 trips by Tubman as claimed by her first biographer, Sarah Bradford; but, these figures are believed to be greatly inflated based on contemporary study of known records. (Bordewich, p.351)
With the advent of civil war, Tubman became restless, feeling the need to do more for her people. She then became a nurse, cook and spy for the Union in South Carolina, becoming “the first woman in American history to lead a detachment of troops in battle.” (Bordewich, p.431, Foner, p.225)
The abolitionist issues in Stowe’s book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” also brought legitimacy to the women’s rights’ movement which sprang to life in the 1840s and 1850s. Men who championed their tenets nationally included Horace Mann, Rev. Harry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Gerrit Smith (the cousin of Elizabeth Cady). Women whose beliefs embodied not only the values of abolition but women’s rights included Lucretia Mott, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Abby Kelley Foster, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Oaks Smith, Paulina Wright Davis, Lucy Stone, Antoinette Brown, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. These are just a few of the many whose belief in equality for the blacks seemed to naturally extend into rights for women who were unable to legally own property or to vote. But, even the cause of women’s rights created division within the nation just as the abolitionists’ work had done.
And yet, these turbulent times were about to become even more turbulent. During the 1850s, issues arose about the need of better funding for the work of the abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. Increased funding was sorely needed to help meet needs of slaves who fled northward to freedom, and to assist them once they were free. Disputes also erupted as to whether enough was being done to rid the nation of slavery as a whole. And dissension even arose amongst the white and black abolitionists during this period. Blacks felt the whites were not doing “enough to combat racial prejudice,” while the whites “were appalled by the controversy.” (Foner, pp.182-183)
Many white abolitionists felt they had willingly placed their lives, their family, and their property on the line to follow their heart’s leading to assist the slaves, asking nothing or little in return. To be vilified as not doing enough to help the plight of the black man was abhorrent to them. Yet, it was part of an attitude which strained and tore apart friendships between white and black abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass in Rochester, NY and Sydney Howard Gay of New York City. This was evidenced by neither man giving credit to the other in their documentation regarding the other’s work with fugitives, including those who had come to Gay and were then forwarded to Douglass on the “’route to freedom’ via Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester.” (Foner, p. 182)
To compound these issues troubling the nation in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted as part of a compromise with the South. Instead of healing the animosity between the North and South, the law created a wider chasm. In effect, if you were convicted of assisting or harboring slaves, the law came down hard with oppressive fines and/or imprisonment. But, on the other hand, if you were the runaway slave, you could be shot upon capture, whipped or sold into the deep South and a life of hard physical labor. With injustices evident to all within the legal system, this law began turning the tide in favor of abolition as more and more northerners realized that, if the slaves truly were being treated well, they would not be fleeing in droves. (Petry p.114)
Then, in January 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which allowed each western territory to vote on the legality of owning slaves. With slavery expanding in the west, men in free states felt they could not compete in business against slave labor. Pro and con passions ignited in the western states, often erupting in severe violence amongst settlers of the frontier.
In the midst of these contentious arguments, the Underground Railroad continued to operate with even more speed and efficiency than before, and, at times, even more openly. Fugitives went north alone, in pairs, in groups, by foot, on horse, with or without a carriage, by train, by boat – with or without a conductor, and with or without a disguise. They hid in the crawl space underneath houses, hid in tiny rooms, and hid in the woods and swamps until help could arrive to safely conduct them north. During the financial Panic of 1857, James Miller McKim of the Philadelphia underground office was reported to say, “Other railroads are in a declining condition and have stopped their semiannual dividends, but the Underground has never done such a flourishing business.” (Foner, p.212) At about the same time, a Richmond, Virginia newspaper asked, “Is there no way to break up this ‘railroad?’” (Foner, p. 215)
After John Brown’s failed insurrection attempt at Harper’s Ferry in September 1859, President Buchanan blithely urged all Americans to “cultivate…feelings of mutual forbearance and good will toward each other” as he seemingly ignored the deepening rift between the North and the South. (Bordewich, p.427)
Before elections in the fall of 1860, debate upon debate was held as the option of state secession was also discussed. Southern newspapers began warning that if Lincoln were elected president, they expected the Fugitive Slave Act would not be followed, and the Charleston “Mercury” opined in October that “the underground railroad would operate ‘over-ground.’” (Foner, p.218)
Then, to the pleasant surprise of some and the disgust of others, Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860. Though Lincoln intended to hold the country together as one nation, he would not end slavery nor was he inclined to end the Fugitive Slave Law. He did, however, wish to amend the law so that no free black could ever be forced into slavery.
With feelings running high, Southern states began to secede from the Union after South Carolina was the first to leave on December 20th. Together, they formed the new Confederate States of America. Shortly thereafter, federal troops arrived at Fort Sumter in the bay outside Charleston, S.C. to defend federal property. With ongoing dispute between the Union and the Confederacy over ownership of Ft. Sumter, President Lincoln faced a dilemma in how to respond. After Lincoln ordered aid sent to the federal troops at Ft. Sumter, the Confederate Army opened fire on the fort early in the morning of April 12, 1861. And so began the American Civil War…
In Washington, Congress claimed in July 1861 that the war’s intent was in preserving the Constitution, not “overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions” of the states. (Bordewich, p.430) It may have been Congressional intent not to disturb the institution of slavery; but, in actuality, the issues of war were deeply entangled within the secession states regarding the maintaining and furthering of the bonds of slavery for the South’s financial prosperity.
Later that year, however, a turning point arose when Gen. Benjamin Butler at Fortress Monroe in Virginia (an attorney in New York before the war began) refused to return fugitive slaves to a “foreign nation,” as the Confederacy was now considered. The federal government’s war department then conveyed a mixed signal. “Butler was ordered not to deliberately interfere with the ‘servants’ of peaceful citizens, but [he was] permitted to allow ‘contraband’ slaves into his lines and put them to work.” (Bordewich, p.430) This order effectively put the U.S. government right in line with the Underground Railroad’s mission.
Thus, with war, came an accelerated flow of fugitive slaves by the thousands from the south as they crossed openly into northern free states. President Lincoln let it be known that those who had crossed that line by coming to the U.S. Army for refuge were now entirely free. Many former slaves who had settled in Canada also began returning to the U.S., some joining the Northern Army with others simply looking for work. (Foner, p.223)
Indeed, with the advent of civil war, the New York City abolitionist newspaper, “Principia,” stated that “because of wartime prosperity, all the railroads in the North were ‘doing a flourishing business’ except one – the underground railroad [which] ‘now does scarcely any business at all...’” (Foner, p.224)
After so many sacrifices were made to escape the bonds of slavery, and with the nation’s first civil war, clarity was ultimately expressed when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Freeing all slaves (except in Maryland and Kentucky which had not seceded), his proclamation essentially proved that the work of the Underground Railroad was done. The abolitionists had accomplished what they’d set out to do. They had gained freedom for all enslaved African Americans, the fulfillment of the dreams of thousands upon thousands when their work began inauspiciously so many decades ago.
At President Lincoln’s second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, he stated, “…These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war… It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged… With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Afterward, Lincoln asked Frederick Douglass what he thought of his speech. Douglass replied, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” (“Absence of Malice,” Adapted from “Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural,” by Ronald C. White, Jr., Smithsonian, April 2002, p.119)
Ultimately, all former slaves received their full legal freedom with passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in April 1870. They could now appreciate their hard-won liberty; and yet, they continued to struggle for their rights over the next century, culminating with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Harriet Tubman, former slave, a free and fearless woman, died March 10, 1913 in her hometown of Auburn, New York. She was essentially the last survivor of an unprecedented era, famed conductor on the Underground Railroad, having lived her life to help others attain the very freedom she had gained.
Fittingly, the town of Auburn erected a monument to the auspicious career of this amazing woman: “In memory of Harriet Tubman. Born a slave in Maryland about 1821. Died in Auburn, N.Y., March 10th, 1821. Called the Moses of her People, During the Civil War. With rare courage she led over three hundred negroes up from slavery to freedom, and rendered invaluable service as nurse and spy. With implicit trust in God she braved every danger and overcame every obstacle. Withal she possessed extraordinary foresight and judgment so that she truthfully said “On my underground railroad I nebber run my train off de track an’ I nebber los’ a passenger.” (Petry p.241-242) [As noted above, the figure of 300 blacks is considered an exaggeration. lar]
Locally, Tioga County, New York can lay claim to involvement in the Underground Railroad. But, as historian, Ed Nizalowski, noted online, “…as is the case in so many other parts of the country, actual documentation and credible evidence for involvement can be very difficult to verify.” http://owegowebdesign.com/D3/Underground%20Railroad.html
According to Nizalowski, Hammon Phinney, of the Baptist Church in Owego, NY, was a strong leader among local abolitionists. Meetings in Owego, as elsewhere, throughout the 1830s and 1840s were rife with “wild confusion and violence.” Frederick Douglas was forced to cancel speaking engagements “for fear of his physical safety” in 1840, though he did return in 1857, and Garret/Gerrit Smith was hit with eggs. http://owegowebdesign.com/D3/Underground%20Railroad.html
Nizalowski’s research uncovered four homes on Front Street in Owego which are known to have been involved in the Underground Railroad – Nos. 100, 294, 313, and 351. “At 294 Front Street, a building once owned by the Eagles Club, a brick lined tunnel had been found running along the north wall.” He also stated that No. 351 Main Street “has the best evidence for being a station for fugitive slaves.” It was owned previously by Judge Farrington, “a prominent Abolitionist,” and by Hammon Phinney, with the house having “a hidden space in the cellar.” Nizalowski avers that Phinney’s work as a stationmaster was learned primarily when the property was sold. “In 1867 when the Hastings family bought the property from Frederick Phinney, Hammon's son, the new owners were told that the home had served as a station for fugitive slaves. This story was passed on for over 100 years. The best evidence for Hammon being a stationmaster comes from his obituary that appeared on March 3, 1898 where it also states that his home served as a station. This is one of the few written references from the 19th century identifying a specific individual.” http://owegowebdesign.com/D3/Underground%20Railroad.html
There were Tioga County homes in Newark Valley, Berkshire and Richford which may well have been involved in the Underground Railroad as Nizalowski pointed out. Often, local history is only gained through stories passed down within families which attest to involvement in the underground. But, there was definitely assistance and support for abolition work throughout the county, both financially and physically. Nizalowski’s report at this website is well worth the read: http://owegowebdesign.com/D3/Underground%20Railroad.html
Elmira in Chemung County, New York had slaves prior to 1827, the year slavery legally ended in New York State. This website notes that the 1820 federal census shows two Elmira businessmen owned a total of 13 slaves, while the 1830 census notes there were about 300 “free colored people.” http://www.chemunghistory.com/slabtownindex.html With some local churches voicing their anti- slavery sentiments in 1840, former slaves began arriving via the Underground Railroad, finding Elmira to be a safe haven.
A section of Elmira, called “Slabtown,” was built up by about 1850, a reputable settlement, so named because of the slab wood used to build their homes. It was not a slum, but located in the center of Elmira, “bounded north by the Lackawanna Railroad, east by Lake Street, south by Clinton and west by the Chemung Canal - later old State Street.” http://www.chemunghistory.com/slabtownindex.html From this community, free blacks stepped forth into numerous occupations, their children able to obtain a quality education with successful lives of their own.
The John W. Jones Museum is being established in Elmira and commemorates a fugitive slave who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. “Jones was born a slave June 21, 1827 on a plantation in Leesburg, VA.” On June 3, 1844, Jones, age 27, came north with his brothers, George and Charles, and two other men. They walked from Virginia to Elmira where his mother had told him “there is no slavery.” Jones, a sexton for the Elmira First Baptist Church, owned property at the corner of Davis Street and Woodlawn Avenue in Elmira. His house is being restored as a museum to preserve his legacy. http://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org/
Barbara S. Ramsdell wrote in 2002 for The Jones Museum website, quoting Arch Merrill’s book, “The Underground, Freedom’s Road, and Other Upstate Tales.” “Jones quietly took command of the Underground in Elmira, a gateway between the South and the North. It became the principal station on the ‘railroad’ between Philadelphia and the Canadian border. Jones worked closely with William Still, the chief Underground agent in Philadelphia, who forwarded parties of from six to 10 fugitives at a time to Elmira... The station master concealed as many as 30 slaves at one time in his home, exactly where he never told. He carried on his operations so secretly that only the inner circle of abolitionists knew that in a decade he dispatched nearly 800 slaves to Canada.” http://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org/jwjstory.html
As I discovered while researching and reading various books and websites noted below, the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad are also intertwined with the beginnings of the Women’s Rights Movement. It was a time in history when many good church people were not inclined to confront the evils of slavery; it was just the normal way of life, or so they believed. And the place of women was in the home or in a limited number of occupations, often not being given as good an education as their brothers. It was an era when those opposed to owning another human clashed definitively with those opposed to slavery’s demise. Were it not for the ardent religious beliefs and persistence of the abolitionists, men and women, white and black, who carried on their work despite great opposition, slavery might have lasted far longer in this nation than it actually did.
NEXT: The Old Steam Trains
BOOKS I’VE READ:
*Abide With Me, A Photographic Journey Through Great British Hymns, by John H. Parker, New Leaf Press, Green Forest, AR, 2009.
*Bound for Canaan, The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement, by Fergus M. Bordewich, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2005.
*Gateway to Freedom, by Eric Foner, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, 2015.
*Harriet Tubman, Conductor on the Underground Railroad, by Ann Petry, Harper Trophy of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 1955.
*The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto, Vintage Books Edition, New York, NY, 2005.
*“Absence of Malice” (Adapted from “Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural” by Ronald C. White, Jr.) in Smithsonian, April 2002, p.119.
*The Underground Railroad in Tioga County, A Piece of History With Many Gaps to Fill, By Ed Nizalowski - http://owegowebdesign.com/D3/Underground%20Railroad.html
*Elmira, Chemung County - http://www.chemunghistory.com/slabtownindex.html
* John W. Jones Museum, Elmira, NY - http://www.johnwjonesmuseum.org “Our purpose is to preserve… related artifacts in memory of his role and the roles of others in the Southern Tier involved in the Underground Railroad and the American Civil War.”