Question of the Week: 7/27-8/2/20

Do you have a favorite account about an escape on the Underground Railroad?

4 Responses to Question of the Week: 7/27-8/2/20

  1. John Brown’s late 1850s branch of the Underground Railroad began in Kansas and western Missouri, ran north into Iowa then east via wagon road and railroad into Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. On 4 FEB 1859 John Brown commenced a run, stopping in Iowa at Dr. Blanchard’s place; then on to the frequently used safe-house at Tabor. Either at Tabor, or one of the stops just after, Brown acquired wagons and horses to carry his human cargo; and continued east through Dalmanutha and Redfield and West Des Moines. After two months of travel, the party of ten armed members of Brown’s crew and 12 slaves reached Springdale, and the home of William Maxson. Devout Quakers, William Maxson and his neighbors purposely refused to view the slaves, or even to be told that they were hidden under straw in the wagons (so they could Truthfully deny “having seen any slaves,” if asked by marshals.)
    On 9 March 1859 Brown and his party arrived at the West Liberty depot of the M & M Railroad, climbed aboard a boxcar, and continued east by rail to Chicago; and within two days reached Detroit and crossed on the ferry to Windsor, Canada. It was John Brown’s last assignment with the Underground Railroad. [References: and “Iowa and the Underground Railroad.”]

  2. It’s not technically part of the Underground Railroad, but the story of Robert Smalls “liberation” of a boat to sail individuals to freedom is a stirring one. His subsequent war career and post war life are equally astonishing, particularly his spirited attempt to stop disenfranchisement laws, and standing up to a lynch mob in his old age. Man deserves a movie!

  3. While I have always loved Harriet Tubman’s stories, I think the best written, and most unlikely though true, is the escape of Ellen and William Craft.

    They traveled all the way from Macon, GA in December 1848 openly by train and steamboat, arriving in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. Ellen did a gender switch, masquerading as an ailing white male planter with her faithful personal servant, William. She was traveling to seek medical care in the north.

    Their book is Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery. If you haven’t read it, the book, published in 1860, is well-written.

    After spending years in Great Britain, the Crafts returned to the United States in 1868. They opened an agricultural school for freedmen’s children in Georgia, but were forced to abandon it in 1870.

    The book is available online from Project Gutenberg and the University of Virginia.

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