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Friday, 20 March 2015



Thousands of people sought to aid slaves. The varied lot included former slaves, freeborn blacks, white reformers, and clergy. Some whites championed gradual emancipation, others a return to Africa or freedom without citizenship;few approved social integration. 

JERMAIN LOGUEN (ca 1813-1872) “No day dawns for the slaves, nor is it looked for. It is all night-night forever,”said the fugitive, son of his tennessee master and a slave woman. Underground agent and ordained minister, he helped 1500 escapees and started black schools in New York State.

LUCRETIA COFFIN MOTT (1793-1880) A well educated Quaker wife and mother, she preached eloquently for abolition, women’s rights, and temperance. She stood with William Garrison for immediate emancipation.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS (ca 1817-1895) A fugitive slave , Douglass became a skilled abolitionist speaker, praised for “wit, argument, sarcasm, and pathos”.  He urged blacks to pursue vocational education and the vote; his print shop in Rochester, New York, was a depot on the underground.

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (1807-1892) Remembered for bucolic verse, the Quaker poet gave powerful voice to the abolition movement. He early joined The Republican Party, founded partly to halt the spread of slavery. 

ALLAN PINKERTON (1819-1884) before founding a detective agency, this scottish immigrant managed underground depot at his cooper’s shop near Chicago.

JOSIAH HENSON (1789-1883) So trustworthy a slave that his owner made him an overseer, Henson, while transporting slaves to Kentucky, resisted others’ efforts to free them all. Harriet Beecher Stowe attributed a similar episode to Uncle Tom in her novel. Henson eventually escaped to Canada, led others to safety, and traveled as abolitionist and businessman .

THOMAS GARRETT (1789-1871) “Among the manliest of men, and the gentlest of spirits”, wrote William Lloyd Garrison about the Wilmington businessman who aided more than 2,700 slaves to freedom.

MARY ANN SHADD (1823-1893) Daughter of a black agent in the Wilmington underground, the Quaker-educated teacher moved to Canada, where as a writer and editor she preached permanent emigration from the States.

WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON (1805-1879) One of the earliest, most vitriolic abolitionists, he devoted full time to the cause, speaking against slavery and the Constitution that permitted it. By 1841 he was calling upon the North to secede.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY (1820-1906) Raised to be self-supporting by a Quaker father, the teacher spoke out for temperance, women’s rights and abolition, despite vehement prejudice against women in public affairs. Later she led the fight for women’s suffrage.

JONATHAN WALKER (1799-1878) Imprisoned for helping seven slaves sail from Florida bound for the Bahamas, he was branded on the hand with SS for “Slave Stealer”. After release he became a “conspicuous witness against slave power” for the abolitionists.

WILLIAM STILL (1821-1902) Indefatigable worker in the Philadelphia underground, Still kept rare day-to-day records, which were published in 1872. A successful coal merchant, he continued to campaign against discrimination.

(National Geographic, Vol 166, No 1, July 1984)
*UNDERGROUND RAILROAD  is a vast informal network of activists-black and white- who aided escaping slaves in the decades before the civil War.

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