Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Underground Railroad

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The "Journey to the North; New York's Freedom Trail" exhibit is available for loan to not-for profit, educational institutions.

New York State was at the forefront of the Underground Railroad movement. It was a major destination for freedom-seekersº for four main reasons:

  • Destination & Gateway
    New York was a gateway to liberation for freedom-seekers (often referred to as escaped slaves). Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard.
  • Safe Haven
    Freedom-seekers knew they would be protected in New York's many black communities as well as Quaker and other progressive white and mixed race communities. A large and vocal free black population was present after the manumission (freeing) of slaves in New York State in 1827.
  • Powerful Anti-Slavery Movement
    Anti-slavery organizations were abundant in New York State - more than any other state. The reform politics and the progressive nature of the state gave rise to many active anti-slavery organizations.
  • Strong Underground Railroad Leaders
    Many nationally-known and locally influential black and white abolitionists chose to make their homes in New York. Among them were: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Henry Ward Beecher, Sojourner Truth and John Brown.

º Freedom-seeker, although a contemporary term, captures the essence of the experience of fleeing slavery far better than the term escaped or fugitive slave, which carries a negative connotation.

Discover the many important historic sites, museums and interpretive centers related to Underground Railroad, slavery and anti-slavery themes in New York State.

Additional Underground Railroad Resources

Aboard the Underground Railroad: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary
Provides descriptions and photographs on 61 historic places that are listed in the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and related to the Underground Railroad. It also includes a map of the most common directions of escape taken on the Underground Railroad.

National Geographic
National Geographic Society interactive web site about the Underground Railroad. The site presents options at every stage of an escape allowing a visitor to make choices and experience consequences based upon historical facts.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
A comprehensive encyclopedia of people and places associated with the Underground Railroad. It also contains links to related sites useful for students and educators.

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record
A collection of images related to American slave trade and slave societies. The images were compiled from a variety of sources and are comprised primarily of visual documents dating to the period of slavery. The exhibit is sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and by the Digital Media Lab at the University of Virginia.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition
Resources from the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, a division dedicated to the examination of the Atlantic slave system and its destruction. This site addresses academic studies of the role of slavery, slave resistance, and abolition, and it links to information regarding curriculum, bibliographies, and calendar of events.

Slavery in America
For educators, on "Slavery and the Making of America," was created by series underwriters, New York Life. It includes an image gallery, lesson plans, an encyclopedia of topics relevant to slavery, and an interactive exhibition called "Roads to Freedom," which examines the ways slaves faced the challenges of escape.

African American World
Explores the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. The site provides information on the history of African Americans from the 1400s to the present.

Interpreters at Philipsburg Manor, Yonkers NY; Interpreters perform a historical vignette describing the life of enslaved Africans on site.

Africans in America
The "Africans in America" PBS series companion site provides in depth information about the history of slavery in America. These resources include historical narratives, images and documents, as well as a teacher's guide.

Digital History: African American Voices
Offers links to primary documents related to slavery in America and essays on various aspects of the slave experience, including the middle passage, family life, economics, and abolition.

Documenting the American South: The Southern Experience in 19th-Century America
Access to digitized texts, images, and audio files related to Southern history from the colonial period to the early 20th century. The collection of books, diaries, and letters offers a rich selection of sources on slavery and the African American experience. The site is sponsored by the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Search the New York Public Library's invaluable holdings of books, art objects, and videos related to the African Diaspora and African American culture and history. Of special interest are links to Digital Schomburg: Images of African Americans from the 19th Century, and "Lest we forget: The Triumph over Slavery," an online version of the UNESCO traveling exhibition.

A listing of Underground Railroad Websites and Books: