Date: Thursday, November 10, 2022
Time: 1:00PM-2:30PM EST
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Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad
Abstract: Underground Railroad scholarship has focused almost exclusively on interior overland routes used to escape enslavement in the Antebellum South. Largely overlooked, however, is the great multitude of enslaved persons who made their way to freedom aboard merchant vessels plying coastal routes along the Atlantic seaboard. This crucial but neglected aspect of the Underground Railroad story is the focus of a groundbreaking volume of ten essays edited by Timothy Walker. Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad demonstrates that escaping bondage by sea was commonplace -- especially from southern coastal regions where slave labor in maritime industries was ubiquitous. Such work gave enslaved people experience with vessels and seafaring, a knowledge of coastal geography, contact with ships’ crews from northern free states, and access to ocean-going northbound voyages. Documented successful escapes from the far South were almost all achieved by sea. By highlighting these little-known stories and describing the less-understood maritime side of the Underground Railroad, this talk will reshape our perception of how it functioned, to provide a more comprehensive, accurate historical perspective.