The Underground Railroad is an amazing story with people coming together to fight for one basic American right: freedom. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of the Underground Railroad has become romantic and surrounded by myths. It makes it next to impossible for historians to weed through everything, let alone the the average American citizen.
<p>Leading up to our annual Underground Railroad Experience, we are putting some of those myths to rest. Check in each week to read about a widely spread myth and the truth behind it.
<p>And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our Underground Railroad Experience on Saturday, June 25th. Check out our website for more information or call Spring Hill Historic Home at 330-833-6749. Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1st.
<p>Our unofficial slogan here at Spring Hill is that we are teaching a shared history (our director is constantly saying this). The Underground Railroad is perhaps one of the first, if not the first interracial movement in the United States.
<p>One of the dangers of places like Spring Hill is the amount of time spent on Station Masters like Thomas and Charity Rotch. To many people, the Underground Railroad is a movement where white abolitionists, especially Quakers, help freedom seeking blacks. Despite Harriet Tubman being the face of the Underground Railroad, this myth persists.
<p>Instead, the early abolitionist movement has blacks and whites working together to end the institution that they hate. It isn’t until after the first quarter of the 1800s that blacks and whites are forming separate abolitionist societies. Even then, there are still many interracial organizations.
<p>While Quakers were very important in the formation of the abolitionist movement, they are not the only religion supporting the end of slavery. Presbyterians, Universalists, and Congregationalists were all supporters of the abolitionist movement here in the United States. These denominations were very welcoming of black members and churches (for example, the African American church in Colonial Williamsburg is a Presbyterian Church).
<p>While men and women like the Grimke Sisters, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe were leaders of the abolitionist movement, there were also many black leaders of the movement. Levi Coffin, Sojourner Truth, William Still, and Harriet Tubman led the abolitionist movement, often in tandem with white abolitionists. These men and women could not have ended slavery without coming together.
<p>William Still himself sheltered almost 650 runaways in his Philadelphia home, including his own brother! This was doubly dangerous for Still, being the son of runaways himself. He could have easily been captured and ended up like his friend Samuel Burris, who was sold into slavery. Thankfully, Still and other members of their abolitionist group raised money, and a white member purchased Burris at auction in Delaware, giving him back his freedom.
<p>The abolitionist movement is not only an interracial movement, but also the first movement where women are taking leadership roles. The Grimke Sisters, Sojourner Truth, and Maria W. Stewart were all women, of various races, who stood up and spoke out against slavery. Women were hosting fundraisers by selling quilts, baked goods, and various other things to fund the abolitionist societies of which they were members.
<p>It is through the abolitionist movement that women and blacks start to show their leadership capabilities. Out of the abolitionist movement comes the women’s rights movement, with leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott being staunch abolitionists, and Fredrick Douglas attended the Seneca Falls Convention to speak in favor of women’s rights.
<p>It’s important to remember that the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad couldn’t have happened without a shared support of one another. Men and women, whites and blacks, and various classes all risked a lot for this movement, and all provided different backgrounds and understandings needed to make this movement a success.