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Sailing to Freedom: The Maritime Underground Railroad

by DrewLUD
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Join authors Dr. Timothy Walker, Dr. Cheryl LaRoche, and National Park Service Ranger Shawn Quigley for a virtual presentation about the new book, Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad.

In December of 1849 15-year-old Elizabeth Blakeley successfully escaped enslavement in Wilmington, North Carolina by hiding on a ship bound for Boston. By the mid-19th century, her method of escape was so common that Southern port authorities took extraordinary measures to try to stop it. Though modern Underground Railroad scholarship focuses almost exclusively on overland routes, new research demonstrates that large numbers of enslaved individuals gained their freedom by sea aboard coastal vessels bound for Northern ports. Almost all successful escapes from the deep south were achieved by sea.

In the new book Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad, ten historians explore the less-understood maritime side of the Underground Railroad, including the impact of African Americans’ paid and unpaid waterfront labor.

About the Speakers

Dr. Cheryl LaRoche is an Associate Professor in Historic Preservation at UMD. Her first book, Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance, was published in 2014 by the University of Illinois Press.

Dr. Timothy Walker, Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is a scholar of maritime history, colonial overseas expansion, and trans-oceanic slave trading. Walker is a guest investigator of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a contributing faculty member of the Munson Institute of Maritime Studies, and Director of the NEH “Landmarks in American History” workshops series, titled “Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad” (2011–2021).

Shawn Quigley has been park guide for the National Park Service at the National Parks of Boston since 2012. He has spent most of his professional career exploring the history of Boston’s free African American community in the 19th century and its role in the abolition movement and the fight for civil rights.

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