Here are a selection of themes giving social context to the Underground Railroad movement:

Click the icons for theme details – not all completed yet, more coming soon:



Originally defined as ‘the strip of land between northern and southern states’ now extended to include the border slave and free states as ‘the true battleground of the UGRR’.


The role of the church, especially the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers – see below), Wesleyans, Congregationalists and Reformed Presbyterians.

American Civil War

The complex origins of the American Civil War following through to the end of slavery and the UGRR.


The organised attempt to return African Americans to Africa or to settle them in another part of the world outside America.

Escape Routes

The broadly defined escape routes and corridors shaped over time by a host of human and geographic factors.

Escape Strategies

The formulae for successful escapes involving reliable information, planning, timing, resources, assistance, courage and good fortune.

Myths and Legends

The folklore, myths and legends surrounding the Underground Railroad.

Native Americans

The long standing alliance between blacks and Native Americans (with notable exceptions), the role of Native American Nations in helping fugitive slaves and the erosion of the alliance by white Americans culminating in the tragic removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homes.


Abolitionist newspapers and their role regarding fugitive slaves and the anti-slavery movement.


Formal anti-slavery organisations linked with the Underground Railroad movement.


The Society of Friends and their consistency in aiding freedom seekers.

Reverse Underground Railroad

The practice of kidnapping free black Americans from free states and transporting them into the slave states for sale as slaves.

Fugitive Slave Advertisements

Newspaper and poster advertisements placed by slaveholders offering rewards for the capture and return of runaway slaves.

Slave Catchers

The unique class of bounty hunter known as slave catchers or slave hunters.


Traditional spiritual songs transformed into coded information for freedom seekers and also the songs of the anti-slavery movement.

More coming soon …