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This section comprises key people associated with the Underground Railroad movement. Click the name listed for further details. Draft list - more soon.

Wilson Ruffin Abbott (1801–1876)

Wilson Ruffin Abbott was an American-born Black Canadian and successful businessman and landowner in Toronto, Ontario. Having to flee the United States in 1834, he became a wealthy man in Toronto and one of the largest landowners in the ward. Prominent in local affairs, he was elected to Toronto City Council, instigated taxpayer petitions on public issues of concern to both black and white residents and served on the organizing committee for the Canadian Anti-Slavery Society. He helped purchase freedom for fugitive slaves.

Henry Box Brown (1815 or 1816 – after 1889)

Henry "Box" Brown was a 19th century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom by arranging to have himself mailed to Philadelphia abolitionists in a wooden crate. As a free man, he lectured on the evils of slavery, participated in the publication of the Narrative of Henry Box Brown, toured in the US and England presenting his panorama, Henry Box Brown's Mirror of Slavery, and performed as a hypnotist.

John Brown (1800–1859)

John Brown was a white American abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery and, with the intent of inspiring a slave insurrection, eventually led a party of 21 men on an unsuccessful raid on the Harpers Ferry federal armory that ended with his capture. Brown's trial resulted in his conviction and a sentence of death by hanging. In a speech to the court before his sentencing, he stated his actions to be just and God-sanctioned. Debate ensued over how Brown should be viewed, deepening the divide between North and South and having profound implications for the direction of the country.

William Wells Brown (c. 1814-1884)

William Wells Brown was the son of a slave woman and a white relative of his owner. After twenty years in slavery, he escaped to freedom and spent the next two years working on a Lake Erie steamboat running fugitive slaves into Canada. He then began his career in the abolitionist movement by regularly attending anti-slavery meetings and speaking at local abolitionist gatherings. In 1849, he began a lecture tour of Britain and remained there until 1854, as at that time it was dangerous for an escaped slave to return to America. Concern for Brown's safety prompted British abolitionists to "purchase" his freedom in 1854. When he did return, he had written Clotel: The President's Daughter; A Narrative of Slave Life, the first novel published by an Afro-American.

Obadiah Newcomb Bush (1797-1851)

Obadiah Newcomb was an ancestor of the Bush political family. Born in New York to blacksmith Timothy Bush the Younger and Lydia Newcomb. In 1821, he married Harriet Smith in Rochester, New York. They had seven children, among them James Smith Bush. In Rochester, Bush became a schoolmaster and was on a committee that nominated candidates for justice of the peace. He and his brother Henry, a manufacturer of stoves, were known abolitionists. He served as vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and supported the Underground Railroad. He petitioned the New York State Legislature to secede from the Union in a protest against slavery, after which The Rochester Daily Advertiser accused him of encouraging anarchy. In 1849, he traveled to California due to the gold rush, leaving wife and children behind. After two years, he was on his way home to reclaim his family and take them west, when he died aboard the ship and was given a sea burial.

Levi Coffin (1798-1877) and Catharine White Coffin (1804-1881)

Levi and Catharine Coffin were Quakers from North Carolina who vehemently opposed slavery and became deeply involved with the Underground Railroad in Indiana and Ohio. They worked tirelessly to provide transportation, shelter, food and clothing for thousands of fugitive slaves. As a child in the south, Levi witnessed the cruelty of slavery and, later with his wife Catharine, “did not feel bound to respect human laws that came in direct contact with the law of God.” Levi was a well-respected community leader with several business interests. Instead of hiding his work, he jokingly boasted about being nicknamed the “President of the Underground Railroad” and publically spoke out against slavery. He often used the law to his advantage and was friends with social reformers Henry Ward Beecher and Frederick Douglass. Catharine was also deeply committed to the cause. She organized sewing circles that made new clothing for fugitive slaves and ensured their safety and comfort in their home.

In 1847, the Coffins moved to Cincinnati, Ohio so Levi could operate a wholesale warehouse supplying goods to free-labor stores. The Coffins were ideally situated to continue helping fugitive slaves escape to freedom. Following the civil war Levi continued to help African Americans right up until his death. He spent his last years campaigning for donations to help fund food, clothing and educational supplies for the newly freed slaves abandoned in refugee camps by ex-slaveholders after the war.

Levi Coffin, c. 1865

Catharine White Coffin, 1879

Ellen Craft (1826-1891) and William Craft (1824-1900)
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Asa Drury (1801-1870)
Calvin Fairbank (1816-1898)

American abolitionist minister who spent more than 17 years in prison for his anti-slavery activities.

John Fairfield (1797-1847)
Dr. Bartholomew Fussell  
Matilda Electa Gage (née Joslyn: 1826-1898)
Margaret Garner  
Thomas Garrett (1789-1871)
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)
Samuel Green (c. 1802-1877)
Josiah Bushnell Grinnell (1821-1891)
Josiah Henson (1789-1883)

Maryland slave who escaped to Canada, founding a settlement for fugitive slaves, becoming an abolitionist, author and minister. The first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp.

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok (1837-1876)

Gunfighter, gambler, lawman, abolitionist and facilitator of the Underground Railroad. His father's Illinois farm was a station on the Underground Railroad and he learned his shooting skills protecting the farm with his father from slave catchers.

Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898)
Isaac Hopper (1771-1852)
Roger Hooker Leavitt (1805-1885)
Jermain Wesley Loguen (1813-1872)
Samuel J. May (1797-1871)
Isaac and Dinah Mendenhall  
Lucretia Mott (née Coffin: 1793-1880)
James and Lucretia Mott, 1842
John Parker (1827-1900)
James W.C. Pennington (1807-1870)
Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884)
John Wesley Posey (1801-1884)
Rev. John Rankin (1793-1886)
Alexander Milton Ross (1832-1897)
David Ruggles (1810-1849)
Samuel Seawell  
Mary Ann Shadd (1823-1893)
Robert Smalls (1839-1915)
William Still (1821-1902)
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Harriet Beecher Stowe c. 1852
Sojourner Truth (c. 1797-1883)
Harriet Tubman (c. 1822 1913)
Harriet Tubman c. 1885
Jonathan Walker (1799-1878)
Charles Augustus Wheaton (1809-1882)
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

Sources and Further Reading:

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