In 1501 African slaves were brought by boat to the Caribbean islands. It took 80 years, until 1581 before the first slaves were again brought by boat to what is now America when Spanish residents in St Augustine, the first permanent settlement in Florida, imported African Slaves. Although the slaves came here by boat, their only way out of that horrible life was by Railroad, an Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and was used by slaves in southern United States to escape to either Northern states that were free and ultimately Canada or went further south or west to areas where they would be safe.
Abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause helped with their escape. Heading north was the safest destination as the north had few slaves; the most sympathizers and most states had abolished slavery around 1800. However there were fugitive slave laws and if caught in the north you were returned. Canada was a prized destination as slavery was prohibited there, and its long border gave many points of access for the “passengers”.
The Underground Railroad reached its height between 1850 and 1860. That is the period when the most famous individual on the Railroad, Harriet Tubman escaped and helped others. Estimates vary greatly on how many slaves had escaped via the "Railroad" but it is put as low as 6,000 to a high of over 130,000.
Local Historian John L. Ford will give us a presentation on the Underground Railroad of the Pittsburgh Area on November 11, 2012 in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center Council Chambers at 2:00 pm. Mr. Ford is probably the foremost authority on African American history in Western Pennsylvania. He will talk about routes slaves took, the safe houses in the Pittsburgh area, the danger they faced and he’ll dispel some myths about the railroad.
John, in his work to spread his historical knowledge has prepared exhibits used county wide of African and African American history which have been used by historical groups, museums and even on TV. John is recently retired from the John Heinz History Center as a Director in the Education Division. His previous work experience includes management positions with 3M Corporation, Parke-Davis and Company and Mellon Bank NA. He currently works part-time at Soldiers and Sailors Museum as an historian and lectures on African and African American history at colleges, museums, businesses and community organizations.
Please join the Cranberry Township Historical Society on Sunday November 11th at 2 pm for this most informative talk. As always, our programs are free to members and the general public and light refreshments will be served. Bring a friend!
Cranberry Township Municipal Center
2525 Rochester Road
Cranberry Township, PA 16066