Guide to the Records of Beneath the Underground:
The Flight to Freedom and the Communities of Antebellum Maryland
A fundamental objective of Beneath the Underground is to explore the legacy of the Underground Railroad with the primary documents available at the Maryland State Archives. The purpose of this guide is to help website visitors understand the usefulness and history of the records mined for this project, as well as, to give insight into our research methodology.
The Beneath The Underground website is an ongoing research effort to identify, utilize and make accessible all records which pertain to slavery in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Maryland. The ultimate focus of this study continues to be the marriage of research on the resistance to slavery and the use of primary source documents housed within the Maryland State Archives holdings. By providing primary, direct access to these materials online, we seek to encourage scholars, genealogists, and students of all levels to use these resources to develop their own interpretations and family histories. The Beneath the Underground website has already been utilized by many organizations in fulfillment of these goals. In 2005, Archives' staff used the website to display maps, case studies and census statistics for high school students in a Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, Inc. sponsored ROOTS CAMP lesson on African American genealogy. The nuts and bolts operation of the site, including the searchable database, was demonstrated in successive years to teachers and family historians in presentations at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture.
In 2006, a group of students from Middletown High School in Frederick County participated in a project entitled "The Promise Of Liberty. Dean Herrin of the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies supervised the project, which was funded through a History Channel Save Our History grant. The objective of the project was to use primary source documents to research local African American life from 1855-1870. The students used a number of resources from the Beneath the Underground website, including census data, case studies, and runaway ads in their research, and used the Frederick County Martenet map featured in the interactive mapping section to plot places of interest related to their findings. In the course of their research and with the support of our source materials, the students made a successful nomination to the National Park Service as a Network to Freedom program. In 2007, the Archives' website was cited by NBC WBAL-TV as an essential source for further study during its documentary Africa's Maryland. These are only a few examples representing how the Maryland State Archives' Beneath the Underground website supports research and educational outreach. The Archives' staff hopes to continue to promote the value of African American related documentary evidence for understanding the flight from slavery in Maryland, and most importantly, to recognize the humanity of all the individuals gripped by the drama which was slavery in Maryland.