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 core focus years of the Beneath the Underground study are 1830 to 1880.
Southern Underground Railroad Notes
1. William Still, The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Salves in the Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author; Together With Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders, and Most Liberal Aiders and Advisers, of the Road (1872; Reprint, Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 1970 with a forward by Benjamin Quarles), p. 169. Note: the 1970 reissue was repaginated. Thus, adjustments must be made in translating citations to the original version. All cites in this report refer to the 1970 reprint's pagination.
2. In many ways, Runaway Slaves represents the state of the field in terms of the types of resources necessary for understanding flight from slavery. The authors search out South-wide patterns and trends for fugitive activity and contexts. Our study, however, attempts the opposite, in a sense. We argue that a perspective too broad potentially neglects important nuances unique to the various Southern settings. Maryland was not Georgia (or even Virginia, in several important ways). Though Runaway Slaves makes use of valuable Maryland resources - including a substantial amount from MSA's holding - the broader thesis diverges in some ways from the direction we take here. Still, it is a valuable study, and informs a great deal of out thinking on fugitives and larger black communities. See: John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 68.
3. For pre-nineteenth century flight, see: Gerald W. Mullin, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth Century Virginia (New York: Oxford, 1972); Lathan A. Windley, compiler, Runaway Slave Advertisements: A Documentary History from the 1730s to 1790s, vol. II, "Maryland" (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983).
4. Wilbur H. Siebert, The Underground Railroad From Slavery to Freedom (New York: MacMillan Company, 1898), p. 151.
5. For an excellent treatment of Douglass's early life and his Baltimore social network, including the idea of flight and community participation, see Dickson J. Preston, Young Frederick Douglass: the Maryland Years (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), especially chapter nine, "Preparation for Freedom."