Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, by Cassandra Newby-Alexander
Enslaved Virginians sought freedom from the time they were first brought to the Jamestown colony in 1619. Acts of self-emancipation were aided by Virginia’s waterways, which became part of the network of the Underground Railroad in the years before the Civil War. Watermen willing to help escaped slaves made eighteenth-century Norfolk a haven for freedom seekers. Famous nineteenth-century escapees like Shadrack Minkins and Henry “Box” Brown were aided by the Underground Railroad. Enslaved men like Henry Lewey, known as Bluebeard, aided freedom seekers as conductors, and black and white sympathizers acted as station masters. Historian Cassandra Newby-Alexander narrates the ways that enslaved people used Virginia’s waterways to achieve humanity’s dream of freedom.
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