Niagara Gazette — • 1848: Thomas Garrett, one of the underground’s most important station masters, is put on trial in Wilmington, Delaware for helping the escape of six fugitive slaves. After his acquittal, he defiantly declares that he will add another story to his home to accommodate more fugitives. The first national women’s rights conference is held in Seneca Falls. Women have long been active in the underground. Increasingly, they identify their own oppression with that of slaves.
• 1849: Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland. She will return to Maryland at least 13 times to rescue slaves, and guide them to safety in the North, becoming the most famous “conductor” on the underground. Thomas Garrett and William Still will be among her closest collaborators.
• 1850: Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act. The law requires all citizens regardless of their personal beliefs to collaborate with public officials in capturing and returning fugitive slaves to their masters. Protests against the law erupt across the North. Recruits flock to help the Underground Railroad.
• 1850s: Fugitive slaves in Canada number more than 20,000. Communities mature and prosper. Fugitive slave, underground activist, and journalist Henry Bibb establishes the Voice of the Fugitive, which reports details of fugitives’ arrivals in Canada. His rival, Mary Ann Shadd, the daughter of an underground station master, becomes the first black woman to publish a newspaper in North America.
• 1861: South Carolina troops fire on Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor. The Civil War begins.
• 1861-1865: The Underground Railroad is superseded by the Civil War. Wherever Union armies march, slaves flock to their protection.
• 1870: The Fifteenth Amendment extends suffrage to African-Americans. Underground veteran Levi Coffin proclaims that the underground has reached its symbolic end. “Our work is done,” he declares.
While the work of the Underground Railroad may have come to a symbolic end, the war to end racism and the efforts to fully integrate our entire history has only just begun…Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org