Underground Railroad – August 31, 2014

“Oh lawd … save these your chill’en!” Maimy cried her prayer softly as they trudged along the river bank.

It was a moonless night.  They were 15 between women and children who’d run away from various plantations in Maryland.  They’d been gathered in one “way station” in Pennsylvania.  The owners of the farm were Quakers, also known as Friends. Maimy and her group had been hiding in their cellar now for almost 5 days waiting for the new moon.

The slave hunters had come by the day before with their dogs.  It had been hard to keep the baby silent.  They wouldn’t be safe until they reached Canada.  Sure, Pennsylvania was a free state, but black people had no rights and everyone was obliged to return runaway slaves to their owners … thanks to the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Dred Scott decision.

Soon they would cross the river and exchange guides Maimy thought.  They’d been told that their new guide who would take them the rest of the way to Canada was an ex-slave.  He’d risked his life and freedom for nearly 10 years to help his people.

An owl hooted. The group stopped, hearts in their throat. Then their guide hooted too.  Soon a black man with a “red injun” came up to their leader.

“Okay ev’rybody … we’s gonna cross this here river and go through a mountain pass.  You’s gonna be in Canada next week.  Just have faith and walk.”  said the black man.

And they did.


Written for Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie

The link provided in this post informs us that very often slaves never went farther than Pennsylvania especially where there was a large community of Quakers and free “people of color”.  My story is just a mish-mash of various stories I’ve heard since I was a kid and shouldn’t be taken seriously, though I’m sure that maybe somewhere in history a Maimy must have existed … but maybe she was an Armenian, a Kurd or a Jewish woman (et cetera) running from some other “master” though not necessarily because she was a slave, but just because she’d been born into the wrong ethnic group.

Over the last century and into this new century we’ve seen over and over again masses of people having to leave their homes due to war, political upheaval, racial intolerance and famine.  The underground railroad is for me just a symbol of all those throughout history who have helped the down-trodden find a place of safety to live.

30 thoughts on “Underground Railroad – August 31, 2014

  1. Lovely piece and yes, it certainly is a stepping point or platform for so many other types of “refugee” type events; not to diminish the importance of the Underground Railroad, of course, but it is worth considering that history does repeat itself, and we live with the contradictions by “polishing” the silver and naming it differently.

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    • Exactly …. a lot of silver polishing going on constantly (how wonderful we were) … just kind of distracts us from reality of every day life and how we are administering problems today.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely! Keep the masses distracted, act on our behalf, and then keep them further distracted and encourage irresponsibility of consequences of decisions and actions. For further “amusement” – then turn around and “blame” and accuse the masses of being lackadaisical.

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        • Yes, that’s how it works I think … you’ve understood the sequence very well … one wonders how many other people are actually aware of what’s going on? I get the feeling that they’re a lot more than we think.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I *hope* so …. even if not vocal about it — but mindful and aware …. there is nothing more dangerous than masses ignorant and then, incredibly angry when things change, whether the truth is known or the realizations happen.

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          • A mindless mob is almost as bad as a sheeple society. Our problem lies in the fact that as a whole we don’t know how to organize ourselves. We’ve been trying to do so for about 10 thousand or so years … we usually wind up delegating life to others and then lamenting our sort. Still … there must be a better way to avoid those terrible excesses of violent power ..

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the great story and the history lesson too. 🙂 People need to remember.

    My little town was really worried during the Civil War — in Peeay, but not too far from the Mason Dixon line either. Who knew what would happen when the Confederates came into town – and they did,several times, burning it once. And then Gettysburg — oh my. There was a community of free blacks in the county – and there were several underground railroad stations – but no one was really safe from the slave catchers. Even if you had papers.

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    • And that was often because the law itself did little or nothing to protect the blacks … as we saw in the Dread Scott decision. I really think we should remember that even the “enlightened” north was full of prejudice and sometimes loathing for the ex-slaves and free black people. If we can really get into how things ARE so much could be overcome .. but we insist on pretending that the problems will just go away without us changing a thing.

      I imagined what your area must have been like back in the pre-Civil War period when I wrote the piece. I imagined you running a station 😉

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      • OH SUHWEET! That’s awesome – I’d’ve made an *awesome* conductor! Really! [Some day I’ll have to tell you about my Polish “cousin” who helped shelter Jewish people in Warsaw in WWII. It’s in the blood. ;)]

        People forget that even the “enlightened” North made money off the slave trade. Think of the huge Northern banks who got their start by insuring slaves (as property). Banks that are still in existence. Think of the textile mills, clothing manufacturers, the shipping between Liverpool and the US…. Remember the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”? Penny was a slave trader. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Penny]

        But I’m rambling.

        There’s still so much loathing for blacks in the North and everywhere — a tragedy.

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        • You know … it’s not often taken up in the history books, but not even Honest Abe was enthusiastic about integrating the liberated blacks into the great system … he was against slavery but not equal rights at least not whilst he was younger. Plus many felt that the “Africans” should be sent back to Africa .. thus the nation Liberia. We’ve a rather strange history that many have never even known exists.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You’re quite right. People would be *shocked* if they read Lincoln’s actual words. On slavery. He was rebuked by Frederick Douglass for his views and what Douglass saw as a lack of positive action.

            Another thing people would be shocked to know — forget what the revisionists have been telling the world about the reasons for Southern secession. The average “Johnny Reb” might have thought he was fighting for “States’ Rights” but the leadership of the Southern states was fighting for *slavery*. Period. There’s a book called “Apostles of Disunion” by Charles Dew and it should be required reading in every high school in the US.

            Here’s a snippet from Amazon about the book:

            In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.

            Directly refuting the neo-Confederate contention that slavery was neither the reason for secession nor the catalyst for the resulting onset of hostilities in 1861, Charles B. Dew finds in the commissioners’ brutally candid rhetoric a stark white supremacist ideology that proves the contrary. The commissioners included in their speeches a constitutional justification for secession, to be sure … but the core of their argument—the reason the right of secession had to be invoked and invoked immediately—did not turn on matters of constitutional interpretation or political principle. Over and over again, the commissioners returned to the same point: that Lincoln’s election signaled an unequivocal commitment on the part of the North to destroy slavery and that emancipation would plunge the South into a racial nightmare.”

            http://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Disunion-Southern-Secession-Commissioners/dp/081392104X

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          • You’re very welcome.
            When I worked for “that historical place” I saw this guy in person — a really nice guy, a soft-spoken guy, with a powerful message. A real eye-opener — because who *wants* to believe that it was *all* about slavery? The past can be painful and embarrassing.

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          • Thanks again … and lucky you … I’m going to pop off here for now .. haven’t written a word today :-/ See you later or tomorrow! Have a good one!

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  3. Pingback: Yesterday’s Post – September 1, 2014 | Bastet and Sekhmet's Library

  4. Never too late to catch up…great story, Georgia, and so many are not aware of all the stories…I`ve only started in the past ten years to read more on Canada`s interesting tales in Nova Scotia and Ontario and I`m sure there are more.

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