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Colonial Park

Edenton, North Carolina

Located in Edenton, North Carolina, Colonial Park encompasses an area along the waterfront from present day Broad Street to a point near Granville Street. Between these streets are the central and western portions of the waterfront. Wharves were concentrated in this area, and boats docked at the wharves provided transportation to larger vessels anchored off shore. The Edenton waterfront served as a departure point for the maritime Underground Railroad in eastern North Carolina. Within this region, enslaved and freed African American watermen established a well organized network system that provided their fellows a passage to freedom. Through their knowledge and expertise in maritime activities, the watermen were able to arrange passage for freedom seekers aboard steam ships headed to northern states. The most noted escape to take place at Colonial Park site occurred in 1842 when Harriet Annn Jacobs (1813-1897)stowed away aboard a ship with the help of a waterman named Peter. In her autobiography, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself " (1861), Jacobs describes the arrangements Peter made in advance, how plans to transport her to a waiting ship were carried out, her fear of being captured, and her thankfulness when disembarking in Philadelphia that her friend, Peter, had correctly judged the ship captain's character. Jacob's flight to freedom clearly demonstrates how the watermen worked within a well organized network that made her and other escapes out of this area possible. Colonial Park is also near other sites that figure prominently in Jacob's life. Snaky Swamp, where Jacobs concealed herself while hiding in her grandmother's home, can be seen from the park. The home, from which Jacobs departed to begin her escape, was located one block from the waterfront wharves.