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Pasquotank River

Pasquotank / Camden Counties, North Carolina

The Pasquotank River runs between Pasquotank and Camden Counties in northeast North Carolina. The river flows southeast past Elizabeth City to the Albermarle Sound. The Albermarle sound runs into the Atlantic Ocean. The Great Dismal Swamp Canal, completed in 1805, connects the Cheaspeake Bay in Virginia via the Elizabeth River and the Albermarle Sound via the Pasquotank River. These waterways were also important for enslaved African Americans seeking freedom on vessels en route to the Free States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Many enslaved African Americans traveled to Elizabeth City and other similar port towns engaged in shipping for the sole purpose of finding a sympathetic white, free black or enslaved black waterman of a vessel willing to harbor ones escape. Men and women who escaped from the Albermarle sound vicinity frequently headed north through the Great Dismal Swamp to rendezvous with seagoing vessels in Norfolk or Portsmouth, Virginia. Freedom seekers and their allies extended the Underground Railroad into fishing hamlets and seafaring villages up and down the North Carolina Coast. It is not certain as to the number of successful escapes that originated out of the state of North Carolina. However, it is documented that during the antebellum period the Great Dismal Swamp and the numerous creeks, rivers, sounds and the Atlantic Ocean provided a safe refuge and/or passage to freedom for thousands of enslaved African Americans.