The primary goal of this program is to assist the public in its understanding of the flight and plight of runaway slaves as they crossed the Ohio River into Floyd County, Indiana, prior to and throughout the Civil War period. Floyd County is in a very unique spot in that it stretches thirteen miles along the Ohio River across from Louisville, Kentucky. There were, therefore, border problems and ensuing complications for slaves who attempted to cross the river through this metropolitan area. Slave catchers and police worked together and easily crossed the river using the ferry and railroad systems. Therefore, escape through this area was very difficult. Newspapers frequently reported on capture of runaway slaves in this southern Indiana region. This program conveys the problems but also gives documented examples of slaves who were able to escape through Floyd County on their own as well as with the help of local citizens. The free African American community was primarily responsible for assistance, but help also came from white, anti-slavery church members.
The program also emphasizes the fact that the Underground Railroad was still in operation in this area after President Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation. Because Kentucky was a Union state, the proclamation did not apply to Kentucky slaves. Many slaves ignored that fact, however. Between January 1, 1863, and the end of the Civil War, Floyd County was flooded with fugitives from slavery. The Indiana Exclusion Act of 1851 was not rescinded until 1866. That coupled with the fact that bias against blacks continued to exist, meant that benevolent activity of any kind toward runaway slaves and contraband families had to be suppressed. The program manager makes use of overhead transparencies and shares her extensive research of census records, church and court records, newspapers and oral histories.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: Carnegie Center for Art and History, 201 East Spring Street, New Albany, 47150
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Pamela R. Peters
Location Type: Program