“Long years before Boston [had] begun to think of subways and tunnels “The Underground Railroad” ran its all but noiseless way through city and suburbs, for the benefit of such fugitive Southern slaves as came this way.”
- “Old Passages of Boston's ‘Underground Railroad’ Uncovered,” Boston Evening Transcript, March 31, 1926.
The mystique of the Underground Railroad has long captivated the imagination of our nation. While Americans recall with fondness the legendary figure of Harriet Tubman, they otherwise fail to recognize and remember the contributions of women to the Underground Railroad. In Boston, the Underground Railroad became inseparable from the community of free Black Bostonians who resided on the north slope of Beacon Hill.1 At the heart of that community stood Boston’s women. Although legally tied to their husbands and fathers in economic matters, Boston’s women boldly aided freedom seekers entering their community, becoming critical contributors to the Underground Railroad.2
We invite you to explore the many contributions of Boston’s women to the Underground Railroad through the following resources.
This video explores Nancy Prince’s 1847 confrontation with the slave catcher Woodfork and serves as an introduction to the critical contributions of Boston’s women to the Underground Railroad.
- 1 minute, 13 seconds
Introduction Video Image Credits
Images courtesy of Digital Commonwealth, the Library of Congress, and the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center.
Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Boston's women bore witness to the triumphs and failures of the Underground Railroad in Boston. The accounts these women recorded offer important testimony on the events and the reactions of Boston's citizenry.
- 1 minute, 55 seconds
Witness and Testimony Video Image Credits
Images courtesy of the Library of Congress, the American Antiquarian Society, and Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Beginning in the 1830s, Boston's women joined and founded anti-slavery organizations that allowed them to contribute to the success of the Underground Railroad.
- 1 minute, 40 seconds
Organizing Video Image Credits
Images courtesy of Historic New England, the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, and the US Capitol.
In the 1840s and 1850s, many of Boston's women operated their homes as safe houses on the Underground Railroad, risking their own safety and freedom to provide direct aid to freedom seekers.
- 2 minutes, 22 seconds
Direct Action Video Image Credits
Images courtesy of the National Museum of American History, Massachusetts Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the Ohio Memory Center, the Cleveland Gazette, and Archive.org.
This video recognizes the many Boston women who contributed to the Underground Railroad and acknowledges the work that still remains to identify all women.
- 1 minute, 24 seconds
- Stephen Kantrowitz, More Than Freedom; Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829 - 1889 (New York City: Penguin Books, 2013), 17.
- Kantrowitz, More Than Freedom, 189.
Last updated: September 7, 2021