Frequently Asked Questions

As of March 2018, there are 619 members in 40 states, plus DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New members will be added in September 2018.

Yes. Anyone can nominate a site to the Network to Freedom. However, a letter of consent is required from the property owner(s) for a site to be listed.

Once a site, program, or facility is listed in the Network to Freedom, they may use the Network to Freedom logo and are eligible to apply for grants when funding is available. Listing in the Network to Freedom does not impact ownership or property rights. Some sites have been able to leverage recognition by the Network to Freedom to gain support for preserving historic buildings.

Networking amongst Network to Freedom members is highly encouraged. Especially with members that are open to the public, sharing expertise and potentially joint programming can help strengthen everyone. The NPS is working on ways to facilitate these interactions.

The special category of "partner" was created for individuals and organizations who are aligned with the Network to Freedom goals, but may not meet the criteria of a site, program or facility. The only requirements are that the partner have some association to preserving, commemorating or educating the public about the Underground Railroad, and that the partner's actions are consistent with the spirit of the missions and practices of the Network to Freedom Program and the National Park Services.

To become a partner, submit a letter to the regional program manager for your state with the following information:

  • the name and address of the agency, company or organization;
  • the name, address, and phone, fax and e-mail information of the principal contact;
  • an abstract not to exceed 200 words describing the partner's activity, or mission statement; and
  • a brief description of the entity's association to the Underground Railroad.

Often, when these situations happen, the site has not been officially documented or recognized. This makes it very difficult to stop them from being demolished. Listing a site in the National Register of Historic Places may offer some protection through local or state ordinances, or through federal agency requirements for consultation if there is federal involvement. Listing in the Network to Freedom does not invoke the same statutory protection. In some places, though, having the site recognized in this way can help to gain support for saving it. As with many historic sites, the time to work on saving it is before the threat of demolition becomes imminent.

The presence of a tunnel, secret room or other hiding place is not conclusive evidence of the Underground Railroad. Many nineteenth century buildings had spaces that were constructed as storage places, cisterns, air shafts or other commonplace features of the time. These spaces could also have been used for concealing a freedom seekers, but additional evidence supporting the Underground Railroad connection must be found. The most productive way to investigate a suspected connection to the Underground Railroad is to determine who lived in the house before 1865. What can you learn about them? Did they belong to anti-slavery groups or religious denominations that were active in the Underground Railroad? Who were they related to? Often Underground Railroad activity was carried out by networks of people connected through faith or family. This sort of additional information could support recognition as an Underground Railroad site. Your Network to Freedom regional coordinator can advise you on how to search your site.

For an analysis of Underground Railroad hiding places, see "Subterranean Hideaways of the Underground Railroad in Ohio: An Architectural, Archaeological and Historical Critique of Local Traditions," by Byron D. Fruehling and Robert H. Smith.

Units of the National Park Service are established by Congressional legislation or a Presidential proclamation. For more information on how new parks are created, read the criteria for designation of new parks.

Only sites, programs, and facilities listed in the Network to Freedom may use the logo. But, for members, the logo can be used in signs, websites, publications and interpretive media. All uses of the logo must be pre-approved by working with your regional coordinator.

The National Park Service sometimes has money to support projects on a competitive basis. To be eligible, a site, program or facility must first be a member of the Network to Freedom. The amount of funding available varies, and consequently, the size of the grants, with $20,000 usually being the cap. Typically, projects that include matching funds are more successful in the competition. Funds can be used for preservation and restoration of buildings associated with the Underground Railroad (UGRR) and for interpretation and historical research related to Network to Freedom members.

Applications must be submitted electronically by the due date listed in the application.

No, only members listed in the Network to Freedom may apply for grants.

The NPS supports projects that achieve the goals of preservation, interpretation, and education of Underground Railroad history. Specifically, the projects should support or enhance the Underground Railroad associations for which site, program, or facility was listed in the NTF. Examples of projects that support these objectives include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Markers or signs identifying the site as being in the NTF
  • Interpretive markers, brochures, exhibits, websites;
  • Historical research in support of interpretation or publications;
  • Oral history and documenting oral traditions;
  • Educational curricula and lesson plans;
  • Cultural Resource surveys;
  • Archeological surveys;
  • Preservation and restoration of historic buildings, structures, landscapes;
  • Projects to enhance accessibility of sites and programs (including installation of ramps or lifts)
  • National Register documentation and nominations;
  • Workshops and public educational programs;
  • Technical assistance in associated site and/or landscape identification; and
  • Preservation and stabilization of cultural artifacts, collections, and documents.

Before the project is completed, progress reports will be required during the term of the grant, as specified by the Grant Agreement. A final progress report must be submitted that describes whether the work was carried out as proposed.

A committee of reviewers, including NPS Network to Freedom regional program managers, other NPS staff, and non-NPS reviewers will rank applications and make funding recommendations. The following criteria will be used to rank project applications:

  • Need for the Project
  • Work Plan and Time Line for Project Completion
  • Project Outcomes
  • Project Budget
  • Bonus: New Grant Recipients
  • Bonus: Matching Funds

Last updated: December 7, 2018