What are Sites?

Sites are defined as locations pertaining to the Underground Railroad and have a verifiable connection to it. Sites can include, but are not limited to, sites associated with a prominent person; sites of legal challenges; Underground Railroad stations; rebellion, escape, destination, military, rescue, or kidnapping site; transportation routes; commemorative monuments; maroon communities; and churches or cemeteries.

  1. Places that have lost their historical appearance are eligible for the Network to Freedom if the location can be documented and there is some type of interpretation such as a commemorative or interpretive marker, educational program, brochure or site bulletin.
  2. Sites on the National Register of historic places are not required to have an interpretive component to be eligible for inclusion in the Network to Freedom, although interpretive signs or materials are encouraged.

Filling out the Application

In addition to the responses to each question, applications for sites must also include the following attachments:

  1. Letters of consent from all property owners for inclusion in the Network to Freedom (see sample in instructions)

  2. Text and photographs of all site markers
  3. Original photographs illustrating the current appearance and condition of the site being nominated
    1. Photographs should show the current condition of the property and must be copyright free, such that NPS can use them on websites or publications.
    2. Historic photographs, where available, are useful, but not necessary.
  4. Maps showing the location of the site
    1. Maps showing the location of the site, what is being nominated, how the site relates to the geographic features and other historic locations are very important for evaluating the property.
    2. Attachments are essential information, but the importance of any supporting documents should be described in the text.

Parts S1 through S4a of the Network to Freedom application.
The "sites" portion of the Network to Freedom application showing S1 through S4a.

Answering Site Specific Questions

The image above shows the first set of site specific questions on the application. The following are pointers for answering sections S3 through S4a, highlighted in the image above.

S3. Ownership of Site

Check as many categories as applies to your site. For each owner indicated in S3, a corresponding letter of consent must be attached to the application

S4. Type(s) of Underground Railroad associations

Check only the associations that can be documented and which will be justified in the application. Applications only need to document one (1) type of association to be eligible for the Network to Freedom. Focus the application on the association(s) that a strong case can be made for.

If you want to discuss other types of associations which are not fully documented, do not check them in this section. Be sure to make it clear in your narrative that your claim for eligibility is not based on them.

S4a. Describe the site's association and significance to the Underground Railroad

This is the most crucial question of the site application. Be sure to craft a succinct, well-argued and clear narrative. It is extremely important to make clear what the Underground Railroad association is and which pieces of evidence support this association. Do not rely on extensive block quotes or attached documents to make your argument. Distill the information into an essay of your own words that is both clear and concise.

Using primary sources is strongly encouraged. Any and all sources used should be evaluated for their reliability and accuracy. Additionally, include footnote citations that identify where the information was found. The goal in doing so will give the reader the ability to "reconstruct" your research— oftentimes, it can lead to investigating related stories.

Questions S5 and S6 of the Network to Freedom application.

The image above shows a portion of the next page of site specific questions on the application. The following are pointers for answering sections S5 and S6, highlighted in the image above.

S5. Provide a history of the site since its time of significance to the Underground Railroad

In your answer, describe what has happened to the site since the period of the Underground Railroad. Some potential questions to ask yourself when answering this include:

  • Is this still the original building or structure of landscape?
  • Is it still being used for the same thing (i.e. is it still a house, farm, hotel, etc.)?
  • When did the property change ownership or function?
  • When and in what ways was the property modified or destroyed?

Next, describe what the site and the area around it looks like today. Is it now a suburban neighborhood, but used to be a farm? Be sure to include photographs that show the site from different angles.

S6. Include a bibliography or list of citations, discuss their reliability and how you used them

This question, in addition to S4, are the most crucial. Be sure to include a bibliography, with all standard publication data for all sources used in question S4 and S5. It is useful to separate primary sources from secondary sources. Annotated bibliographies, analyzing the reliability of the sources, are encouraged for this section, particularly when using early county histories, reminiscences, and reports of events in your responses. Indicating the location where primary documents can be accessed is critical. For documents that are not publicly accessible, consider enclosing a copy. Regardless, be sure to incorporate relevant information in the S4 essay, rather than directing the reader to an attachment.

Last updated: August 28, 2018