TRIPS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Illustration) American History Biographies African American History Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Law and Politics Nineteenth Century Life Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Slaves and Slave Owners

William Still included this engraving by John Osler in his book The Underground Railroad (published, in Philadelphia, during 1872). It illustrates Henry Box Brown’s efforts to escape slavery (by traveling north in a pine-box coffin). Image online, courtesy Dickinson College.


William Still's interviews with escaped slaves, and the illustrations in his book, graphically relate what desperate, freedom-seeking people went through to break the bonds of slavery.

  • Some escapees, like Henry Box Brown, made the trip in a pine box coffin. Still describes the scene when the box was opened. Was Henry still alive?

    All was quiet. The door was safely locked. The proceedings commenced. Mr. McKim rapped quietly on the lid of the box and called out, "All right!" Instantly came the answer from within, "All right, sir!"

    The witnesses will never forget that moment. Saw and hatchet quickly had the five hickory hoops cut and the lid off, and the marvellous resurrection of Brown ensued. Rising up in his box, he reached out his hand, saying, "How do you do, gentlemen?" The little assemblage hardly knew what to think or do at the moment. He was about as wet as if he had come up out of the Delaware. Very soon he remarked that, before leaving Richmond he had selected for his arrival-hymn (if he lived) the Psalm beginning with these words: "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He heard my prayer." And most touchingly did he sing the psalm, much to his own relief, as well as to the delight of his small audience.

  • One escaped slave, traveling in unsafe territory, lived seven months in the trunk of a poplar tree. What did he do when the weather turned cold?

  • Once I got me some charcoal and made me a fire in my tree to warm me, and it liked to killed me, so I had to take the fire out.

  • Families - especially those with many children - had to travel slowly even though that was risky. Ann Maria Jackson, a widow, had seven children. She overheard that her "master" was going to sell four of them:

    I was owned by a man named Joseph Brown...This Fall he said he was going to take four of my oldest children and two other servants to Vicksburg. I just happened to hear of this news in time.

Ann and her children made the long trek to Canada where all arrived safely

William Still included many similar, incredible stories of courage and fortitude. You can review his entire book - more than 800 pages - by following this link to the Library of Congress.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: May 03, 2018

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"TRIPS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2002. Aug 14, 2018.
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