Maritime Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a loose system of abolitionists who provided food, shelter, clothing, and safety to countless people escaping slavery for freedom.

Many fugitive slaves stowed away on steamboats and sailed to freedom, often with the help of African Americans on board. Others escaped along the banks of waterways that led north.

“There was no stopping”

John P. Parker of Ripley, Ohio, was once enslaved. He helped other people escape north across the Ohio River. One night he and several others heard about a group of five hiding along the riverbank in Kentucky:
Early in the night, seven of us armed with muskets in a little flotilla of three boats quietly rowed across the river to the spot where the people we were to rescue were seen. We found them all right, scared and hungry. Just as quietly as we came, we stole away... After that there was no stopping until we delivered our charges at Red Oak Station of the Underground Railroad.



Slaves fleeing by boat under the light of a full moon, 1864

This image of people escaping slavery is a romanticized view of what was actually a terrifying and dangerous journey.

From Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1864

Courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum