As enslaved Africans tried to gain their freedom, many decided that their only option was to run north into states that did not allow slavery or into Canada. Many slaves escaped with no assistance, but others were helped by participants of what has become known as the Underground Railroad (UGRR). The UGRR was most active in Indiana between 1830 and 1865.
The UGRR was neither underground nor a railroad. The UGRR refers to the network of individuals and communities that helped fugitive slaves. Sometimes the assistance was spontaneous, other times highly organized. Because aiding an escaping slave was illegal, the activity was usually carried out in secret.
UGRR participants were diverse. Blacks and whites, slaves and freed, men and women from the North and South helped those searching for freedom. Food, clothing, shelter, guidance, and protection from slave hunters were given at a risk to everyone involved.
Every Indiana community has oral histories about those individuals who participated in the Underground Railroad (UGRR), but the nature of the network sometimes makes it difficult to find evidence to substantiate the stories. A statewide initiative, the Indiana Freedom Trails, is working to confirm and document sites that can be definitively linked to the UGRR. Every day, researchers comb the archives in small historical societies looking for information about Indiana’s involvement in the Underground Railroad.
Jeannie R. Regan-Dinius, Director of Special Initiatives, will discuss Indiana’s role in the events, talk about documenting stories, and offer suggestions you can use in your county.
Jeannie, Director of Special Initiatives, has a life-long interest in history, family history, and research. She earned her Bachelors in Public History from Ball State University, where she studied also anthropology and American Studies. She has her Masters in Urban Planning and Information Management/Library Science from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis with additional graduate course work in public history.
Before coming to the State, she was the Executive Director of a 96-acre historic park in Huntington, IN. She came to the state in 2000 to help work on the Underground Railroad research initiative. She was given the additional responsibility of the Cemetery Registry, the Historic Theater Initiative, and public outreach.
You can also follow her on https://www.facebook.com/INdhpa