Underground Railroad’s Relevance to Us Today

The Underground Railroad in western Pennsylvania was the topic for my master’s thesis at Indiana University South Bend. This blog is part of my creative project utilizing original photographs and revealing information and reflections on this research.

What follows are blogs about individuals, myths, cemeteries, houses and other buildings. But those were just bits and pieces of whole picture of the Underground Railroad.

Fergus Bordewich’s (2007) New York Times article, captures the larger meaning and enduring lesson of the Underground Railroad. He writes:

The larger importance of the Underground Railroad lies not in the fanciful legends, but in the diverse history of the men and women, black and white, who made it work and in the far-reaching political and moral consequences of what they did.¹

His last paragraph resonated with me:

…the Underground Railroad still has something to teach: that every individual, no matter how humble, can make a difference in the world, and that the importance of one’s life lies not in money or celebrity, but in doing the right thing, even in silence or secrecy, and without reward.²

Even though the impetus for this project was the family lore that my grandfather’s house in Roscoe, Pennsylvania (Latta stone house), was a stop on the Underground Railroad, I now doubt the accuracy of that lore.

I want to believe my ancestors and whoever lived in the house believed in the freedom of fugitive slaves. Maybe they helped, maybe they didn’t have the opportunity.

Maybe identifying the house as part of the Underground Railroad helped them convey to society what they believed, but were apprehensive to vocalize.

¹ Fergus Bordewich, “History’s Tangled Threads.” NY Times Opinion Page. New York Times, February 2, 2007, accessed March 27, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/02/opinion/02bordewich.html?_r=2&e%20x=1171083600&en=2cf8369299cdf9e2&ei=5070&emc=eta1.

² Ibid.

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 10:46 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Lou, I’ve really enjoyed this project of yours. I found it educational and entertaining as well as artistic.

  2. I grew up in Roscoe, PA and the story was always told about the Stone house being part of the underground railroad. I was told there were tunnels leading to or from the river.

    • I was never told about tunnels, just that the fugitive slaves were hid in the attic. Thanks for your post.

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