Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

The Underground Railroad

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Ashtabula Harbor

Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society

Simultaneously bordering Lake Erie and the slaveholding states of Kentucky and Virginia (West Virginia did not exist until secession in 1861), Ohio held a prominent role in slave escapes. Towns such as Ashtabula, Ohio, located on the southern shore of the lake and often populated by free blacks and Quakers, were hubs of antislavery activism and often the "last stop" on a runaway slave's journey to Canada. Perhaps the most famous escape in American literature—that of Uncle Tom's Cabin protagonist Eliza Harris—involved the free state of Ohio. After a perilous crossing of the Ohio River from Kentucky, Eliza travels across Ohio to arrive in Ontario. In the above photo of Ashtabula Harbor, the wooden shack served as a hideout for slaves awaiting passage across the lake.

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