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Guilford County’s Own ‘Underground Railroad’

Historical sign
Flickr /
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway - Maryland, USA

The term “Underground Railroad” evokes the image of the legendary Harriet Tubman engineering daring escapes in a false-bottomed carriage or slaves following the North Star through dark woods. Researcher and longtime history professor Adrienne Israel says those popular images only tell a sliver of the story.

According to her research into runaway slave ads, there was a network through Guilford County decades before the work of Harriet Tubman. Ads from the late 1700s point to the fact that slaves and free black men and women living in the South helped others escape. Israel has tracked an underground network through North Carolina’s Piedmont area that was supported by abolitionist Quakers. She joins host Frank Stasio to share her research ahead of her Hari Jones Memorial Lecture presentation at the Cumberland County Library on Sunday, June 23 at 2 p.m. That lecture is hosted by the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center. Israel is a retired Guilford College professor of history.

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Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.