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Special Collections: African American Studies Research Guide

Slavery and the Underground Railroad

The bibliography for slavery continues to grow with contemporary scholarship, including new titles related to Delaware and regional history. This small selection suggests a range of slavery-related titles from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Please consult the recommended search terms in Finding Resources in Special Collections to explore the Library catalog.

Before the Civil War, Delaware was an important link in the Underground Railroad system of helping fugitives from slavery travel to freedom in Canada. Situated between the southern slave-holding states and the northern non-slaveholding states, Delaware was traveled by hundreds of escaping people each year. They were aided by rescuers who, for religious or moral reasons, opposed slavery.

Though neither underground nor a railroad, the system was named because its activities had to be carried out in secret and because railway terms were used to refer to the conduct of the system. Various routes were “lines,” stopping places were called “stations,” those who aided along the way were “conductors,” and the enslaved individuals were known as “packages” or “freight.” Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom and was the most famous Black conductor on the Railroad. She often worked in conjunction with conductor Thomas Garrett, a Quaker from Wilmington.