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In celebration of Black History Month our February bulletin board is devoted to a timeline of important people and events in history such as W.E.B. Du Bois who became the first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University and Toni Morrison who was the first American-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 for her novel Beloved.

Our February book display features biographies about famous Black Americans throughout history as well as historical accounts, novels and DVDs. A few of these titles include PUSH by Sapphire, The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron and Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter. All these titles and more are available for loan!

Highlight on History: The Underground Railroad

What was the Underground Railroad? The Underground Railway was an organized network of people, secret routes and safe houses who aided runaway slaves escaping from the South to freedom in the North and Canada. The Underground Railroad was formed in the early 19th century and reached its peak in the mid 1800’s when the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed.  With its passage, the Fugitive Slave Act decreed anyone assisting or helping hide fugitive slaves may be imprisoned and face a penalty of $1,000. Because of this, escaping slavery or helping others escape from slavery, was highly dangerous and traveling by night was imperative.

How did the Underground Railroad gets its name? Because of the clandestine nature of the Underground Railroad, a code using railroad terminology was used. Those who helped slaves escape were called “agents” or shepherds”, guides along the routes were called “conductors”, safe houses or hide-outs were called “stations” and escaping slaves themselves were called “passengers” and “cargo”. Harriet Tubman, who helped more than 300 slaves reach freedom, was quoted as saying “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger”. (Sources: pbs.org, brainyquote.com)

William Still who is credited as the "Father of the Underground Railroad".

William Still, who is credited as the “Father of the Underground Railroad”.

William Still, a freed slave living in Philadelphia, is considered the “Father of the Underground Railroad”. In 1847, Still began working for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery and soon thereafter started sheltering and shepherding runaway slaves further North to freedom. Still maintained careful records of the people he helped escape, but before the start of the Civil War he destroyed the records for fear people would be prosecuted if those records were found. In 1872, William Still wrote The Underground Railroad, one of the most important books documenting this time in history. (Sources: pbs.org, freedomcenter.org)

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story