The First “Virtual Stop” on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom

The Digital Library on American Slavery at University of North Carolina at Greensboro contains several archives of interest to historian and researchers. Among the collections is the The Race and Slavery Petitions Project. It. contains detailed information on about 150,000 individuals, including slaves, free people of color, and Whites, extracted from 2,975 legislative petitions and 14,512 county court petitions, as well as from a wide range of related documents, including wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions, court proceedings, amended petitions, among others. Buried in these documents are the names and other data on roughly 80,000 slaves, 8,000 free people of color, and 62,000 Whites, both slave owners and non-slave owners.

Among the other items in the digital archive are a database of runaway slave advertisements and the maritime records of ships involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. There is also information on slave deeds filed with government officials in North Carolina and records of slave owners who bought insurance policies in case of the loss of their slaves.

Now this treasure trove of historical data has been recognized as as the first-ever “virtual” stop on the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, operated by the National Park Service. The Network to Freedom program consists of locations with a verifiable connection to the Underground Railroad; educational and interpretive programs that pertain to the Underground Railroad; and research and educational facilities. There are currently over 600 locations across 40 states, plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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