The Hudson River’s Role in the Underground Railroad
Discover the role the Hudson River played in the Underground Railroad and hear stories of those who used it to escape and assist others in gaining their freedom.
Cordell Reaves, expert on the Underground Railroad with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreations, and Historic Preservation, presents The Hudson River’s Role in the Underground Railroad. This RiverTalks event is Saturday, February 25, 7:00 PM, $10 / $5 for teachers, students, and seniors. For information contact email@example.com, (914) 377-1900 x 13.
February is Black History Month. Learn a little known aspect of local African American history at The Hudson River’s Role in the Underground Railroad, a presentation in pictures and stories with Cordell Reaves with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada. Fugitives from the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Pennsylvania—as well as from the South—traveled through the lower New York State in big numbers. But how did they do it?
There is little evidence of escaped slaves traveling in the Hudson Valley after the 1830s. Compared to other areas—for example Central New York State, southern Pennsylvania, the Ohio River Valley, Detroit, the absence of records is deeply puzzling.
The answer, suggests Cordell Reaves–Underground Railroad specialist with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation–has to do with the Hudson River.
Something happened in the valley in 1807 that had nothing whatever to do with slavery—the first successful steamboat, Robert Fulton's Clermont. After that, the Hudson rapidly became the great Interstate Highway of its day—cheap and fast.
“Between New York City and Albany, the Underground Railroad used cargo sloops and steamboats, particularly those crewed or captained by African Americans,” says Reaves.
In The Hudson River’s Role in the Underground Railroad, Reaves presents fascinating stories of former slaves who used the Hudson River to escape as well as everyday people in the Hudson Valley who assisted others in gaining their freedom.
About Cordell Reaves
Cordell Reaves is a Historic Preservation Program Analyst with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. For the past 10 years he has worked with historic sites across New York State to help them interpret and preserve their Underground Railroad History and increase their organizational capacity. Most recently he has been working on increasing tourism to NY using the story of the Underground Railroad. Cordell was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, has an MA from the Cooperstown Graduate Program for History Museum Studies and resides in Albany NY.