Fans of ‘The Underground Railroad’ will want to explore these historic sites in New Jersey
The real Underground Railroad a network of safe houses and secret routes that assisted runaway enslaved people on their journeys to freedom in the North has a mysterious history in Central New Jersey.
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has only a few documented Underground Railroad sites, but far more have garnered debate among historians and property owners.
“The trouble with the Underground Railroad is there were no records kept because it was all highly secretive,” said Richard Moody, a former board member and longtime volunteer with the Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society, as well as a volunteer with the Historical Society of Princeton.
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Underground Railroad routes in New Jersey.
“Unfortunately, as always, there are people who like to claim their house was a safe house on the Underground Railroad, but it quite difficult to get the true story.”
Reviving interest in the subject is the 10 part miniseries “The Underground Railroad,” which debuted on May 14 on Amazon Prime.
know how fraught those images are Barry Jenkins on portraying slavery in Underground Railroad is known is that New Jersey was a crucial part of the Underground Railroad, being that it was close to the slave states of Delaware and Maryland. Plus, it in between Philadelphia and New York City, two of the most active Underground Railroad metropolitan centers.
From South Jersey, routes generally converged in Princeton and before heading toward Perth Amboy. The routes then continued through northern states to Canada, which abolished slavery in 1834.
New Jersey boasts a higher concentration of Underground Railroad communities than most northern states. It never adopted a personal liberty law in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which empowered federal agents to return runaways who had fled to the free states. Large rewards also were offered to people who assisted in the return of enslaved people who ran away.
Many Underground Railroad routes traveling through South Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania converged in on the way to New York City and Canada. There are no documented Underground Railroad sites in, although some people still believe sites exist.
had a large free Black population and easy access to road, water and, later, rail travel, according to “Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History.
But Giles Wright, the former director of Afro American History Program New Jersey Historical Commission, said there probably were not any safe houses in the city.
He passed in 2009 and was a state expert on the Underground Railroad. He wrote a guide under the New Jersey Historical Commission on New Jersey Underground Railroad sites.
Pennsylvania Railroad Station in inn 1870.
Wright belief was recounted by Robert Belvin, director of the Free Public Library.
“Wright told me that he did not believe there were any Underground Railroad sites in simply because this was the choke point,” Belvin said. “This was actually where the slave catchers would sit and wait. They would stay at the bottom end of East Brunswick and then it would be a dash to go north and get across the Raritan River and into Rahway.”
The same is said in “Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History.”
” was also widely regarded as one of the most dangerous legs of the journey,” the book states. “Self appointed slave hunters enforcing the controversial Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 mercilessly patrolled the footbridge that stemmed from Albany Street eastward across the Raritan River.”
Cranbury Inn, Cranbury
The Cranbury Inn.
Local oral tradition states that the Cranbury Inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The belief is shared on the Cranbury Inn website, as well as in Wright guide, which also cites the oral tradition.