Books & Resources

The scholarship on the Underground Railroad is vast and continues to grow. As often happens in popular culture, myths abound, and books about this topic should be approached with a critical eye. The titles listed in the bibliography below are generally accepted as well researched and reliable in the information they present.

Today, historians are exploring in-depth not only the participation of white populations such as the Quakers but also local free and enslaved African Americans in aiding self-liberators on their path to freedom. Furthermore, the focus of much current research is to better understand and appreciate the agency of those enslaved people who decided on their own to flee, often doing so alone and without aid of any kind.

Underground Railroad activity in the Kennett region is closely tied to the Quaker community. We recommend starting with Christopher Densmore’s overview to gain background on this area and its abolitionists:

Christopher Densmore. “Be Ye Therefore Perfect: Anti-Slavery and the Origins of the Yearly Meeting of Progressive Friends in Chester County, Pennsylvania.” Quaker History  93, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 28-46.

Stable URL:




Books for Younger Readers Books on Slavery & Underground Railroad in the Kennett Region

Books on Slavery & Underground Railroad Outside the Kennett Region

Books about Slavery and the Underground Railroad in the Kennett Area.

Author(s) Title Year Publisher Description
Smedley, R. C The History of the Underground Railroad in Chester & Neighboring Counties 1883;


Stackpole Books has republished this work Accounts of persons and UGRR activities gathered in the 1870s, less than a generation after the UGRR was intensely active in SE PA.  This is probably the most important work on the UGRR for this area
Douglass, Frederick The Narrative of Frederick Douglass 1845;


Dover Press reprint One of the most influential slave autobiographies by the man who might be considered the most important African-American of the 19th C.
Douglass, Frederick On Slavery and the Civil War 2003 Dover A selection of his writings


Dugan, M.L. & Ella J. Sestrich East Linden Street: Abolition, Industry, & Diversity in Kennett Square, PA 2008 KURC A brief work on a Kennett Square street that has been integrated for over 160 years, with emphasis on its abolitionist background.
Taylor, Frances C. The Trackless Trail Leads On 1995 Privately published Very readable pamphlet of DE/Chester County UGRR, based largely on Smedley.
Truth, Sojourner The Narrative of Sojourner Truth 1850;


Dover Press reprint 1st-hand account of the life of former slave, one of the most important abolitionists and speakers for progressive reform in the 19th C.

 For Younger Readers

Author(s) Title Year Publisher Description
Angeli, Margaret Thee, Hannah 1940 Illustrated book w poems about UGRR activity among 19th C Quakers  For young readers.
Guccione, Leslie Davis Come Morning 1995 Carolrhoda Books Fictional story of young people helping out with UGRR activity in the vicinity of what is now Hagley Museum
Rossi, Ann Freedom Struggle: the Anti-Slavery Movement in America, 1830-1865 2005 National Geographic Slender but useful introduction to the issue.
Taylor, M.W. Harriet Tubman, Antislavery Activist 1990 Account of the extraordinary life of the UGRR’s most famous conductor.
Winter, Jeanette Follow the Drinking Gourd 1992 Dragonfly Books Illustrated book with poems about UGRR activity.  For young readers.
Bentley, Judith “Dear Friend,” Thomas Garret, Collaborators on the Underground Railroad 1997 Cobblehill/Dutton Account of the highly productive correspondence between the two giants of the East Coast UGRR.  For MS/HS readers.
Prince, Bryan I Came as a Stranger 2004 Tundra Books Written by a descendant of fugitives who reached Canada, emphasizing not just the escapes but also the lives built in Canada

Recommended Works Concerning Slavery and the Underground Railroad in the Kennett Area

Author(s) Title Year Publisher Description
Blockson, Charles The Underground Railroad 1987 Prentice Hall A collection of first-hand stories of escapes from slavery, including one of Blockson’s forebears.
Clinton, Catherine Harriet Tubman: the Road to Freedom 2004 Little, Brown Serious, scholarly biography of HT
Diggins, Milt Stealing Freedom Along the Mason-Dixon Line: 2015 Johns Hopkins U. Press Concerning “Thomas McCreary, the Notorious Slave Catcher from Baltimore MD”
Drake, Thomas Quakers and Slavery in America 1950 Yale U. Press Scholarly examination of the evolution of anti-slavery beliefs among Quakers.
Gara, Larry The Liberty Line 1961; 1996 University of Kentucky Press An attempt to separate UGRR myth from verifiable facts; available as e-book from Kindle
Gooch, Cheryl (ed) On Africa’s Lands 2014 Lincoln University Press “The forgotten stories of two Lincoln-educated missionaries in Liberia.”
Griest, Ellwood John and Mary; or the Fugitive Slaves, A Tale of South-Eastern Pennsylvania 1873 Lancaster Inquirer; reprinted electronically by UNC-Chapel Hill A fictional tale, written shortly after the Civil War, of freedom-seekers and those who helped them in this region.  Available online without charge.
Jacobs, Norma (ed) Quaker Roots: the Story of the Western Quarterly Meeting of Philadelphia Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends 1980 Western Quarterly Meeting Selections dealing with the meeting houses of SE PA and Md, many of which were involved in the UGRR.  Available at London Grove Meeting–$5.00
Jackson, Maurice Let This Voice Be Heard: Anthony Benezet, Father of Atlantic Abolitionism 2009 U. Penn Press 1st great publicist of ant-slavery writing in America, in 18th C. Philadelphia.
Kashatus, William Just Over the Line: Chester County and the UGRR 2002 Chester County Historical Society Examination of the UGRR in early-mid 19th C in northern Delaware and Chester County
Katz, Jonathan Resistance at Christiana: the Fugitive Slave Rebellion 1974 Cromwell The story of the small battle that occurred in nearby Christiana, Lancaster Cty, when fugitive slaves resisted and repulsed an attempt to recapture them.
Larson, Kate Clifford Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero 2004 Ballantine Books The most scholarly biography of the life and work of Harriet Tubman
McGowan, James Station Master of the Underground Railroad: the Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett Revised edition: 2005 McFarland The only biography of the most important stationmaster of the UGRR on the east coast.
Russo, MH, and PA Hinsonville: a Community at the Crossroads 2005 Rosemont Publishing Story of an African-American Village in Chester County
Slaughter, Thomas P. Bloody Dawn-the Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North 1991 Oxford U. Press The story of the small battle that occurred in nearby Christiana, Lancaster Cty, when fugitive slaves resisted and repulsed an attempt to recapture them. Emphasis on rebellion leader Wm. Parker.
Still, William The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts 1872;


Porter & Coates;

New edited version by Dover Books

Written shortly after the Civil War by one of the most important agents of the UGRR and a chronicler of original UGRR stories without peer. The Dover edition is about half the length of the original.  A Kindle e-version is also available.
Taylor, Frances C. The Trackless Trail 1976 Privately published Very readable pamphlet of DE/Chester County UGRR, based largely on Smedley
Taylor, Frances C. The Trackless Trail Leads On 1995 Privately published Very readable pamphlet of DE/Chester County UGRR, based largely on Smedley.
Tobin, Jacqueline From Midnight to Dawn: the Last Tracks of the Underground Railroad 2008 Knopf, Doubleday Portrayals of figures involved in UGRR and abolition, including Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Dealing with Slavery & the UGRR Largely Outside This Region

Author(s) Title Year Publisher Description

Fergus M.

Bound for Canaan: the Underground Railroad and America’s First Civil Rights Movement 2006 Amistad Stories from different parts of the country regarding the UGRR, including the Mid-west.
Collier, Melvin Mississippi to Africa: a Journey of Discovery 2012 WriteHere Publishing The story of a man tracing back his ancestry seven generations through slavery to West Africa.
Diouf, Sylviane Anna Slavery’s Exiles: the Story of the American Maroons  2014 NYU Press Awarding-winning historian of the African diaspora; many other works as well
Foner, Eric Forever Fee: the Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction 2006 Vintage Details the influence of Black Americans in bringing about emancipation and shaping Reconstruction policy
Foner, Eric Gateway to Freedom: the Hidden History of the Underground Railroad 2015 W.W. Norton Scholarly account of The Record of the Fugitives by Sydney Howard Gay and the UGRR in NYC in the decades before the Civil War.  Pulitzer-Prize winning historian.
Hagedorn, Ann Beyond the River: the Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad 2008 Simon & Schuster Focusing on Ohio abolitionists, black and white.
Jackson, Antoinette T. Speaking for the Enslaved: Heritage Interpretation at Antebellum Plantation Sites. 2012 Left Coast Press “Jackson uses both ethnographic and ethnohistorical data to show the various ways African Americans actively created and maintained their own heritage and cultural formations.”
LaRoche, Cheryl Janifer Free Black Communities and the UGRR: the Geography of Resistance 2013 U Illinois Press Author uses archaeological perspective and tools to focus on the aid provided to fugitive by free black communities in the Midwest
National Park Service Underground Railroad: an Epic in United States History 1998 National Park Service Handbook !56 An 86 page summary with three main essays by Larry Gara, Brenda E. Stevenson, and C. Peter Ripley.
Papson, Donald and Tom Carlarco Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City 2015 McFarland Scholarly examination of the recently discovered Record of the Fugitives by S.H. Gay, a document similar to William Still secret notes of fugitives as they passed through NYC
Parker, John P. His Promised Land: the Autobiography of John P. Parker 1996 W.W. Norton The narrative of a former slave and UGRR conductor from the Ohio area, edited by Stuart Sprague.
Siebert, William The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom: a Comprehensive History 1898;


Arno Press reprint One of the earliest histories of the UGRR, gathered from a number of 1st-hand accounts and documentary material