There is a lot of ongoing interest in the Underground Railroad (UGRR). While Iowa might not be the first state you associate with the UGRR, Iowa is one of the few places along the Mason-Dixon line where a free state borders a slave state without a river in between. It was also used as a staging area for Bloody Kansas and raids into Missouri by Abolitionist forces.
The story is enticing. It involves a secret system that most people don’t have a clear idea about but it involves codes, disguises, and secret rooms. Plus, it allows us, from the safety and security of our 21st century homes, to feel that we ourselves would have participated and taken such risks for freedom. Wanting to be associated or connected with the UGRR lets us see traces and connections where they don’t exist, we can turn something into a code or make even the most obvious space into a hidden room and gives even the most common tunnel a noble purpose.
On the Map
The map below shows the established and proven routes of the UGRR in Iowa and known stations. Four buildings that are known stations still stand. They are marked on the map.
(When I updated this link I had to go to the archive version. It should work, but there may be a little delay in it loading.)
Iowa Public Radio
Talk of Iowa on Iowa Public Radio devoted two episodes to the subject on February 2011.
February 11, 2011 – Host Charity Nebbe speaks with Bonnie Blaford of the National Park Service. Also speaking is Lynn Koos, curator of the African-American Museum of Iowa. NOTE: This edition of Talk of Iowa was shortened due to breaking news in Egypt. Scheduled guests for the second half of the program will be rescheduled for a later date.
February 25, 2011 -Host Charity Nebbe speaks with Lynn Koos, curator at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids; and Doug Jones, an archaeologist and the The Iowa Freedom Trail Project Manager with the State Historical Society of Iowa, listen here:
Previous Trundlebed Tales posts on Iowa and the UGRR
UPDATED September 30, 2015: A couple of possible edits, put in the current signature block and updated a couple of the links.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.