The underground railroad myth claims that the North was the land of freedom and equality for the black man who would run away from his home in the South, despite the reality of the former slaveholding North not wanting the black man in their midst. The evidence shows Jim Crow laws proscribing black voters in New York, Ohio passed laws against black emigration, and segregated transportation was common – and Frederick Douglass stated that Philadelphia was the most segregated city in the North.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
“Ever-Present, Ever-Crushing Negro Hate” Up North
“Samuel R. Ward . . . was born on a plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland to slave parents in 1817. The family escaped to Greenwich, New Jersey in 1820, and removed six years later to New York City. In New York Ward’s father was a house painter, whose experience in slavery seems to have induced in the son a resonance to abolitionism.
Poverty compelled Ward to work, “but inclination led [him] to study.” He was placed in a public school and taught “by Mr. Adams, a Quaker gentleman.” Thus in spite of poverty, Ward was able to make some progress in learning.
Poverty, however, was not the only obstacle for a black lad in New York City. There was also “the ever-present, ever-crushing Negro-hate.” [He wrote:] “As a servant it denied me a seat with my white fellow servants . . . the idea of employing a white clerk was preposterous . . . So if I sought a trade, white apprentices would leave, if I were admitted. I found all the Negro-hating usages and sentiment of general society [in New York] encouraged and embodied in the Negro [church] pew . . . I know of more than one colored person driven to a total denial of all religion, by the religious barbarism of white New Yorkers . . . ”
Henry Highland Garnet was born into slavery in New Market, Maryland . . . in 1815. In 1824, his parents, after receiving permission to leave the plantation to attend a funeral, escaped with him to Pennsylvania and moved to New York City in 1826. Between 1826 and 1828, Garnet was educated at African Free Schools of the city.
In 1855 Garnet went to Canaan Academy, New Hampshire. Henry did not escape “Negro-hate” in this rural community. A mob using ninety-five oxen and working two days pulled down the building which housed the academy out of line of the other buildings and burned it to the ground. “The mob further attacked Garnet in the home of Mr. Kimball with whom Garnet was boarding.”
Charles Ray was born on 25 December 1807 in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where his father was a mail carrier. Charles was educated at schools and academies of his native town. Afterwards he worked for five years on his grandfather’s farm in Westerly, Rhode Island.
In the early 1830s, Ray, financed by the abolitionists, studied at Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. [White] students raised objections to his presence at the university, calling it “inexpedient.” Charles was forced to leave.”
(The New York Abolitionists, A Case Study of Radical Politics, Gerald Sorin, Greenwood Publishing, 1971, pp. 85-93)