Pennsylvania is known for many things, but being a catalyst for abolishing slavery may not be one of them.
Yet the Keystone State was a hotbed for tension between abolitionists and slave owners long before the battle at Gettysburg.
Columbia is the unofficial site of the where the Underground Railroad began. Lancaster saw a skirmish in 1850 in regard to the Fugitive Slave Law. William C. Goodridge of York was one of the most active stationmasters of the Railroad.
In fact, every county in the Commonwealth saw some action on the Underground Railroad.
For families looking for ways to honor or remember Black History Month, they may not need to leave their own neighborhoods.
Below is a list of places or tours of sites in Central Pa. that honor and remember the Underground Railroad and the fight for freedom for many slaves. This is in no way a complete list, but with so many important locations it had to be shortened. There are also countless historical markers throughout the Keystone State that mark sites of the Underground Railroad. Get in touch with your local historical society for more details.
- Bethel AME Church, Lancaster: The church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad and it now features a living history production called “Living the Experience” that lets visitors experience a first-hand account of the plight and struggle of escaping slaves.
- First National Bank Museum, Columbia: On the border of York and Lancaster counties, Columbia was an ideal and active center for the Underground Railroad. Many blacks stayed in Columbia, which made it easier for escaped slaves to blend in. This bank kept accounts that funded and assisted travelers on the Underground Railroad.
- William Goodridge Mural and Museum, York: Goodridge was an African-American businessman and one of the most prominent stationmasters. A mural on West Market Street honors him and his contributions. His home at 123 E. Philadelphia St. is now a museum. He hid slaves in this house in a few spots, including in a secret room in the basement.
- Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg: This tavern was a stop on the Underground Railroad and it offers a small crawlspace where escaped slaves were given refuge.
- Pheasant Field Bed and Breakfast, Carlisle: The bed and breakfast was a stop on the Railroad and it allows guests to tour the home and see where slaves hid underneath the kitchen floor.
- Cumberland County Historical Society bus and walking Tour: Check out many locations in Carlisle and Boiling Springs that were pit stops on the Railroad.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent. Be sure to post other destinations related to the Underground Railroad you know of in the area in the comments section below.