Skip to main content

tv   Underground Railroad  CSPAN  October 31, 2015 8:56pm-10:01pm EDT

8:56 pm
in which the soul exists. unless you're concerned about both sides, you cannot service the needs of your congregation. that's it. [applause] >> join us each saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern for classroom lectures from across the country on different topics and eras of american history. they are also available as podcasts. visit our website at which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] -- atry/podcast www.c-span.org /history/broadcast. foner discusses his recent book "gateway to
8:57 pm
freedom," the hidden history of the underground railroad. uncoveredbout how he ,he story of sidney howard gay one of the key organizers behind helping escaped slaves in new york city. >> good evening. i am happy to be here with my esteemed colleague and friend, eric phonfoner. some years ago, i was doing some research and as i approached the library desk to retrieve archival material, i saw that the staff was animatedly whispering and pointing, because there had just been a celebrity sighting. eric foner.
8:58 pm
[laughter] you: when i asked you what are doing, i got a modest, "oh just checking out some things about the underground railroad." book,e have is "gateways to freedom." i look forward to interacting with you later this evening. eric, you tell your readers that the story of the underground railroad is a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces missing. usually, historians think of a question and go in search of documents. sometimes we find extraordinary documents and let questions emerge. why don't you tell us about the document that you found in the columbia university archives? : is this on?this
8:59 pm
thanks to the museum for inviting us here. thank you for interrogating me. it is like being back on my oral exams. [laughter] mr. foner: thank you for coming. i have written a good number of books, as was said. people often ask, "how do you choose what to write?" usually, it is some kind of historical question that you,nly interests whether it is the lincoln assassination or other things. then you decide what are the sources you need to use to answer this question? in this case, it works the other way around. mine, actually, and undergraduate history major, was writing her senior thesis on a little-known new york journalist, sidney howard gay, and abolitionist before the new
9:00 pm
civil war. she was writing her senior his journalistic career. her veryi saw frequently, every afternoon she came around. she is now an attorney in new york city, so i do not want to return -- referred to her as a dog walker. she has a lot of social mobility there. [laughter] said to me,y she you know professor, inbox 72 there is a document about fugitive slaves. i do not know what it is and it is not relevant to me, but you may find interesting. one day i am up there and i say, what is this? bring the box 72. and there were these two little notebooks, in which sydney howard gay, who at that time was editing an abolitionist newspaper in new york, was also kind of a man in the underground
9:01 pm
railroad in the 1850's. 1855-1856, he kept a record of over 200 fugitive slaves who pass through his office. he interviewed them. he is a journalist. where did you come from? who is your owner? how did you escape? and he also indicated where he sent them. syracuse, boston, canada. and how much money you spend. for train tickets and things like that. it was a very remarkable document because you have the voice. 99% of the people and there are completely anonymous, in other words, they disappear from the historical record once they leave new york city. there are a few things -- gray television -- harriet tubman passes through twice and that document. you get the voice of these fugitive slaves, at the moment while they are in the process of escaping. i was really fascinated, i have never seen this cited.
9:02 pm
say it was discovered, it was in the library, not hidden, i did not have to go into an attic and rummage around. universitye columbia rare books room is so poorly catalogued, that nobody knew this thing with there. a woman who wrote a biography of harriet tubman, later found out, cited the page, but no one had used it for any other purpose. basic way, i thought i had to do something with this and i started working out word from it. figure, just try to follow the stories of these slaves. their owners. first thing, are they telling the truth? he says that he is the slave of a colonel in maryland, and he owned 22 slaves, sue can go to the census and, yes, there he is. that was actually
9:03 pm
something i wanted to ask you about, because historians always have to ask why people are telling a particular story in a particular way -- how do we know that this was not abolitionist propaganda, but you did follow the lead? eric: it was not propaganda and a sense, because it was not meant for publication. why he kept this document, i have no idea. martha: because they could have been dangerous to some of the people right? eric: it was a two-volume record of serious violations of federal law. 1850ugitive slave law of made it a federal crime to help fugitive slaves. people were put in jail for doing so. this and itcording could have been used against him if you were ever arrested. my assumption, eventually, was that he did this basically to get reimbursed at the end of the year for the money. at the end of each year he had an accountant, and he said i spent $422 and i got $300 from
9:04 pm
this donor and this, and i am still owed $150. of course, as a journalist, he is more than just a record of money, he is telling the stories of these people. let me just add that since then, we have digitalized these two documents, the record fugitives, and also i produced a typewritten transcript, even of his handwriting is very good, it is sometimes hard to see. if you just google record fugitives, you will now find it online. particularly, it is a fascinating thing to give students a really visceral sense of what it meant to be a fugitive slave in the middle of the 1850's. martha: it is also a wonderful lesson for scholars, that not all unused documents are an addict, some of them are in the libraries and archives. eric: not everything is online. when i found this document, it was not online.
9:05 pm
students now think that you go to google and that is research. it is online now. but there are still plenty of things that aren't. martha: that is a point. the men,omething about women, and children who were in the records. you tell somebody harrowing stories in the book. how did runways get from south to north, from slavery to freedom? eric: this book is a little different than most of the books i have written, in that it does -- i do try to tell a lot of individual stories. to try to make these people come to life from what we know. some of them you can actually find out more information about them. some of them pop up in a canadian census of 1861, so they are living up in canada. a couple came back and served in the union army during the civil war. most of them -- it is pretty hard to find. but they tell their stories and you can then coordinated with other sources that are out there. still, they, william equivalent in philadelphia, kept a similar set of records, though
9:06 pm
not as rich and detailed, but you can coordinate all from the same people. most of them were men. most of them were young men in their 20's. but they were like play 5% women. there were even very small children. -- 25% women. when you think of fugitive aaves, we have an image of loan person kind of running through the woods. hiding out. -- i will talk about the underground railroad, but the slaves themselves, by 1850's, that is not how people run away. most of them left in groups. and railroads -- some of them escaped on railroads. the network was never pretty expensive -- expansive. some escaped by stealing their owners's horse-drawn carriages. a considerable number escaped on both. that surprised me.
9:07 pm
there were thousands of votes lined the coastal trade up and down the atlantic coast. there were many ship captains. these were not abolitionist, they just made a little money hiding slaves. they had to be paid to hide out on the ship. many of these slaves actually came by boat out of virginia, out of norfolk, out of richmond. they landed in philadelphia or new york or wilmington, delaware. they came in all sorts of ways. they told very harrowing stories. sydney howard gay asked them, why did you run away? one guy said, probably the main reason, i was tired of being a slave. i wanted to be free. but, most of them gave a more precise answer to that, which had to do with physical violence. abuse. they told stories of the abusive , violent treatment they had received, weddings, -- with . ings -- whippings
9:08 pm
the second most common thing with either fear of being sold, because most are from the upper south. they are from maryland, virginia -- you are not getting out of alabama all the way up to the north. it is just too far and impossible. so they are from the upper south, and there, a lot of the slave system is based on selling slaves to the lower south. virginia is a major exporter of slaves to the deep south. and some of them ran away because there wife or children had been sold. some ran away because they heard that they were going to be sold and they did not want to be sold. they talked about that a lot, also. as i said, the core of this is really these fugitive slaves or it but then, the book moves on to many other things about the fugitive slave issue. the politics of fugitive slaves. the question in the coming of the civil war. it starts with people running away. if people do not run away, there would not be any controversy over fugitive slaves or it but
9:09 pm
when they did, they capitalized a major aspect of the irrepressible conflict. martha: i would like to actually pick up on that. historians agree that slavery is the cause of the civil war. you make the point that the problem of fugitive slaves as part of this cause. but there are many americans who still believe that the cause of the civil war, or assert that the cause was states rights. what does the history of the fugitive slave law of 1850 tell us about the politics of states rights? eric: that is a very good question. the fugitive slave law of 1850 ,as the most vigorous interference and the rights of the states of any federal law before the civil war. it overrode all sorts of legal procedures that northern states had put into place to try to deal with the question of fugitive slaves or it -- fugitive slaves. northern states acknowledge that the constitution says that you
9:10 pm
have to send back fugitive slaves, it does not say anything about how. is there a trial by jury, judge, what kind of evidence? how does this happen? northern states passed laws about that and also to prevent the kidnapping of free black people as they are being grabbed as fugitive slaves to -- you just slaves. it is taken out of the hands of northern courts and sheriffs and it created a post of the united states commissioner of federal appointee to hear these cases. federal marshals, even u.s. army could go in. like in boston in 1855. and they escorted fugitive back to the south, if there was a danger that they would be rescued by a crowd. if you think the south believes in states rights, it is very hard to explain the fugitive slave law, which was a radical violation of states rights before the civil war. believe inners states rights, by and large of course they did. slavery was a creature of state laws.
9:11 pm
it was not critical national laws. it was great by state law. the right to own slaves was the major state right that they were talking about. you cannot really separate the slavery issue and the states rights issue. when it came to fugitive slaves, the positions were reversed. the south wanted national intervention, answer and states like wisconsin, actually try to nullify the fugitive slave law. from calhoun, and his theory of notification. martha: here's a follow-up to that that touches on current issues. you pointed out that the fugitive slave laws of the united states constitution obliged all-americans to participate in the return of slaves to their owners. in the book, you write about the many people, the agents of the underground railroad, who resisted that law and disobeyed that law. that included sydney howard gay, and a senator of new york and made the statement that there was a higher law, god's law.
9:12 pm
how do you think these actions are different from the defiance of the now famous clerk in kentucky who refused to issue a license to same-sex couples ecause it is against her -- i have some ideas about how i think is different, but i would like to know how you think it is different. isc: the question of what the obligation of a person when confronted with a law that they consider unjust is a perennial question. it goes way back before the american nation existed. henry david durell went to jail because he refused to pay taxes to support the mexican war. the civilbedience and rights era was a major form of social protest. the civil rights movement violated law after law. i think in the abstract, there is little difference, in a sense, although, there is a bit of a difference between someone who is a public servant, so to
9:13 pm
speak. -- sheen in kentucky holds an office. nobody says that she is not entitled to her opinion on this. obviously, she is. but she is holding an office and she has an oath to do that. so did william stewart, who is a senator. giving refugeas to fugitive slaves in his home in auburn, new york area -- new york. that did not conflict -- a better analogy might be judge john edmonds of new york city, who was a very antislavery guy, and just basically refused to recognize the flop. he would let fugitive slaves off. he is violating the law as a judge, because he thinks it is -- this is a perennial question, i do not think there is a civil answer to it. what is your obligation when confronted. let me say this. couldmulling over how i
9:14 pm
in this discussion, get any mention of martha's new book, "morning lincoln." it is a bit of a stretch to connect these two, but lincoln is interesting. he hated slavery, there is no question about that. but he never held a fugitive slave. lawyer, and a famous letter he said, i hate to see them hunted down, but i bite my lip and keep silent. why did he keep silent? because he believed in the role of law. he said this a constitutional obligation. at one point, he said, i agree with stewart that there is an air press about conflict but i do not agree in the higher law. there is a constitution. we took a note to the constitution. we must abide by it, even if it has very distasteful elements in it. lincoln is probably more typical of most northerners who dislike
9:15 pm
this, but said i cannot unilaterally decide to violate the law. martha: and for that link and earned the wrath of radical abolitionists. eric: he was not radical enough. but he was able to be elected, which stewart never could because he was too radical. martha: i want to add a word about the kentucky law clerk. i read in the nyt, that the pope told her to stay strong, which i found very interesting. eric: she said that. is it true? the vatican has not confirmed or denied it. martha: but it was in the nyt. [laughter] eric: if she made it up, then she is psychotic. [laughter] martha: good evidence. eric: to invent an audience with the pope which didn't happen is quite a risk. she did not say what the pope said to her, maybe he said, who are we to judge? martha: what occurred to me
9:16 pm
about the difference between the people in your book and this isan -- was that when action fundamentally expanding rights, and the other is contracting rights. maybe we can make a difference out of that. eric: i would agree. they have different moral balances, but the question of whether you would have a -- most people who violate the law understand that they may be punished for doing so. throw went to jail, and he says ok, that is my punishment for violating the law. mlk went to joe many times. sydney howard gay never went to jail. which is interesting. even though it was eager, it was not all that secret. i'm sure the city fathers knew. in his papers, there are other when theya policeman brought him a fugitive slave that he found in the street and said you better help this guy or else he will be arrested. the policeman did not arrest
9:17 pm
sydney howard gay, he brought the fugitive there and said you better do something to help this guy. big did not want to make a case over this, i think. i think it would have made him into a martyr if he had been put on trial for helping fugitive slaves. martha: while we're on the topic of so-called current events, sydney howard gay sometimes wondered and worried whether fugitive slaves were imposters are really fugitive slaves. so right now, in the world, we are dealing with this question of whether people who are escaping from oppression are refugees or migrants, and some of us would say that it doesn't matter. why did it matter to sydney howard gay if an african-american person wanted to escape from some sort of oppression, whether or not that person was a literal fugitive slave? eric: it was not that, there were a couple of instances where black men were claiming to be -- were living in new york, and were claiming to get money, as a scam. they would go to his office and
9:18 pm
say i just escaped and i need money for this or that. martha: they were not trained to leave new york? eric: no, they were trying to get money. they would say my wife and children are in slavery, and then they find out that they are living in brooklyn. [laughter] eric: you could afford to live in brooklyn back then. [laughter] eric: there were a couple of imposters. the world is full of people a very degrees of honesty, let's put it that way. martha: that brings up new york and what it was like to live in new york as an african-american person. today, the center of progressive politics is new york. but the city is also a pretty unfriendly place to african-americans and slaves and free and their white allies, and i wonder if you could talk a little bit about who these new yorkers were who made this hostile environment? people who never voted for lincoln, by the way. eric: lincoln never carried new york city. it was the scene of the new york city draft riots of 1863.
9:19 pm
a major insurrection in this country. yorkers, like to think of ourselves as multicultural, progressive, tolerance, etc. we at the statue of liberty which welcomes people. but it was not like that for black people before the civil war. -- long ago, before i was born, my uncle wrote a great book "business and slavery" about the new york city merchant community and the south. slavery existed in new york state all the way through 1827. which is a long time. but even after that, the city's economy was very tired to the south and new york merchants controlled the cotton trade. new york bankers helped to finance the expansion of slavery. york insurance companies insured slaves. southerners were always coming up on the streets of new york, visiting hotels, and the culture
9:20 pm
of the city, the political culture was very pro-southern. the democratic rdf newark city which usually one elections was quite pro-southern, and it was not a very pleasant place for black people. there was pride in black communities. it was very essential in the operation of the underground railroad. just in helping individual people, looking out on the streets and the docs for fugitive slaves. great to termination against blacks in the city and in a state, they could not vote basically. they were confined to the very lowest occupational rungs. when fugitive slaves got to new, they could not stick around. they had to be sent further north. there were slave catchers on the streets all the time. despite that policeman i mentioned, the city administration was more than happy to cooperate in capturing and sending back fugitive slaves
9:21 pm
, because of this close connection of new york city with the south. it was not like upstate new york, let's say syracuse, which was a strongly anti-slavery place. this is all done totally openly. the underground railroad in syracuse was not underground at all. the guy who ran had a business card. [laughter] the: anyone who see fugitive slave, please send into me, i will give him money and sent into canada. nobody did anything up there about that. but in new york, you cannot do it openly, even though a lot of people knew it was going on. an interesting point about your uncle's book, because historians have now taken up this topic of slavery and capitalism and northern implications. he was a pioneer. absolutely. say, i have ao calm push many things, but writing a book before and born, i have not yet done. martha: it is interesting, too, because people think of the racism of new york city stemming from immigrants, like the irish
9:22 pm
or germans. it is very important to add the merchant business class to that picture. eric: one of the things i have been doing this last year is running a little project on columbia university on the history of slavery. we do not think of colombia -- it is not like princeton, we did not have any black students, but thatm, immigrants sure, our medical school was a major center of race science. andpresident of the school 1843 gave a major public lecture on "the inferiority of the negro." he went through studio -- pseudo-cranium staff. ranking the races. this was uppercrust staff, it was not just immigrant stuff. racism was pervasive. martha: let's talk a little bit more about racism in new york. what is so interesting in your book is some of the black abolitionist accuse their white
9:23 pm
allies, including white abolitionists and underground railroad agents, of a certain kind of racism. i have been wondering about lately about racism within the abolitionist movement. it is only something i read a little bit about. my question is, is it just a given that these white people are racist? eric: it depends on what you mean by racism. publicly, the position of these abolitionists, black or white, wes, number one, slavery must be abolished and medially, and number two, which really got him in trouble, the former slaves must become equal members of the society. they must have the political rights, social rights, economic rights, a white people. there were a lot of people who are anti-slavery who said yes, we should freedom, but ship them to africa. the abolitionists repudiated that.
9:24 pm
they were surly antiracist and they spend a lot of time attacking the kind of scientific racism i'm talking about. personally, they were members of the society. no question about it. they shared certain racial views of the time. many of them did. -- the convocations of -- the complications of this are not as simple as are you racist or are you not racist? the most important white abolitionist and new york city, a well-to-do merchant, put his money where his mouth was when it came to the movement and fugitive slaves. criticizedtionists him because he would not hire blacks as clerks and his shops. that, nolook, if i did white person would come in and buy anything. i cannot have a black person there because no white would come in by a set of goods. all right, that is racism, but yet, he had you did a slaves in
9:25 pm
his home. in brooklyn. he gave money to help fugitive slaves. complex. eric: what is important to me is that the abolitionists movement was the only interracial political movement of that time. that is one of the things that is so remarkable about it. it was a place for black and white and men and women of worst, work together for a common cause. of the underground railroad and the abolitionist movement more broadly. i think it is rather inspiring actually in our day and age, but they were able to do that at a time when racism was so deeply pervasive in the society. i'm not trained to absolve people of this, but i think when you compare the prejudices of certain white abolitionists with the really the relent racism which was so widespread in the , they actually made an effort to try to combat even in
9:26 pm
their own minds. martha: you mentioned a while ago that most of the fugitives were from the upper south. the deep south is just too far away to get from to new york. but we also know that there were ways who escaped to mexico and haiti. eric: and texas. martha: was there underground railroad and the other direction? eric: i think there probably was. i only talk about the eastern corridor, but there were slaves who escaped from georgia to the seminal indians in florida. it is one of the reasons why the government was very adamant about getting the indians out and to oklahoma, because they wore offering refuge to slaves. there is not much literature. there was one article i saw about the underground railroad, if that is what it was, from texas. the thing about the railroad, is in the south, there was not really much of an underground railroad. --y began getting help organize health -- when they got
9:27 pm
to the free states. people got help and the south, but it was haphazard and an organize, and was almost all the black people, slave or free. i started out on the road, one andtarted out on the road finally i ran into a free black man and i said, i'm trying to get to the north, and that i said, you are headed in the wrong direction, you are going south. you better turnaround. they do not have that great of a sense of geography. you do not have a sign saying north, this way. but it was haphazard. it was local people who just help them here it there were a few whites in the south. slaves kind of understood that quakers, white quakers could be trusted. got tothe guys said, i pennsylvania and knocked on a door and said, send me to a quaker, please. i don't care who, just get me a quaker. it is only when they got across the mason-dixon line that they
9:28 pm
-- they found their way to organize a systems. people newly to send them to and does them into new york and syracuse. in texas, there would not have been an underground railroad. there would have been individuals who may have helped someone, but not as a kind of organized thing. martha: we will soon be taking questions in the audience, but i just want to ask you a couple more questions are despite his work on the underground railroad, sydney howard gay expressed decidedly on radical views and political sentiments about african-americans after the civil war was over. what happened and was he symptomatic of the way many white abolitionists felt when the war was over? eric: at the end, i have a little epilogue. became one of the early members of the american historical association. a great man. but he wrote a four volume history of the united states for the centennial of 1876.
9:29 pm
in dealing with this. did not give -- he any credit to black abolitionists at all. orthought blacks were inert unable to really defend themselves and it was the white abolitionists -- this is part of the mythology already developing, and which one can find in a lot of literature in the underground railroad up until relatively recently, where the heroes are the white abolitionists and the slaves, while running away, are still helpless. it is well-meaning, white people helping helpless fugitives. that is not the way it was. day helps to propagate that. ie of the things that -- admire them, but one of the things that i find upsetting is that like many radical movements, they spend half their time fighting among themselves. frederick douglas, and sydney howard gay got into all of these sites. ann garrison.
9:30 pm
there are always out settling scores and announcing each other. i think sydney howard gay is settling scores in his history against some black abolitionists. i think you're right. it is also a sign of the retreat, the general retreat in the north. in the book he says nothing about reconstruction. he is writing in 1876. there is a disillusionment. the end of slavery did not quite work out the way a lot of people had hoped it would. yes, the institution is gone, which is a great thing, but how, equality has not occurred. black people did not quite become the little thomas jefferson's that everybody wanted. there is this disillusionment on the part of many people, including abolitionists by the late 1870's with all of the consequences of this great struggle they had been involved in. martha: i'm glad you brought that up, because one of the most interesting parts of the book for me were all of these schisms
9:31 pm
between what i assumed would be a unified community. eric: i grew up in a family that , #put it, the old left. one of the principals was that there is a party line. you have to either follow the party line or you're out. at some point in my life, i came to realize that is not really the white way to think about it -- the right way to think about it. the more different ways that people approach something, the better. this blitz in the movement may not have actually weakened the struggle against slavery. you have some people going into sayings, some people -- the constitution is proslavery. some say it is anti-slavery. people are working on the underground railroad. people said it is a race of time -- waste of time to work on the underground railroad. it is not attacking the institution of slavery itself. i think the more different methods, the better. i will go with the maoist approach. let 100 flowers bloom.
9:32 pm
it actually made it more diverse. the different methods that they use. the trouble was that they were criticizing anyone who did not do exactly what they wanted. martha: one more question before commenting the audience. i found myself interested in the term underground railroad. why do you think that phrase caught on? why did the metaphor of a railroad stand for freedom? eric: that is an interesting point. it starts being used in the 1840's. nobody knows the first time it was used, but by the middle of the 1840's, it is in widespread use. and of course, the railroad is a relatively new thing. it does not begin until the 1830's. railroads are being built all over the place. the metaphor of the underground railroad is that it captures something. it is underground, it is secret, but it also has an organized -- actually, it is a very misleading metaphor. people think that it had regular
9:33 pm
stations and regular routes, no it was not like that at all. it was local groups coordinating or communicating with each other. they rose and fell all the time. sometimes low groups when out of existence for a while. it was very small. do not think of this as a giant network encompassing the whole north. the number of people working full time, so to speak, on the underground railroad was tiny. in york city, which had half a million people in 1850, there were not more than a dozen people at any one time who made this a major part of their activities. sydney howard gay is one. there are a few others. do not think of this as a giant network. it is small, it is haphazard. by the 1850's, it does get better organized, as the reward by 1850, you could put a guy on a train in new york city, and the next day he is in canada. he does not have to run to the woods. more and more organized
9:34 pm
as the transportation system gets better and better. martha: do think there is some residents with this idea of mobility and progress that made that phrase caps on? eric: yes i think it does have that resonance. the irony of course, is that we talked about the refugees and the people suffering terribly in the world. fleeing. we like to think of the united states as a -- well, give us your tired, your huddled masses. a silent, as thomas payne called it for mankind. people come to the united states to enjoy greater freedom. but here are people who actively united states in order to enjoy freedom. after 1850, you had to get to canada, really, because the federal government was on your tail. these were people who needed to enjoy freedom had to leave united states of america for a monarchial place.
9:35 pm
it reverses the whole image of what we think american history was. but are seeking freedom, the direction they are going as a little different than our self-image as a country. martha: that is a wonderful place to turn to you, the audience, for any questions that you may need to ask. we have a microphone that will be going around. >> i know the symbolism of the underground railroad, but what was it's really important other than that, because in a different book, he comes up with two figures. in truth, the number of runaway slaves who are not return to their masters within 12 months appeared to have numbered several hundred annually, perhaps as many as 1000 1850. and about the law, just over 300 were taken under the fugitive slave law between 1850 and 1860, which is nominal. eric: good point. nobody knows exactly how many
9:36 pm
slaves -- we're talking about people who escaped and got to freedom. there were many people in the south were sort of escaping for a while and then went back or were captured. i give a very rough estimate, of about 1008 year. between -- that got to freedom and canada. between 1830-1860, that is 30,000 people. that is pretty good. 30,000 people got to be free. martha: that is not nothing. eric: but there are 4 million slaves in the united states. martha: these are also instituted to -- individual lives. eric: we should not denigrated, but it is not destroying institution of slavery. despite the abolitionist movement, despite the abolitionists, there were more slaves in 1860 than any other year in american history. there are more slaves in the western hemisphere in 1860 than in any other year in history, despite the british abolition.
9:37 pm
but, the point is not the numbers, but that this became a major source of sectional conflict. it was a major catalyst of the coming of the civil war. southerners were very riled up about assistance given to fugitive slaves. when south carolina seceded in 1860, and not that many slaves got out of south carolina, because it was ready difficult. the first complaint, if you read a declaration for the cause of secession, the first thing is the northern assistance to fugitive slaves. why does that bother them so much as it is only a few hundred? because it is a right that they have in the constitution which they claim many northerners are violating and it becomes a symbol to them of northern sentiment against slavery. that is what they are afraid of. why does the south secede? because they saw anti-slavery sentiment growing in the north
9:38 pm
and finally putting a man into the white house. lincoln's on abolitionist, but he is certainly anti-slavery. southerners were very careful of what that meant for the future of slavery. veryugitive slave issue is , very important, both to individual lives, of course, but also to the national conflict which develops in the 1850's and produces the civil war and the end of slavery. >> thank you for much. does your book and click the quakers and their help in the --erground railroad and what how instrumental were they for the other abolitionists? the clark family. an importantplayed
9:39 pm
role, but more in pennsylvania the new york city. as i said, slaves understood. another one said, you can trust a white person if he says thee and thou. [laughter] eric: with all due respect to quakers for their pacifism and morality, most quakers were not antis avery or abolitionists. there was a tiny cadre of radical quakers in new york city. the given house in the twit -- the gibbons house is there. they were expelled from the quaker meeting. because they were causing trouble. they mostly wants peace and quiet. they do not want disruption. alright to be against slavery, but not in anyway that was going to cause a ruckus about it. expelled, and they had to form their own little radical quaker group.
9:40 pm
nonetheless, yes, particularly in pennsylvania, and rural pennsylvania, southern pennsylvania, there were all of these quaker farm families that did offer assistance to fugitive slaves, and that was extremely important. once they would cement to theadelphia, william still, black guy who ran the railroad would to monitoring to new york and then they would be on a train to canada. but it starts with the quakers, and in fact, in wilmington, delaware, which is a slave state -- thomas garrett, a quaker, was a white public abolitionist and underground railroad guy in wilmington, delaware. he would get them across. in fact, harry tubman would always stop at his place coming out of maryland and would stop at his place in wilmington before going forward. quakers plan important role, but let me just emphasize, the
9:41 pm
largest role is played by freed lack people. both the new york city, upstate new york. this is the irony of the situation. free blacks are very beleaguered in new york city, and once the 1850 law is passed, a lot of them flee the city because many of them are fugitive slaves. if they are not, there are afraid of being caught up in the taccone and law. decade0's is the only where the black population clients in new york city to 11,000 from 13,000. nonetheless, these free black -- the jobs they were able to have put them in a position to help fugitive slaves. they worked on the docks. they were on the lookout for slaves sitting on boats. they worked in hotels. they worked in private homes. they came into contact with slaves, even brought into new york against new york law by seven or spirit southerners took
9:42 pm
come to new york to a hotel with their slaves. even after 1841, when that was illegal. new york hotels would not allow free blacks to rent a room. but they would give accommodations to slaves of southerners were visiting the city on business. groupsthese different are members involved in this operation. sydney howard gay was married to a quaker woman. she was from pennsylvania -- maybe from philadelphia. he had a personal connection therewith a quaker network and pennsylvania. >> you told of the small-scale underground railroad mechanism, could a fleeing slave escape -- hope to escape without the help of the underground railroad? eric: absolutely. >> and how, percentagewise, how
9:43 pm
many people did that? eric: percentages are impossible because so much of this is secret. martha: and not recorded. eric: a jigsaw puzzle without pieces. we do not know. there are plenty who got out with no help from anybody. except their own ingenuity. absolutely. we know that because sometimes they would somehow appear in upstate new york or in boston and they had gotten there. some of them wrote memoirs later on. the fugitive slave narratives about how they escape. -- by the time they got into the north, there were a lot of people who knew -- a guy on the docks in new york city -- there were plenty of slaves escaped without anyone's help i just giving money to a ship captain. when they got to new york, somebody would meet -- frederick douglass is a perfect example -- 1838, he gets on a train from
9:44 pm
baltimore and he is in new york city. he has no idea what to do next year it is actually no idea. a black eye industry since into a man named david, who to my mind, is the founder of the underground railroad. it is david rebels, a black abolitionist in new york city. his house is still there. he founded the new york vigilance committee and 1835. the first organization that voted to help you to slaves. this anonymous black person on the streets knows to take douglass to david who will help him. he is not a part of the underground railroad exactly, that is now he is doing with his time, but he knows what to do if you going to run into a fugitive slave. either way, the other side of this coin, and this was where the figure of 300 sent back to the legal process is a little misleading -- the number one way to capture a fugitive slave in the north, is just to grab him and take him home.
9:45 pm
with no legal process whatsoever. in freemanreme court versus pennsylvania, 1842, constitutionalize as that. they say that the constitution is the slave law gives slave owners the right to just get a fugitive -- we don't know how many people are just grabbed by a slave catcher and taken home, because they did not have to go to court. they would have to go to authorities if they needed help. sometimes the guy would fight. or his friends would fight. a ruckus takes place, so you have to go and get a sheriff or somebody. but, we do not know how may people were just grabbed off of the streets as fugitives or maybe they were not even fugitives, they were kidnapped. that 300 figure it is not authoritative about the numbers sent back. >> you spoke of canada. there seems to be a concentration in halifax, nova
9:46 pm
scotia, -- eric: that dates back to the revolution. and the american revolution, the british offered freedom to any slaves of patriots, not loyalist, but of patriots. this something i say my book. the first emancipation proclamation in american history is issued by laura denmark, the whoish governor of virginia offered freedom to any black person who basically join his army. he did not have enough troops and the virginians were getting a little bit annoying to him. some blacks did join him, but then he was driven out. later this is expanded to any black person, male or female, young or old. when the british evacuated, they took some unknown number, 10,000, 20,000, of american slaves. the british, as you know, occupied new york city during the whole revolution. new york became a refuge for
9:47 pm
fugitive slaves. when they left, they took about 3000 with them. george washington came here to speak to the british commander whose name i cannot remember about their evacuation and he said -- you have to give us back our slaves. in fact, i would appreciate if you keep an eye out for too of mine who ran away and are here in new york. i think it was carlton who said, in a good british way, it would be dishonorable to return to slavery persons who have been promised their freedom. where did they go? the british did not want them. a lot of them were sent to nova scotia. a black community was created. some of them ended up in sierra leone. the british set up sierra leone on the west coast of africa. --ave to say, some of this some were sold into slavery in the west indies. that was another case where the
9:48 pm
americans were fighting for slavery, so to speak, and the british were offering freedom to people. it complicates our view of the american revolution a little bit. sorry. i was wondering about the system of identification. he where living in new york city with id forms, as a black person is confronted, how can they say -- eric: that is a very good question. issue,le fugitive slave legally speaking, revolves around identification. nobody has denied that under the constitution and under federal -- 1793, aback to 70 fugitive slave had to be sent back. people would say no, i do not agree with that. but they knew that was the law. but then, what is the procedure for ascertaining -- people do not carry ids, right?
9:49 pm
most black people do not have birth certificates, that they were caring around with them. easy for a free person to get caught up. the fugitive slave law did not allow the black person to testify on his behalf. it was just a question of identification. wouldppose it on her bring a document and say here is a bill of sale, i bought joe smith and 1845, here it is. it says he is five foot four inches, with a scar next to his left ear. and this is obviously him. the lawyer brings people -- he can testify. minute, i knewa this guy in new york city and 1848. it can be the same guy. it happens. one of the very first fugitives who is sent back from the north under the 1850 law from pennsylvania, was sent to an owner in maryland and when he , the owner says, i do
9:50 pm
not know this guy, this is the wrong man. go get my fugitive, this is not my slave. it was very easy to be caught up in this, especially because new york city had some fairly unscrupulous public officials who wins with kidnappers. a kidnapper would bring him to this local judge named riker, and then he would issue what they call a certificate of removal. oh yes, this guy's a fugitive, absolutely. even though he was not. there's a certificate of removal and he would go down. here's a moral question. after island is not named the judge, it is named after one of his dutch ancestors, going back a couple of generations. people are changing the names of things nowadays. she we demand to change the name of rikers island because the great-grandfather of an unscrupulous kidnapper was named riker? martha: maybe we should at least learn the history. eric: are we should rename it frederick douglas island. that would be cool.
9:51 pm
that this man was a prolific fundraiser for abolitionism. -- did his fund assist in the underground railroad? eric: they had fundraisers at plymouth church. it was a place that hit fugitive slaves in brooklyn. beecher was an unusual fellow. later on, he became famous for a court case, as you know, in which he practiced christian love a little too literally with one of his parishioners who happened to be married to another parishioner. 1850's, he used to have these, i don't know quite how to put it -- he had these mock slave auctions of young women, which were mildly pornographic, i have to say. martha: voyeuristic,
9:52 pm
exhibitionist. eric: a black woman is put up there, and to raise money he would make believe auctioning off a young black woman as if they were in the south. it became exhibitionist. martha: people did report to be moved by it. and they gave money. eric: this is the kind of woman who is on sale on an auction block in the south. i think they were kind of scantily dressed sometimes. anyway, beecher did raise money and his church, which is still there. plymouth church. they did hide fugitives from time to time. >> i realize this does not probably direct relate to your book. you mentioned that there was this disillusionment among abolitionists, and you know, the story that we have gotten about
9:53 pm
the end of reconstruction is wingit is about the right radicals in the south that made it happen. are you saying that it was a more general thing? the end of reconstruction? eric: yes. that is a subject close to my heart, reconstruction. yes, there was a retreat in the north, the failure of reconstruction as we say in the academic lingo, with soda overdetermined. there is no one cause. there is a lot of causes. violence in the south, terrorist violence, the ku klux klan, they were a major factor. an intellectual or political retreat in the north from the ideal of equality, which was at menhigh in 1866, when black were given the right to vote. real democracy was established, at least mel democracy was established for the first time in the south. but there was a kind of
9:54 pm
disillusionment. the reconstruction governments were claimed to be correct and is governed. particularly among upper-class northerners, a sense that the relative new southerners were being unjustly excluded from office. an increasing blaming of black people. reconstruction was a mess, and it was black people's fault. about right-wing wing or conservative, i'm talking that people who work in -- adjournment radical republicans and abolitionists. if you read the writings in the 1870's, you see a considerable change in their views. not everybody. wendell phillips, one of the greatest was out there fighting forever. frederick douglass. but, there were a lot of them who were legitimate radicals. they were not just conservatives who are treated from the whole prospect of federally enforced equality. sydney howard gay reflects that a little bit. >> they supposedly grew weary.
9:55 pm
the statue of ulysses s grant that is uptown, it says on the plaque there, the words that he said, let us have peace. but those words are misleading because they sounded somewhat pacifist, but what he really meant was, we don't care what goes on in the south anymore, we are pulling out, let us have peace. eric: grant is a funny guy. i'm the one hand, yes, let us have peace. you certainly not a radical. on the internet, he did try to enforce the law. martha: at first. but he did grow tired of it. eric: later, he retreated. i kind of like grand. lynch, a black congressman from mississippi -- we don't have too many of them nowadays. he went to grant and said that the klan is running amok and the election is going on, if you do not than federal troops into
9:56 pm
mississippi, we're going to lose mississippi and granted said, i can do that in centrist mississippi. i can save it, but then i would lose ohio. in other words, the public supports and the north was no longer there. so, we cannot totally blame rant for that. for that.- grant >> if people have questions that they were not able to ask, you can ask them afterward. the book contains two beautiful maps at the front, in which over 20 underground railroad locations or stations are marked. that includes wall street, and the wall street area, downtown, midtown manhattan, brooklyn heights, williamsburg -- you are writing the book, did you go to any of these places and you know which buildings are still standing? town, we turn things down every 20 years. all of this is below 34th street. most of it is below 14th street,
9:57 pm
city hall, all of that. only two or three of these places are still standing. i did try to look at the house something, gibbons. martha: are they marked? eric: some are, some are not. 90% of these are gone. there are parking lots. there are giant condo developments. these are small, little houses. manhattan real estate is too valuable for this thing. artha: readers can take walking tour, but it would be an exercise in construction. eric: you can see the places, but very few of those -- there wardederick douglas's which is marked at the end of chambers street area -- chambers street. there is a plaque. frederick douglass landed here, they say. yale was blight at
9:58 pm
writing about this, and he was kind enough to send me his manuscript chapter on frederick douglass's as scape which is what open the book with. he says he landed at chambers street. i said, david, how do you know that he landed here? the railroad -- it did not cross the hudson river at that time. you had to get off at a depot in new jersey and take a boat across. how do you know that he landed at chambers street? a local map that i looked at for the 1830's had all of these routes, but none of them went to chambers street. they went to other places. the fairies. he said, well, there is a plaque there that says he went. [laughter] eric: i don't think that is where he landed. he landed somewhere though. martha: we can commemorate him. thank you very much for that wonderful conversation. [applause] we are we will now be --
9:59 pm
retiring to the upstairs reception, that is correct. eric: at the elevators? job,y should my husband's or yours, prevent us from being ourselves? i do not believe that being first lady should prevent me from expressing my ideas. [applause] ford spoke reminded and was pro-choice and a supporter of the equal rights amendment. she and president gerald ford openly discuss her battle with breast cancer. for much of her life she struggled with drug and alcohol dependency. confronting her addiction to
10:00 pm
find her post-white house years. betty ford, this sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern, on c-span's original series, "first ladies: influence an image." examining the private lives of the women who filled the position of first lady. and their influence on the presidency, from martha washington to michelle obama. next, historian don doyle discusses his book, and international history of the civil war. it looks at how the civil war was viewed around the world. the new york military affairs symposium hosted this event. it is a little over an hour and 45 minutes. mr. doyle: thank you, bob. good evening. thanks for coming. don't et

24 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on