What is the Roanoke River’s relationship to the Underground Railroad?
https://historicsites.nc.gov/resources/north-carolina-civil-war/wars-end-and-reconstructionIn historian David Cecelski’s major study of slavery in the maritime South, THE WATERMAN’S SONG, Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina, he specifically addresses the Roanoke River as one of several eastern North Carolina’s inland waterways that were important passageways for antebellum (pre-civil war) Freedom Seekers. The Roanoke’s treacherous nature and the wild swamplands that surrounded it provided an ideal opportunity for those brave enough to be transported north to Virginia or south to the sea, often unseen and uncaptured. Slave watermen were a runaway slave’s best chance to reach the sea. In his Preface he states “…black watermen appeared at the core of abolitionist activity, slave insurrections, and other antislavery activism in North Carolina.” The extensive remote swamps and forests bordering the Roanoke provided safe havens for runaway slaves who needed short or long term refuge when escaping, as most had skills in wilderness survival. Frederick Law Olmsted who visited the Great Dismal Swamp in 1853, wrote that he heard of phantom colonies (known as “maroon” camps) of fugitive slaves whose children had been “born, lived, and died” in the swamp. For many of the enslaved, their only “freedom” came from reuniting with dispersed family members at other plantations, and the Roanoke River was one of the highways used to do so.
Regional Network to Freedom Passport Stamps
This is a developing process with more to come. From north to south, the six sites on our regional RRUGRR Trail with stamps available to the public now are:
- River Falls Park, 100 Rockfish Drive, Weldon, NC
- Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail, 15 Jackson Street, Ext, Roanoke Rapids, NC
- Historic Halifax State Historic Site, 25 St, David St, Halifax, NC
- Roanoke River NWR Visitor Center, 114 W Water St, Windsor, NC
- Colonial Park in Edenton, 108 N Broad Street, Edenton, NC
- Somerset Plantation in Creswell, NC
(future) Roanoke River Partners, Inc. has a mobile stamp for use which will be available at The Rosenwald River Center once the center is opened.