Tracks To Freedom: Indiana's Underground Railroad
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
GREENSBURG, INDIANA - The advancement of our society requires freedom of thought from diverse groups of people. Each year when I look into Indiana's Black History, I examine some ground-breaking stories from the Railroad that lead so many of my people to freedom.
On Saturday afternoon my good friend Drake Capps and I made the hour drive from Indianapolis to small town Kingston, Indiana. Kingston is located in Decatur County, and was a key stop along Indiana's Underground Railroad. I've spoken about and done some stories on the Underground Railroad before.
Video going through the history of Black people in the state of Indiana
Madison, Indiana - One of the first stops on Indiana's Underground Railroad
I was looking at the story of a few free-thinkers that called our state home, as well as a family that had never felt "at home" in America.
IN.gov - A famous case arose in November, 1847, in Fugit Township, Decatur County, where Caroline, a slave woman fleeing from Trimble County, Kentucky, and her four children, arrived--apparently escorted by Underground Railroad conductors. Some residents, aware of a reward offered by Caroline's slaveholder, attempted to detain the fugitives, but they were rescued and sent on their way to Canada by a group of blacks and some white men, including one Luther Donnell.
Indiana's Fugitive Slave Laws were NASTY. Indiana was only the width of the Ohio River away from all the slavery in the southern states. Slave owners from down south often believed that some of Indiana's residents were enticing and aiding slaves to escape (which was true). However, we still had plenty of people that would rather help try to recapture runaway slaves for a small reward than to just allow people to be free.
At any place, at any time, a slave owner could come up to Indiana and reclaim their "property". Although Indiana was a "free" state, it was much safer just to continue up to Canada. This is what Caroline and her family did upon leaving Kingston.
Although Indiana's laws stated otherwise, the free thinkers of Decatur County, realized that freedom was common sense. Multiple people in the town were involved in the Underground Railroad, and many were buried in this cemetery that's pictured behind me.
Luther Donnell, who would end up going to trial for helping Caroline and her family escape to Canada, was buried in this cemetery. We also found a few other prominent Railroad conductors here.
Miles Meadows was a free black man living in the area, he was active in helping slaves escape to freedom. Cyrus Hamilton was a Kentucky born white-man, who also dedicated his life to helping slaves escape to freedom. Despite many residents of Kingston helping slaves during the era, it was Luther Donnell that was put on trial.
His trial took place at the Decatur County Courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana. Donnell was initially found guilty, and that conviction was then overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court. If you're interested in reading about more of the people, places, and details of the trial you can click that link that's above this paragraph.
Indiana's free thinkers will always have a monumental impact on the history of this state and this history of our world. That's why I decided to make this trip wearing my "Think For Yourself" shirt. With so much information coming in from so many different angles, stop, take a deep breath, and THINK FOR YOURSELF.
The tracks of our state's Underground Railroad were put down by hundreds, if not thousands, of free thinkers. We must continue to think freely, and live freely. I must continue to think freely, I feel as if everyday there is a part of this society and culture that is trying to take my own mind from me.
"I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."
- Harriet Tubman