Lessons in the Geography of the 

Underground Railroad in New York State

Scenario 1: Greater New York City

by Timothy McDonnell
New York Geographic Alliance

UGRR Station Map Manhattan Insert

List of UGRR Stations:

1 - Bridge St. AME Zion Church
6 - Elias Hicks Home (Quaker)
11- David Ruggles Home
2 - Bowne House (Quaker)
7 - Peter Jay Munro Home (Larchmont)
12 - Isaac Hopper's Bookstore
3 - William C. Bryant Homestead
8 - Sandy Ground (Rossville) African-American Community
13 - Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims
4 - Titus Home
9 - Foster Memorial AME Zion Church (Tarrytown)
14- Weeksville Black Community
5 -  Jackson AME Zion Church
10 - Dr. Samuel Elliott Home
15 - Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church

There are several parts to this lesson. First you will decide on a route for a Freedom Seeker to take on his/her way northward. Then you will read about a real escape on the Underground Railroad in Greater New York. You will look over some primary sources (old map, census record, a journal) and see if the story makes sense. Ready? It's time to do some geography!

TASK 1: Look at the NYGA Elevation Map (by Carol Gersmehl). What does the landscape look like around New York City and Long Island? Do you think that this would affect the routes Freedom Seekers took?

TASK 2: Help plan the escape route for a Freedom Seeker:
A fugitive from a Virginia tobacco plantation has arrived in New York City. A black deck hand on a ferry hid him while the boat steamed across the Hudson River from New Jersey. He tells the Freedom Seeker to go to David Ruggles's home on Lispernard Street. He arrives there in the middle of the night. Mr. Ruggles welcomes him to his home, but he is very concerned that the house is being watched. Many people will gladly turn in a runaway slave for the reward money. Ruggles knows that he must move his "guest" to another safe house. He would like to send him over to Brooklyn and Long Island where there are many African-Americans and Friends (Quakers) willing to help out.

Is this a good idea? How would you accomplish your goal? And, after the Freedom Seeker makes it to Long Island, where should they go next? Record your responses on the chart on your Student Worksheet.

TASK 3: The ferry to Brooklyn is being watched too closely. It is too dangerous to go to Long Island. What alternative route can you take? Write your new plan on the Student Worksheet.

TASK 4: Now that you have determined a possible escape route for a Freedom Seeker, now it is time to compare it to an actual event in the real Underground Railroad. To view this document, click on this link: UGRR Long Island

Primary Sources to Help in Verification

Photos of People and
UGRR Stations
Maps and Panoramic Views
Census Records
David Ruggles

Elias Hicks

Foster AME Zion Church

Lafayette Presbyterian Church

Bowne Homestead

Weeksville Community

New York Harbor 1855

Panoramic Map of TriBeCa
neighborhood in Manhattan

Tarrytown Map 1845

1820 Census from Queens

1860 Sandy Ground Census

Article from the New York Times

Article on Larchmont UGRR

Make sure you answer the questions on the Student Worksheet from Task 4. This includes filling in the chart on the primary sources included in this web page.

CONCLUSIONS: The wrap-up of this activity will be done as a class. Make sure you participate in the class discussion!

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