The Underground Railroad in Washington County, Pennsylvania
306 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 15 maps, 9 halftones, 3 tables
Hardcover | 9780268103576 | April 2018
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268103590 | April 2018
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268103606 | April 2018
In Abandoned Tracks, W. Thomas Mainwaring bridges the gap between scholarly and popular perceptions of the Underground Railroad. Historians have long recognized that many aspects of the Underground Railroad have been mythologized by emotion, memory, time, and wishful thinking. Mainwaring’s book is a rich, in-depth attempt to separate fact from fiction in one local area, while also contributing to a scholarly discussion of the Underground Railroad by placing Washington County, Pennsylvania, in the national context. Just as the North was not consistent in its perspective on the Civil War and the slavery issue, the Underground Railroad had distinct regional variations. Washington County had a well-organized abolition movement, even though its members helped a comparatively small number of fugitive slaves escape, largely because of the small nearby slave population in what was then western Virginia. Its origins as a slave county make it an interesting case study of the transition from slavery to freedom and of the origins of black and white abolitionism. Abandoned Tracks lends much to the ongoing scholarly debate about the extent, scope, and nature of the Underground Railroad. This book is written both for scholars of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad and for an audience interested in local history.
W. Thomas Mainwaring is a professor of history at Washington & Jefferson College.
“This is a fine and unique study of the history of the Underground Railroad in a largely rural county. It is original with the added advantage of having something to say about the ways the movement developed and operated, the relationships forged between its black and white operatives, and, possibly most important of all, its avoidance of the 'romantic lore’ that has surrounded what in effect was a movement to undermine one of the foundational institutions of the country. Mainwaring’s book is well written and deeply researched, and engages with major historiographical issues.” —Richard J. M. Blackett, Vanderbilt University
“Abandoned Tracks separates the myths of the Underground Railroad in Western Pennsylvania from the facts. The author has dissected and discredited long-believed legends while uncovering verifiable evidence of exactly how escaped slaves traveled through the region and who assisted them on their way. The book reveals the often overlooked heroics of the fleeing slaves and the free African Americans who aided their escape." —A. Parker Burroughs, author of Washington County Murder and Mayhem: Historic Crimes of Southwestern Pennsylvania
"In recent years, there has been an outpouring of important new scholarship on the Underground Railroad. W. Thomas Mainwaring's Abandoned Tracks will stand with the best of these efforts as a shining example of a carefully researched local history that deftly puts the story of Washington County, Pennsylvania in the full context of the coming of the Civil War." —Matthew Pinsker, Dickinson College
“Sorting fact from fiction is the mission of Washington & Jefferson College history professor Tom Mainwaring, in his book, Abandoned Tracks. . . . He compiled, analyzed and evaluated sources for credibility’s sake to an Abandoned Tracks appendix in which he assigns from zero to five ‘North Stars’ in ranking to claims to Underground Railroad association, with zero being spurious to five, impeccably documented.” —Observer-Reporter
"Mainwaring breaks new ground by documenting the actions of black Underground Railroad facilitators, noting that only a pamphlet by Howard Wallace, published in 1903, 'has survived to tell the story of the Underground Railroad in Washington County from a black perspective, and it is not mentioned in any of the local histories.'" —U.S. News and World Report