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    WPT University Place: Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad
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    WPT University Place: Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad

    August 21, 2019


    – Today we are pleased
    to introduce Jesse Gant as part of the Wisconsin
    Historical Museum’s “History Sandwiched
    In” lecture series. The opinions expressed today
    are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of the Wisconsin
    Historical Society or the museum’s employees. Jesse Gant is a PhD candidate
    in the Department of History at the University
    of Wisconsin-Madison and a Public Humanities Fellow with the Wisconsin
    Humanities Council. Today’s talk draws upon research he originally produced
    for his master’s thesis produced at New York University. His soon-to-be-completed
    dissertation will examine black
    activist efforts, including protests of
    the Fugitive Slave Act, and their impact on the
    rise of the Republican Party during the 1850s and 1860s. Here today to discuss Wisconsin’s Underground
    Railroad in History and Memory, please join me in
    welcoming Jesse Gant. (applause) – Thank you so much. It’s great to see
    such a packed house on a Tuesday afternoon
    in the middle of summer. It’s delightful to
    see you all here, and I look forward
    to sharing stories from Wisconsin’s
    Underground Railroad, a subject that I’ve
    been looking at and thinking about
    for quite some time, haven’t talked about
    publicly in quite a while, but looking forward
    to really diving in. I want to start off with a
    clip that was put together by the Wisconsin Media Lab
    on the life of Joshua Glover, one of the two, I
    think, most famous Underground Railroad
    escapes in state history. The Joshua Glover escape
    happened in March 1854, and it’s often paired with the
    rescue of Caroline Quarlls, a much earlier
    rescue that occurred in the state of
    Wisconsin in 1842. I think this clip
    just really magically and nicely encapsulates
    a lot of the themes and points that I would
    like to talk with you today. So, for the first
    five minutes or so, let’s take a look at this, and
    we’ll discuss it afterwards. ♪ Oh brother man ♪ Fold to thy heart thy brother ♪ Where pity dwells ♪ The peace of God is there ♪ To worship rightly ♪ Is to love each other ♪ Each smile a hymn ♪ Each kindly deed a prayer ♪ (somber instrumental music) (fire crackling) (groan) (whipping) (somber instrumental music) (loud drumming) (dogs barking and growling) (fast-paced drumming) (dogs barking and growling) (crowd talking) (gentle guitar music) (birds chirping) (gentle guitar music) (dogs barking) (ominous music) (dogs barking and growling) (somber instrumental music) (horse galloping) (horse neighs) (crowd booing) (dogs barking and growling) (door rammed) (dogs barking and growling) (ominous drumming) (crowd cheering) (gentle guitar music) So I think the clip you just
    saw really nicely introduces not only one of the key
    historical narratives, the rescue of Josh
    Glover in 1854, but a lot of the sort of
    motifs and architecture, the atmospherics that surround
    a lot of the ways that Underground Railroad
    stories are told in the state of
    Wisconsin and elsewhere. Today I want to talk
    about some of the pitfalls and some of the
    problems associated with ways we talk about the
    Underground Railroad in the state of Wisconsin. Obviously, it’s a very
    popular and accessible and much beloved
    subject in lots of ways. The room being so filled
    today with enthusiastic folks gives one piece of
    evidence of that. And we are, I think, in
    2015 standing at the cusp or at the apex, maybe,
    of a sort of resurgent Underground Railroad story
    that since the early 1990s has really captivated
    new public audiences. But what are these stories? How are they really functioning? And what sort of meanings
    are they really embedding? And I want to kind of take
    the next 45 minutes or so and sort of establish
    some critical space around the Underground Railroad
    stories as they function in our state’s sense of itself. I think one of the key projects
    of kind of restoring a more usable and interesting idea
    of the Underground Railroad is maybe beginning
    with a definition. When we’re talking about
    the Underground Railroad, when I say we, I mean
    professional historians, but anybody in the
    world of doing education and programming around
    Underground Railroad stories, including places like the
    Wisconsin Historical Society, we actually mean a
    very specific thing. It’s a term that developed
    in the late 1830s and became popular increasingly
    in the 1840s and 1850s. So it’s really just two
    decades before the Civil War when this term sort
    of gains currency in a lot of the publications
    and newspapers of the era. It’s a process or a system. Most often it’s thought
    of as this kind of vast clandestine network by which
    activists, black and white, throughout the North
    increasingly brought
    their energies and wisdom to bear on
    bringing down slavery. That’s a convenient
    idea maybe, but it’s, in the case of Wisconsin’s
    Underground Railroad stories, not entirely accurate. I mean, I think we have to
    recover a sense that a lot of these rescues
    were very spontaneous and sort of happenstance
    episodes that did not involve necessarily institutional
    or systemic alliances of black and white
    activists operating throughout the
    North at the time. Certainly, we can access and,
    I think, talk about a systemic resistance to slavery through
    the Underground Railroad, especially when we look
    at black communities and free black
    Northerners especially, particularly communities in
    Boston, Philadelphia, New York, some of the more entrenched
    and bigger populations on the East Coast. But here in the West and particularly in a
    place like Wisconsin, which had the smallest
    population of free
    black Northerners both regionally and
    throughout the north of the Western
    states at the time, it’s kind of a
    difficult discussion
    to have when there are not a lot of the institutions
    and free newspapers, churches, and other sort of institutions
    that were so important to free black
    politics at the time. I think we’ve also gained
    in the last few decades, in the last 50 years
    especially, a much broader sense of the geography of the
    Underground Railroad. We tend to think, and the
    video really, I think, really nicely encapsulated
    this, but we tend to think of a certain trajectory that
    leads directly out of the South to the Northern states
    and then to Canada. But historians have become
    much more sensitive and aware, I think, of the varieties of
    paths that led out of the South and increasingly, and I
    think most importantly, a lot of flight happened
    within the South itself to maroon colonies, to
    the swamps of Louisiana, to the Western
    frontier, to Florida. There were a variety of
    different options, I think. Options is a problematic
    term, maybe, in a context like slavery, but I think
    some sense of the ways that people could escape to sea, using the shipping routes
    like Frederick Douglass with his famous, probably
    his most famous escape in US history in the 1840s, and the varieties of geographies
    that are sort of implicated in Underground Railroad stories. The last point I would
    like to make is that really Northerners, Southerners,
    Westerners, a variety of people use the term the Underground
    Railroad in different ways, so it’s not always
    and immediately this
    sort of uplifting story of fugitive
    slave resistance. A lot of Southerners looked
    at it as a vast conspiracy of, you know, trouble-making
    abolitionists up North. Westerners would kind of look
    at it as a way to maybe remove troubling or problematic black
    populations and their ideas. So there isn’t a lot of
    rhetoric that, you know, African-Americans actually
    belong in the West among a lot of the activists who
    are involved in these rescues, so it does have this
    kind of problematic idea depending on the perspective and depending on the
    geography you’re located in. I really love this graphic
    from 1861, interestingly. The Civil War is already
    underway and the Census Office produces a map showing you where enslaved populations
    are most dominant. And I like to point this
    out in the discussion of Wisconsin’s
    Underground Railroad
    because, as you can see, the enslaved populations
    in the US South really are concentrated on
    a large belt that extends from northern Virginia on
    down through the deep South to eastern Texas. And then you have this
    massive population of Mississippi Delta
    enslaved populations. This is kind of the
    biggest population, the biggest concentration
    of enslaved people by the time of the Civil War. And these laborers are really
    working in a plantation system that has developed a very strong
    police apparatus around it, so people who are
    located in the Delta working in northern Virginia don’t have a lot of options
    actually for escape. It’s a very difficult
    proposition. I think there’s a
    lot of rhetoric in Underground Railroad stories
    and in the video we just saw that there’s somehow a choice
    or some sort of ability that you could just kind
    of flee whenever you liked. But in Wisconsin’s examples,
    if you look at the populations of northern Kentucky
    along the Ohio River, these are groups of people
    who are frequently crossing the Ohio into the state of
    Ohio, where they’re actually working as coerced
    laborers under contracts, even as slaves. And then another
    important population here north of the Missouri River,
    in and around St. Louis, and that’s called
    Missouri Slave Belt, which is another really
    important population for the discussion in
    the state of Wisconsin. and I think it’s
    really important to
    point out that these are groups of people located
    on kind of the most important interior waterways in
    North America, right? You have the Ohio River here, the Mississippi River flowing
    northward towards Minnesota, and these provide
    ready-made routes of escape for both Quarlls and Glover. Glover and Quarlls are
    located in St. Louis and make their way northward
    via the Mississippi River. I like to point that out just
    to kind of give you a sense of the geography
    and the limitations,
    actually, that faced a lot of enslaved
    Southerners at the time. By the early 1840s there’s
    already sort of a system of representations of
    the Underground Railroad that have emerged that
    are quite literally taking the system as a
    literal underground railroad, disappearing under the hills like the “Chicago Western
    Citizen” here in 1844, which gives you one of the
    first actual representations in a newspaper of the Liberty
    Line, as it was called, making its way underneath
    the mountain system and speeding people
    off to the North. But if you look
    at the description
    underneath this image, it’s actually loaded with
    a lot of racist assumptions about these sort of hapless
    people who have no agency or control or sense, even,
    where they’re heading or what they’re doing
    on the Liberty Line. So it’s a very, you know,
    complicated racial politics playing out in a lot
    of the representations of the Underground Railroad,
    at the earliest stages anyway. As I mentioned, there are two
    stories that kind of dominate discussions in the
    state of Wisconsin: the Joshua Glover
    rescue in 1854, the rescue of Caroline
    Quarlls in 1842. We actually do have an
    image of Benammi Garland, the master, the owner
    of Joshua Glover, from the Missouri
    History Museum, and the clipping
    showing the $200 reward for Joshua Glover’s return. I also wanted to include the
    poster for the mass convention that was organized in the
    state of Wisconsin following the Glover rescue in 1854. 1854 is kind of this
    really important moment in the anti-slavery
    movement’s history because of the
    Kansas-Nebraska Act, which is being debated in
    Congress in January and March, January, February, and
    March predominantly, in the early part of that year. It’s really in that context
    that the Glover rescue happens and sort of animates
    a lot of the attention in the state of Wisconsin. Quarlls is the sort
    of lesser known and lesser understood
    rescue that happens. She actually escaped
    slavery by purchasing a ticket on a
    steamship for $100, sorta contrary to all the
    typical or traditional notions of how Underground
    Railroad escapes happened, and sailed via steamship
    to the state of Wisconsin and spent some time in
    Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the rumor was
    that bounty hunters were in the region and were
    in active pursuit of her. And Waukesha activists
    led by a fellow named Lyman Goodnow
    organized to have her escape through southern Wisconsin,
    northern Illinois, Indiana, and then over
    to Detroit, Michigan, following a fairly
    typical trajectory for Underground Railroad escapes
    through the state of Wisconsin. We think that there were
    probably about 100 rescues that happened in the
    state, but the two, Glover and Quarrlls’s,
    are the most famous and the most talked about. And I mentioned at the
    beginning that I think we’re in kind of a moment that’s really
    important for rethinking and gaining some
    critical appreciation for the Underground Railroad. And I can historicize it a
    little bit and sort of explain how this all came about. In 1998, the National
    Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act passed,
    and this provided, really importantly,
    support to a variety of public history initiatives
    throughout the United States to sort of raise awareness
    and raise the visibility of Underground
    Railroad destinations. It had a really profound impact. I think we can all speak and
    think about maybe examples we’ve been to or
    places we’ve been. Racine, Wisconsin, has
    monuments in its downtown Monument Square commemorating
    the beginning part of the Joshua Glover rescue
    that received some funding from the National Underground
    Railroad Network
    to Freedom Bill. But this really created
    a sort of proliferation of Underground Railroad
    destinations and publications and attentions around this
    topic that has been really quite influential and, I
    think, a welcome development, but one that we
    need to think about here in the state of Wisconsin. Since 1998, then, we’ve seen,
    maybe, I think it’s certainly related that we’ve seen a
    proliferation of scholarship, both public and, if we
    want to draw a line between popular scholarship and
    academic scholarship, we can, popular works on Caroline
    Quarlls for kids. A lot of this, sort of,
    is marketed initially to a younger audience,
    certainly the video we watched at the top of the discussion
    for fourth graders, I think. A new biography of Joshua
    Glover published by the Wisconsin Historical
    Society Press. So there has been a kind
    of resurgence in interest in these subjects, including,
    I think, a really interesting scholarly study
    by H. Robert Baker on the Joshua Glover rescue, and actually the first
    one ever published. So this has all been part
    of the rising interest in the state throughout
    these discussions. I came to the
    Underground Railroad, and I was actually first
    initiated to the subject as a student in the
    Janesville public schools, and we toured the Milton House,
    which many of you may know has a tunnel underneath the
    home where apparently folks were shepherded or hid in the
    times when marshals would come and do inspections or be on
    the search for runaway slaves. It has been accredited through the National Underground
    Railroad Freedom
    Network funding, and along with Racine, I think
    Loom is kind of the biggest places where actually
    the landscape, the
    physical landscape of the state of Wisconsin
    has markers and memorials commemorating the rescues. I would add to that
    the recent murals in the city of Milwaukee. These are at I-43 and
    Fond du Lac Avenue, just underneath the underpass, that commemorate the Quarlls
    and Glover rescue again. On the top left
    there is an image showing Goodnow and Quarlls. Goodnow is actually
    supporting her hand and pointing for
    her, in some sense, in the direction of freedom. It’s incorporated these
    sort of folklore motifs of the quilts that you
    may be familiar with, this sort of legend
    of fugitive slaves using embedded symbols inside
    quilts and other symbols to navigate their way northward. And the Glover rescue
    kind of borrows a lot of civil rights
    icons, the placards, the “Free Joshua Glover Now,”
    and again kind of plays on this idea of a benevolent
    white Milwaukee community really, literally uplifting
    Joshua Glover here and again raising his
    arm in these murals. A lot of these images and
    ideas first originated with the publication of “Uncle Tom’s
    Cabin” in the early 1850s. The famous escape of Eliza
    in the beginning part of that novel really, I think,
    captured and framed a lot of the ways people think
    about fugitive slaves’ escape. Throughout time, since the
    1850s, you begin to see a kind of recycling a
    lot of these images. And so whether or not
    Harriet Beecher Stowe actually included some of
    the motifs in her novel, you begin to start to see,
    especially in the 1880s and 90s, the incorporation of bloodhounds
    and sort of trappings of the familiar tale that we
    saw at the top of the hour in the Glover video. I think one really
    important turning point was the 1893 Chicago World’s
    Fair, where Charles T. Webber unveiled a really
    iconic painting at the Chicago World’s
    Fair showing fugitives making their way northward,
    and this was actually viewed by a young Ohio State
    historian for the first time at the Chicago Fair,
    named Wilbur Siebert. Wilbur Siebert was active
    during the 1890s collecting testimonials from Underground
    Railroad conductors, as he called them, throughout
    the North who were then sending in letters and
    soliciting, and he was providing space for them to share
    their stories about their involvement in rescues. Tellingly, I think,
    Siebert collects about 5,000 letters or so from
    Underground Railroad conductors in the North, and most
    of them are white men who have kind of written
    in and shared their stories about involvement in the
    Underground Railroad. And I think Siebert is very
    uncritical about what to do with those narratives and
    nonetheless crafts, I think, a really important history in
    1898 that, among other things, maps the actual
    routes of the escapes. So, again, you see a real
    hardening or a real sense that the routes were real, that
    there was this kind of vast Underground Railroad
    network that activists, black and white, maintained
    throughout this period. And I think we have to keep
    in mind as we’re considering these stories and the way
    that the Underground Railroad was popularized, that there has
    been always parallel to that sort of more traditional view, a view of the Underground
    Railroad that emerges sort of organically out
    of the black community. William Still’s really
    interesting account from 1872 is based largely on his
    experiences as leader of the Philadelphia Vigilance
    Committee, which in contrast to a lot of the rescues,
    and especially the rescues in the state of Wisconsin,
    does emerge out of that much stronger
    institutional background for black politics
    in Philadelphia. And so the Philadelphia
    Vigilance Committee actually did institutionally provide
    weapons, food, clothing, and other sorts of support
    for fugitive slaves that made their way through the city, and that’s typically
    not the story historians or popularizers of the
    Underground Railroad really emphasize. This really interesting
    painting from 1862, I think, also captures a dynamic of
    the Underground Railroad that we tend to overlook. This is a war-time
    representation of
    a fugitive family fleeing from the South
    during the Civil War. So we think of the
    underground railroad as this sort of thing that existed
    prior to the Civil War but didn’t have a life
    once the war started. Some really interesting
    scholarship by a woman named Thavolia Glymph has
    illustrated that, actually, some of the greatest numbers
    of escapes actually happened during the war and
    involved some of the most dangerous and highest stakes. And this painting, I think,
    really brilliantly captures, you can’t see it very well,
    but you can see a line of Union troops advancing
    right behind this family at the Battle of Manassas. And so the conflict of the
    Civil War really finally opened up space from
    which people could actually escape the system
    beyond the slave patrols and the other police apparatus that were so powerful
    under slavery. This is the language
    that is published in the Wisconsin Historical
    Society Press biography of Joshua Glover’s
    “Finding Freedom” in 2007. I won’t read the entire
    passage but I think it really nicely, again,
    sort of gives you a window into how the Underground
    Railroad has become this kind of place where we
    want to speak to a variety of ways of bringing together
    all these various facets of our sort of
    conflicted racial moment. So in this depiction, which
    happens right at the beginning of the Joshua Glover biography, there’s certainly sensitivity
    to the broad geography of the Underground Railroad,
    but then there’s this kind of reach or this
    idea that everybody, Indian nations, Canadians,
    Caribbeans, were all sort of united in this struggle,
    which raises the question, well how did slavery
    endure if so many people were active in trying
    to undermine it? Also this move at the end
    here to unite refugees from the American Revolution
    all the way to the Vietnam War, again, kind of speaks to this
    idea that it’s the ready-made, it’s the perfect story
    for the time and place we’re in right now, but
    whether it’s a critical or usable story for history’s
    sake remains to be seen. The Milton House for a
    long time used to have promotional materials
    that said nobody needed a ticket to travel the
    Underground Railroad, just a deep desire for freedom, which raises again some
    troubling assumptions because if you just needed,
    you know, a deep desire for freedom, why didn’t
    everybody escape? The best estimate is
    that 250, maybe 300, maybe 400,000 people
    escaped slavery in the years before 1860. There were four million enslaved
    people in the United States by the time of the Civil War,
    so we are always talking about a very, very small population, and it’s important to keep
    that in mind, I think. I think the most famous example
    of a fugitive slave escape, just to kind of give you
    a sense of the kind of standard account and a
    biography that really looms large over this history,
    is Frederick Douglass, and if you think about the
    example of Frederick Douglass. I mean this is a very
    exceptional character. He learned how to read and
    write while being enslaved. He lived in a geography that
    enabled him to kind of access shipping routes and
    access white families and white allies in ways
    that were not unique, and he was actually one of
    the leading critics of the way that white Westerners talked
    about the Underground Railroad. In the 1845 narrative that
    really launched his career as an anti-slavery activist, he
    said that he had never approved of the very public manner
    in which some of our western friends conducted what they
    call the Underground Railroad, and he really speaks to
    this kind of tension about what sort of work is
    the Underground Railroad really doing in the sense of
    the sort of traditional way. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act
    was the sort of dominant mobilizing catalyst for a lot
    of fugitive slave activity during the 1850s, and it
    really touches off, I think, the most dramatic rescues and efforts of the decade
    before the Civil War. And, again, I think we have
    to really insist on a regional and state-wide history that
    really focuses on the efforts of free black Northerners if
    we’re really going to get at what made the Underground
    Railroad significant. And regionally, I would point
    to places like Cincinnati, Ohio, or Oberlin, Ohio,
    as places where a lot of these histories
    can really be focused. Wisconsin’s examples are so
    marginal and sort of far-flung that they don’t get us very
    close to what the Underground really meant regionally
    or nationally. Nonetheless, and I
    think predictably,
    we tend to associate Underground Railroad stories
    in Wisconsin more with the white activists than
    we do with the black people who actually were
    implicated in the rescues. So Sherman Booth, for example,
    the kind of leading activist involved in the Joshua
    Glover rescue from 1854 had a street named after him
    in Milwaukee during the 1850s, but it wasn’t until
    1994 that Joshua Glover got a street named
    after him in Milwaukee by Milwaukee high
    school students. The Rescue of Joshua Glover
    plaque in Cathedral Square, right behind there is
    actually where the rescue originally happened, again,
    sort of plays up the role of the mediating
    white abolitionists
    playing the heroic role at the expense of kind of we don’t get a very
    good sense of what happened to Glover and what his life in
    Canada was like, for example. And there’s a tendency, I
    think, with a lot of the work around the Underground Railroad
    in the state of Wisconsin to kind of misplace the place
    of anti-slavery in the state. So you have language like
    this which accompanies the mural text that says,
    “The state of Wisconsin “was attractive to those
    who escaped slavery. “Abolitionists and others
    in Wisconsin were leaders “in the fight against slavery.” I think one of the problems
    and one of the key themes that you really encounter when you
    look at black politics from the period 1840s and 1850s,
    there’s profound ambivalence about the Western states
    in black newspapers and in all sorts of black
    publications on account of the Black Laws, which are these
    sort of systemic restrictions that, first of all,
    were aimed at limiting immigration into the state. The State of Ohio
    imposed a $500 bond just to even move there
    in its state constitution in 1802 and 1803. You know, the state of
    Wisconsin never allowed black suffrage until
    after the Civil War. So black activists and black
    leaders are always sort of questioning just
    where is this identity as a good anti-slavery
    state really coming from? It’s often coming from
    white anti-slavery activists who do not necessarily
    have a benevolent idea of racial politics in mind. They might be anti-slavery, but that doesn’t
    make them pro-black. Lyman Goodnow, for example,
    and this is a really telling document, I think, in 1808. After the Civil War, a lot
    of these anti-slavery leaders and abolitionist participants, and I use abolitionists in
    quotes, wrote publications or wrote testimonies to fill
    county histories and sort of local histories and filled
    their accounts, actually, with accounts that I
    think should trouble us. Caroline Quarlls, this is
    him describing his role in the rescue in 1880. “The first slave transported
    over the Underground Railroad “from this region was
    probably an octoroon. “She had thin lips, straight
    nose, and was not very dark, “which probably accounted for
    her being able to escape from “St. Louis, where she was
    owned by an aunt, a Mrs. Hall. “Caroline obtained some
    money, got permission “from her mistress
    to visit a friend, “and taking a bundle
    of clothes with her, “which she had dropped
    from her window, “she took to a steamboat
    at Alton, Illinois.” And in fact, if you
    look at the letters that Wisconsin activists sent to
    Wilbut Siebert in the 1880s, they’re filled with very
    disparaging racial comments and frequently used
    racial epithets. So these are the people who
    presumably toppled slavery and worked actively in
    the anti-slavery movement, but they’re also, you know,
    announcing the most vicious white supremacy
    in their accounts. Here’s the mural in River
    West, Wisconsin, that shows you the new mural for Joshua
    Glover, which went up in 1994, but for, again, a long time
    that street was named for, was intersected actually, with
    the street for Sherman Booth. There are also these sites
    around the state of Wisconsin that sort of have
    these connections to the Underground Railroad. I was a tour guide
    for a long time at the Lincoln-Tallman
    Restorations in Janesville, this is a house where Abraham
    Lincoln slept one weekend, and it’s been making money
    off of it ever since. You know, you think
    about the 16th President of the United States,
    Abraham Lincoln, probably the greatest
    president we’ve ever had, the epicenter of a war
    that cost 750,000 lives, saw the emancipation
    of the slaves, any number of things that
    Lincoln was entangled in: creation of the national parks,
    it goes on and on and on. It’s just a
    remarkable presidency. That story has really
    been shoved aside actually over time as people came
    to the Tallman House, beginning in the 1880s and
    90s, as Tallman’s sons started writing some of
    these reminiscences
    that said, you know, our father was involved in
    the Underground Railroad. And as these stories made
    their way into newspapers and into accounts, I, as a tour
    guide, as a young teenager, heard a lot of people
    come to me and say, “You know that’s great, that’s
    interesting about Lincoln, “but tell me about the
    Underground Railroad,” which was always very
    interesting to me because there is absolutely
    no evidence that this house was a station on the
    Underground Railroad. As a kind of nosy young student, I spent a lot of
    time in the archives. And it’s actually been a
    tension among administrators at the Rock County Historical
    Society and their relationship to the Milton House
    up a few miles north. They’ve never been
    able to find evidence that that actually occurred, and there’s been
    periodic digs on site by the University of
    Wisconsin-Madison, I think most recently in 2011,
    where they’ve sent geologists out to find that tunnel
    that apparently existed between the river and the
    house, and it’s never turned up. This isn’t to say that I
    think we need to dismiss all Underground Railroad
    stories or that there has to be some sort of factual
    basis necessarily. I think the sort of folklore
    and the legend around Underground Railroad stories
    is interesting on its own, but it raises a lot of problems if there’s just no
    evidence for it. – So how was it that
    that story came to be? What’s your sense of that? – Yeah, that’s been
    widely discussed, and that’s an
    interesting phenomenon. David Blight, a historian
    at Yale, has argued that in the 1880s and 90s
    anti-slavery activists, feeling like the centrality
    of slavery to the Civil War was being pushed aside in
    the culture of the Union, invented a notion of
    alternative veteran-hood. So they saw all these
    veterans, Union veterans, being celebrated culturally and saw slavery being pushed
    out of the story as a result, felt that the Underground
    Railroad was the place where they could
    make a claim about slavery’s significance
    to the war. And so they started writing
    all these stories to say well this war was
    all about slavery, and we sacrificed our
    lives and our situations to really bring the war about,
    so you see a proliferation in the 1880s and 90s of
    these sorts of accounts. In Tallman’s example it’s his
    son, who, for whatever reason, I think that’s a really
    interesting question why he would do that, but
    I think there must’ve been some reason as to, you know,
    restoring his father’s legacy or his identity, or even,
    more cynically, you know, preserving the house,
    keeping it from destruction and falling into disrepair. Just sort of raises this idea. It’s very clear in the archive at the Rock County Historical
    Society in Janesville. If you go to it, you can see
    the sort of invention of this myth in the post-war years,
    and you see references to it, actually, all the way up
    through the 1950s and 60s. I mean, it’s repeatedly
    referred to as an Underground
    Railroad destination. It’s part of the
    marketing for the house at the expense of
    Abraham Lincoln’s story, which is phenomenal even
    though it’s one weekend. That’s the only house in
    the state of Wisconsin where Lincoln stayed, so in
    that sense it does have a viable and interesting story
    attached to it that has sort of been pushed
    aside over the years. The real impetus for a lot of
    the revision that’s happened around the Underground Railroad. I’ve been talking about this
    kind of revisionist history of the Underground Railroad and the increased
    critical stance toward it really originated with this
    interesting account called “The Liberty Line”,
    written by a PhD graduate here at Madison
    named Larry Gara. And this was 50 years ago. So while academic historians
    have really been critical, and I think, in developing
    some space around the Underground Railroad and
    rethinking its imperatives, popular historians and more
    secondary education historians especially have, I think, been
    slow to kind of pick up on some of the interventions
    that have been made in the academic scholarship. Just doesn’t have a
    lot of evidence for it. It kind of relies on some
    questionable research. And then the book on the right, Betty DeRamus’s
    “Forbidden Fruit”, actually tries to make
    the experience of slavery in the United
    States a love story. So, I think, tellingly,
    the blurb for the book says “haunting, riveting,
    always triumphant.” So, you know, how you turn
    an experience like slavery in the United States
    into a triumphant tale is quite exceptional, I think. The National Underground
    Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, has emerged
    since 2004 when it opened, is a kind of new front, and it’ll be interesting
    to see where, I included this slide because
    I think it’s going to be interesting to see where
    a lot of these discussions about the Underground
    Railroad go because it was driven
    in part by the funding and the new attention based
    on that 1998 legislation that really made the
    Underground Railroad highly visible culturally
    and politically. It opened the year
    of the Kerry and Bush presidential contest. Both presidents came,
    they shook hands, they participated
    in the ceremony. This is again, speaks to
    the way that the Underground Railroad seems to unite all
    sorts of political coalitions. Everybody loves the
    Underground Railroad, no matter what political
    background you’re from. But I think in the
    years since 2004, and 2005 especially, we’ve entered a period where
    as the Underground Railroad has become much more popular, and there are actually
    yearly conferences and a proliferation of
    sites and new books, I think there is a kind of
    rising sensibility that, while the Underground
    Railroad has become so popular as a children’s and
    youth discussion, it’s time for adults to get
    real and start talking about some of the racial and
    broader political motivations behind a lot of these stories. So, with that, I’m happy
    to answer your questions and lead this
    discussion forward. Thank you. (applause)

    Sen. Baldwin announces railroad crossing safety upgrades
    Articles, Blog

    Sen. Baldwin announces railroad crossing safety upgrades

    August 18, 2019


    WEATHERWATCH 12 FORECAST. SHELDON: THANKS A LOT, CHRIS. PEDESTRIAN AND RAILROAD CROSSINGS IN SOUTHEAST WISCONSIN ARE ABOUT TO GET SAFER. U.S. SENATOR TAMMY BALDWIN AND THE HEAD OF THE FEDERAL RAILRO ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCED THAT A $3 MILLION GRANT WILL BE USED TO IMPROVE SAFETY AT CROSSINGS IN WAUKESHA COUNTY. CREWS WILL ADD MORE LIGHTS AND GATES AT 10:00 CROSSINGS ALONG A 10-MILE STRETCH. THERE WILL ALSO BE A PEDESTRIA PATH AND CROSSING. RAIL CROSSINGS THAT ALREADY HAVE TWO GATES WILL GET TWO MORE TO INCREASE SAFETY. SARAH FEINBERG: SO THIS GRANT WILL GO A LONG WAY TO EQUI CROSSINGS TO PREVENT VEHICLES FROM TRYING TO MAKE IT INTO THE PATH OF A TRAIN, ESPECIALLY TRAINS TRANSPORTING CRUDE OIL, AND IT MOVES US CLOSER TO ACHIEVING THE GOAL REDUCING FATALITIES AT RAILROAD CROSSINGS. SHELDO AFTER THIS MORNING’S ANNOUNCEMENT IN PEWAUKEE, RAILROAD ADMINISTRATOR SARAH FEINBERG AND SENATOR BALDW WALKED TO THE OAKTON AVENUE RAILROAD AS A TRAIN CAME THROUGH.

    Articles

    Railroad crossings in St. Francis reopen after Tuesday derailment

    August 15, 2019


    THAT IS A LOOK AT THE MORNING COMMUTE. BACK TO YOU. THANK YOU. WE’RE FOLLOWING BREAKING NEWS THIS MORNING. YES, IT WAS A MESS THERE. THE DAMAGED TRAIN TOWED AWAY FROM THE SCENE AN HOUR AGO. WE HAVE A MAP SHOWING YOU THE IMPACTED AREA. IT’S BORDERED BY ST. FRANCIS AVENUE TO THE NORTH AND VAN NORMAN AVENUE TO THE SOUTH. HILLARY IS LIVE AT ONE OF THE INTERSECTIONS. WE ARE HERE AT IOWA AND ST. FRANCIS AVENUE. THIS IS WHERE THE DERAILMENT HAPPENED. THESE CROSSING BARS WERE ABLE TO GO BACK UP THIS MORNING AND PEOPLE HAVING NO PROBLEM. ALL THOUGH LAST NIGHT, IT WAS PROBABLY THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME. IT WAS DURING THE EVENING RUSH THERE. IT WAS A MESS HERE. THE CREWS SPENT THE ENTIRE NIGHT TRYING TO GET THE TRAIN OFF THE TRACKS. AT ONE POINT THEY WERE USING A CUTTING TORCH AND CREATING SPARKS, THE CRASH AND CLEAN UP BLOCKED THE INTERSECTIONS AND CLOSING 2 MILES OF ROAD AND THE NEIGHBORS HEARD THE LOUD CRASH, BUT TO WHAT HAPPENED OR THE CAUSE, THAT IS UNDER INVESTIGATION THIS MORNING AND REALLY THE GOOD NEWS, THEY ARE

    Wauwatosa officials looking at railroad crossing safety
    Articles, Blog

    Wauwatosa officials looking at railroad crossing safety

    August 13, 2019


    WISN 12 NEWS TIME IS 6:04. BACK TO YOU. SOUNDING THE ALARM ABOUT SAFETY AT ONE OF THE STATE’S BUSIEST RAILROAD CROSSINGS. THESE TRACKS MIGHT LOOK FAMILIAR TO YOU. IT’S THE CROSSING NEAR 68TH AND STATE, IN WAUWATOSA. OFFICIALS ARE LOOKING AT OPTIONS FOR HOW TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE, AFTER ANOTHER DEATH ON THE TRACKS. RIGHT NOW, TRAINS IN WAUWATOSA ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SOUND THEIR HORNS UNLESS THERE’S AN EMERGENCY. THE CITY SAYS THE QUIET ZONE WILL BE REVIEWED IF ANY FORMAL COMPLAINTS OF SAFETY CONCERNS

    Railroad offers some explanation for train horns in a quiet zone
    Articles, Blog

    Railroad offers some explanation for train horns in a quiet zone

    August 8, 2019


    KEEP THAT POCKET DAY. RESIDENTS ARE ANGRY ABOUT LOUD TRAINS IN THE QUIET ZONE. WE ARE GETTING SOME ANSWERS AS TO WHY IT IS HAPPENING. WE INVESTIGATE TODAY THE INSTANCES WHERE THE HORNS WILL CONTINUE TO SOUND. [HORNS] CANADIAN PACIFIC SAYS THE MONTH-LONG INVESTIGATION REVEALS THAT ITS TRAINS ARE WELL WITHIN THE LAW TO BLOW THEIR HORNS LOUD AND CLEAR EVEN INSIDE THE QUIET ZONE. A SPOKESMAN TELLS WEALTH NEWS BY PHONE, THEY ARE PRONE TO FREQUENT TRESPASSING AND SCHEDULED TRACK MAINTENANCE WORK. IT IS A RECURRENCE THAT INVOLVES PEOPLE WHO WERE ON THE TRACK, THE SOUND THE WHISTLE TO ALERT THE PEOPLE. BUT FOR SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN COMPLAINING ABOUT THE LOUD WHISTLE, THAT RESPONSE DOES NOT HOLD WATER. IT IS REAL LOUD. I DON’T THINK IT IS NECESSARY. DIFFICULTLY TAKE THE BUS RIGHT NEXT TO THE TRACKS. ANOTHER LADY WHO DOES NOT WANT TO BE IDENTIFIED SAYS SHE HAS BEEN LIVING HERE FOR 27 YEARS AND THINKS THE RAILROAD IS RIGHT TO SOUND THE ALARM BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE TRESPASSING. I HAVE WATCHED PEOPLE GO AROUND THE BARRICADE AND GET HIT BY TRAINS BECAUSE THEY WERE IN A HURRY. I DON’T SEE ANY REASONS WHY THE TRAINS CAN BE BLOWING. THE MAYOR IS OUT OF TOWN UNTIL NEXT WEEK. THEY ARE REVIEWING THE INVESTIGATION I CANADIAN PACIFIC AND WILL MAKE A DECISION LATER ABOUT WHAT TO DO.