Originally defined as ‘the strip of land between northern and southern states’ now extended to include the border slave and free states as ‘the true battleground of the UGRR’.
“What I am bringing to your attention … is a strip of land between northern and southern states which I call the Borderland. In my particular instance it was between Kentucky and Ohio, with the Ohio River flowing between … It was through this Borderland that slaves made their way going north to Canada”
– John Parker, Ripley, Ohio (ex Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad).
Extending John Parker’s definition, the Borderland included the border slave states: Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and the free states immediately to the north: Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In this region, fugitive slaves negotiated the perilous passage from slave to free territory. Also, in this region, free African Americans were most numerous and conflicts between pro- and anti-slavery advocates were most intense. In this respect, the Borderland was the true battleground of the Underground Railroad.
Sources and Further Reading:
Spague, Stuart S. ed., ‘His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad’. New York, W.W. Norton, 1996.
Hudson J. Blaine, ‘Encyclopedia of The Underground Railroad’. Published by McFarland & Company Inc, 2006.
Hudson J. Blaine, ‘Fugitive Slaves and The Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland’. Published by McFarland & Company Inc, 2002.