Timothy D Walker on “Sailing to Freedom: Maritime Dimensions of the Underground Railroad”
In 1858, Mary Millburn successfully made her escape from Norfolk, Virginia, to Philadelphia aboard an express steamship. Millburn’s maritime route to freedom was far from uncommon. By the mid-nineteenth century an increasing number of enslaved people had fled northward along the Atlantic seaboard. While scholarship on the Underground Railroad has focused almost exclusively on overland escape routes from the antebellum South, this groundbreaking volume expands our understanding of how freedom was achieved by sea and what the journey looked like for many African Americans.
With innovative scholarship and thorough research, Sailing to Freedom highlights little-known stories and describes the less-understood maritime side of the Underground Railroad, including the impact of African Americans’ paid and unpaid waterfront labor. These ten essays reconsider and contextualize how escapes were managed along the East Coast, moving from the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland to safe harbor in northern cities such as Philadelphia, New York, New Bedford, and Boston.
Dr. Timothy Walker is a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and serves as Fulbright Program Advisor. He is a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Portuguese and an affiliated faculty member of the Center of Indian Studies and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Walker is also an Affiliated Researcher of the Centro de História de Além-Mar (CHAM) at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal. In September 2018 he was appointed Guest Investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Dr. Walker’s teaching fields include Early Modern Europe, the Atlantic World, the Portuguese and their empire, maritime history and European global colonial expansion. Current research topics include the adoption of colonial indigenous medicines by Europeans; climate data derived from colonial-era archival documentation; slave trading in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; as well as commercial and cultural links between the Portuguese overseas colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.