Excerpts From William Still’s The Underground Railroad

Most Dramatic Episodes

Not all episodes in the book involve gunfights and jailbreaks. But these are some of the most dramatic:

Escape By Taking Their Owners’ Horses

Escape Through Disguise

Escape By Boat

Many of the fugitives in William Still’s book hid on some kind of boat to get to Pennsylvania.

The journeys aboard the steamboats and steamships were particularly difficult as the fugitives were often concealed near the hot boiler.


The fugitive slaves in these accounts escaped by steamboat:


Schooners were large sailing boats.

Other Boats

Escape By Foot

It was easier for individuals or two friends to be smuggled by boat. Larger groups and families had to travel by foot.

Escape In A Box Through The Postal Service

Escape By Faking A Travel Pass

In some southern states, slaves had to carry a document known as a travel pass to show they were allowed be away from their residence or place of work.

Slaves who had learned to write could forge these documents for themselves and others.

Well Known Owners Or Slaves

Some owners described in the book by their former slaves were very well known in those times.

Some fugitive slaves in the book went on to become renowned in their own right.

Other Excerpts