Norfolk State University history professor Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander talks about, and signs copies of, her new book Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad, as part of the Hampton History Museum’s Port Hampton Lecture series on Monday, January 8, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Enslaved Virginians sought freedom from the time they were first brought to these shores in 1619. Acts of self-emancipation were aided by Virginia’s waterways, which became part of the network of the Underground Railroad in the years before the Civil War. Watermen willing to help escaped slaves made 18th-century Norfolk a haven for freedom seekers. Famous 19th-century escapees like Shadrack Minkins and Henry “Box” Brown were aided by the Underground Railroad. Enslaved men like Henry Lewey, known as Bluebeard, aided freedom seekers as conductors, and black and white sympathizers acted as station masters. Dr. Newby-Alexander will discuss the ways that enslaved people used Virginia’s waterways to achieve humanity’s dream of freedom.
Dr. Newby-Alexander’s talk coincides with the museum’s current exhibition “Give Me Liberty: Fugitive Slaves and the Long Revolution Against Slavery” on which she was a reviewer. This groundbreaking exhibition explores the lives of over 30 fugitive slaves from Hampton who made journeys to freedom or took up arms against their enslavers during periods of conflict, and shines a light on their experiences in the context of slave resistance between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
A key theme of the “Give Me Liberty” exhibit is how waterways served as routes to freedom. Fugitives used waterways to escape by traveling to nearby British ships, boarding Atlantic Ocean-going vessels as crew members, or taking passage aboard steamships on the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slaves fought against slavery on waterways by serving in the British and Union navies. Waterways connected enslaved people to networks of resistance throughout the Black Atlantic.
Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander PhD
Newby-Alexander currently serves as a professor of history and the director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for the African Diaspora at Norfolk State University. She has spearheaded the 1619 Making of America conference, which seeks to transform the narrative about the role of early Africans in the evolution of America. Her books include An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads and Hampton Roads: Remembering Our Schools and Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy.
Admission to the talk is free for museum members, $5.00 for non-members. The Hampton History Museum is located at 120 Old Hampton Lane in Downtown Hampton. There is free parking in the garage across the street from the museum. For more information call 757-727-1102.