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Fergus Bordewich disputes the information that quilts were used to lead the 
way on the Underground Railroad.  Here is part of a recent article:

Legend has it that displaying a quilt with a black square in the center
designated a safe house. But there is scant evidence to back this up. So
it's not surprising that the intriguing (if only recently invented) tale of
escape maps encoded in antebellum quilts  soon to be enshrined in a Central
Park memorial to Frederick Douglass, as well as in a metastasizing library
of children's books and teachers' lesson plans  should also seize the
popular imagination.But faked history serves no one, especially when it
buries important truths that have been hidden far too long. The "freedom
quilt" myth is just the newest acquisition in a congeries of bogus, often
bizarre, legends attached to the Underground Railroad. Despite a lack of
documentation, tales of actual tunnels through which fugitives supposedly
fled persist in communities from the Canadian border to the Mason-Dixon

Legend has elevated to near superhuman status the underground conductor
Harriet Tubman, typically claiming that she led north more than 300 slaves.
The actual number was closer to 70, according to a Tubman biographer, Kate
Clifford Larson. The truth takes nothing away from Ms. Tubman, a remarkable
woman by any measure, but her deification has obscured the work of many
lesser-known African-American activists  among them New York's David
Ruggles, who organized the city's underground in the 1830s and helped more
than 600 former slaves to freedom.

Such fictions rely for their plausibility on the premise that the operations
of the Underground Railroad were so secret that the truth is essentially
unknowable. In fact, there is abundant documentation of the underground's
activities to be found in antebellum antislavery newspapers, narratives of
escape written by former slaves and the recollections of participants
recorded after the Civil War. None mention quilts, tunnels or, with the
rarest of exceptions, any hiding place more exotic than a barn or attic.

.........article continues at:

The article says Mr. Bordewich has written a book:  Bound for Canaan: The 
Undergroudn Railroad and the War for the Soul of America.

Mary Croix Ludwick, Librarian  K-5
Thomas Haley Elem, Irving, Texas (near Dallas) (home address) (school address)

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