Use this guide to find material on the history of the Underground Railroad in Monroe County, New York. If you have questions after consulting these resources, use the Ask a Librarian section for help.
The Underground Railroad was a network of people who helped fugitive slaves gain their freedom. Rochester, NY and other towns in Monroe County were one of the last stops on the railroad before fugitive slaves crossed the border into Canada. Resources documenting the people and places of the Underground Railroad in Monroe County can be found in Monroe County libraries and on the Internet. This guide lists these resources by the following categories:
- Library resources
- Resources at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County
- Monroe County Library System databases
The following materials are located in various Monroe County libraries. Click on a title to display information about the item in the library catalog. Scroll down the page to see what libraries own the item. Call the library first to be sure the material is available. Material owned by the Rochester Public Library with the L/H location are in the Local History and Genealogy Division (on the second floor of the Rundel Library Building, 114 South Ave, Rochester, NY.) and must be used in the Division.
- Sweet gift of freedom: A Civil War anthology, by Shirley Cox Husted
- Underground Railroad tales: With routes through the Finger Lakes Region, by Emerson Klees
- A path to freedom: One Underground Railroad route in Monroe County, by Lee McCanne
- The underground, freedom’s road, and other upstate tales, by Arch Merrill
- North star country: Upstate New York and the crusade for African American Freedom, by Milton Sernett
- The Underground Railroad from slavery to freedom, by Wilbur H. Siebert
- Flight to freedom, a production of WXXI television, videocassette
- The cradle of freedom: A history of the negro in Rochester, Western New York and Canada, by Howard Coles
- The underground railroad: A system for conducting fugitive slaves to freedom, by Florence Lee. This guide to Underground Railroad sites in Rochester was published in 1957.
The following books contain sections about the Underground Railroad in Monroe County (page numbers are listed).
- Harriet Tubman, by Earl Conrad, pages 60-61
- Semi-centennial history of Rochester, by William F. Peck. Chapter on “The Underground Railroad in Rochester,” by Amy Post. Pages 458-462.
- Rochester Historical Society Publication Fund Series Volume XIV. Chapter on “Antislavery days in Rochester” by Amy Hanmer-Croughton. Pages 113-155
- Genesee Valley Women: 1743-1985, by Irene A. Beale. Chapter on Amy Post. Pages 26-29
- The city of Frederick Douglass: Rochester’s African-American people and places, by Eugene E. DuBois. Topics include: the Underground Railroad, Austin Steward, Frederick Douglass, Amy and Isaac Post, Jacob P. Morris, Mt. Hope Cemetery, and a map showing several Underground Railroad sites in downtown Rochester. Various pages
Monroe County libraries, and especially the Central library, have other books on the Underground Railroad in general as well as biographies of people who aided slaves. Search the library catalog by using the keywords: “underground railroad” or “antislavery movements”. In addition, search for biographies of people who aided the slaves. For example, use “Frederick Douglass”, “Austin Steward”, and “Harriet Tubman” as keywords.
There are some resources on the Underground Railroad in Monroe County not found in the library catalog that are located either in the Retrieval Room or the Local History and Genealogy Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe Country. The Retrieval Room is located on the first floor of the Rundel Memorial Library Building, 114 South Ave., Rochester, NY. The Local History and Genealogy Division is also located in the Rundel Library Building, second floor.
These materials are available for use in the library but can not be checked out. Library staff are available to help you find these items.
- Underground Railroad Stations Still Standing in Monroe County, New York
This listingof past operators of Underground Railroad stations includes each station’s current address.
- Index to 19th Century Newspapers (1851-1897)
This index is located in the Local History and Genealogy Division. Entries under the index heading “Underground Railway” will list dates and page numbers for specific newspaper articles. You will find the actual newspaper articles on microfilm in the Retrieval Room.
- Newspapers published by Frederick Douglass
“The North Star” (microfilm), located in the Retrieval Room.
“Frederick Douglass’ Paper” (microfilm), located in the Retrieval Room.
“Douglass’ Monthly” (reprint), located in the Local History and Genealogy Division.
- Underground Railroad Scrapbooks
Two small scrapbooks with articles, mostly from the 1930’s, are titled RVF Underground Railroad (volumes 1 and 2) and are kept in the Local History and Genealogy Division.
- Newspaper Articles
Approximately 40 articles about the Underground Railroad published from 1936 to date are located in the the Local History and Genealogy Division’s clipping file. Especially helpful is a four-part series on the Underground Railroad by Willis B. Knowles published in the Democrat and Chronicle, October – November, 1936.
- Other Underground Railroad Material
The Underground Railroad folder in the Local History and Genealogy Division’s pamphlet file includes miscellaneous items of interest.
- Underground Railroad Scrapbooks
- Rochester History
Online full-text articles about Rochester’s history are included in this database. While no article specifically is about the Underground Railroad, there are articles which cite the railroad as well as abolitionists. Search the Index for
- Abolitionist movement
- Underground RailroadThe article, “The autobiography of Rev. Thomas James,” in the October 1975 issue, also refers to the Underground Railroad.
- Rochester Images
Photographs of six places on the Underground Railroad can be found in the Rochester Images collection. Search for “Underground Railroad” to view stops on the Underground Railroad. Search for “Frederick Douglass” to find portraits, his monument and his tombstone.
The development of this pathfinder was supported by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.