By William Still
"William Still's book vividly brings to light the hardships and dangers faced by those who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad. In documenting their experiences firsthand, Still preserved the single most authentic and important record of one of America's darkest chapters, while at the same time providing abundant evidence that the human spirit can never be broken. The Underground Rail Road is a masterpiece—a powerful and triumphant work that demands our attention."
Originally published in 1872 and out of print for many years, this landmark book presents firsthand accounts of slaves escaping north by way of the human support network known as the Underground Railroad. The narratives were painstakingly documented by William Still (1821–1902), a son of emancipated slaves who helped guide untold numbers of fugitives to safety as an Underground Railroad "conductor" based in Philadelphia.
— Bill Cosby
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made William Still’s work extremely risky, both personally and for the clandestine operation he supervised for over a decade. Under the law, free northern states were prohibited from harboring so-called runaway slaves, and citizens who provided aid were subject to steep fines, civil penalties, and imprisonment. In spite of the risks, Still corresponded with, interviewed, and recorded the stories of hundreds of fugitives, concealing the records in a grave until the day they could safely be made public.
William Still’s meticulous record keeping appears to have been unique among high-level Underground Railroad operatives. Certainly, no comparable history of the northern slave exodus has survived to this day. In terms of its scope and depth, The Underground Rail Road stands alone in documenting the extraordinary experiences of those who escaped slavery in mid-19th century America.
"Not only is the life of William Still one of the great sagas of the nineteenth century, but his Underground Rail Road is the primary record of the courage and independence of the many thousands who sought freedom. We are very fortunate to have this new edition of this important work."
2005/592 pp hardbound
— John Hope Franklin