(WKRG) — Three sites in the Gulf Coast area have been added to the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The new listings, alongside 698 others already in the Network, provide insight into the experiences of freedom seekers who bravely escaped slavery and those who assisted them.
- Fort Gaines is a site where freedom seekers escaped from during its construction and escaped to the fort during the Civil War. Advertisements in local newspapers highlight the escapes of freedom seekers Eli, Alfred, and Edmond. The U.S. Navy took freedom seeker Wallace Turnage to Fort Gaines from Mobile Bay, where he was given the choice to enlist or hire himself to a Union officer. He chose the latter. Turnage published his story in “A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation.”
- Hal’s Kingdom Marker in Clarke County recognizes Hal, a self-emancipated man, and the Maroon colony established under his leadership. A Maroon colony was a group of formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants who gained freedom by fleeing and running from slavery, in this case, in a dense overgrown area between the forks of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers. When the community was discovered and in danger of being captured, Hal and his fellow freedom seekers refused to surrender willingly. Hal was shot and subsequently died from his injuries.
The marker was obtained through a grant written by the Clarke County Museum, which was awarded and financed by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation in partnership with the Alabama Folklife Association. The marker, erected by the Clarke County Historical Society in the Carleton Community in the spring, was discovered stolen, and later returned after media coverage publicizing its importance. A dedication for the marker will be held in November.
- Pensacola Pass, a shipping channel in Pensacola, served as a transportation route on the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. For example, in 1844, a white abolitionist named Jonathan Walker sailed seven freedom seekers—including Charles, Moses, Philip, & Leonard Johnson, Silas & Harry Scott, and Anthony Catlett—through the pass on their journey to the British Bahamas. Six years later, freedom seeker Adam secretly boarded a ship traveling to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After an altercation, Portsmouth’s abolitionists rushed Adam to Canada. Today, the site is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Twice per year, the National Park Service reviews and accepts applications from sites, facilities, and programs with verified connections to the Underground Railroad. Before the inclusion of the Hal’s Lake marker and Fort Gaines marker, only one other site from Alabama had been named to the list.
For more information, visit the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom website.