Railroad to Freedom| Watch Voice of the Fugitive on NFB.ca
It’s wasn’t that long ago that millions of Africans, kidnapped from their motherlands, were shipped to American and Caribbean plantations to perform soul and back-breaking work.
Between 1840 and 1860, perhaps as many as 30,000 of these enslaved people escaped their masters to seek freedom in Canada, where slavery had been abolished since 1834. A daring a stealthy feat.
Following the North Star, they travelled along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of routes and safe houses established to help them escape slavery and reach free states and ultimately, Canada.
It was a trying journey, full of dangers of every sort. Slave hunters and their dogs were never far behind.
The “railroad” got started in the 1780s, but became known as the Underground Railroad in the 1830s. People involved used railroad terms to avoid detection. In this secret code, those who helped move people from place to place were “conductors,” while fleeing slaves were called “passengers” or “cargo.” Safe places to stop were known as “stations.” Many “conductors” were Quakers or Methodists.
The “passengers” arrived all across Canada, but most came to what is now southwestern Ontario. Our film Speakers for the Dead (available online) explores what happened when a cemetery contained the remains of Black settlers was found buried under an Ontarian farmer’s potato patch in Priceville, Ontario.
Get to know more about this fascinating and disconcertingly little-known chapter of our history with Voice of the Fugitive, a 30-minute drama that follows a small group of freedom seekers as they inch their way along the Railroad in 1851.
Will they all make it to freedom?
Watch it below: