The community room was packed to the gills Thursday night, with upwards of 150 people attending author and journalist Mark Alan Leslie’s informative talk on the Underground Railroad in Biddeford and Maine in general.
McArthur was really happy to be able to give Mr. Leslie some documentation on the activity in Biddeford and Saco during these years, though so much more work needs to be done to document this topic and African-American history in southern Maine.
For what its worth, here are answers to a couple local questions that cropped up during his talk :
- Q. When did the (pro-slavery) Maine Democrat newspaper break up?
- A. Prior to 1880, as far as I can tell, perhaps closer to 1870? Just as Mr. Leslie conjectured.
- Q. Was Biddeford’s Negro Island named for Underground Railroad activities?
- A. NO. We have documents that show Negro Island was called that as early as 1795. We still don’t know why or how it got the name, though.
- Q. Were there any safe houses in Biddeford-Saco?
- A. We don’t know! No family histories, oral histories or documentation of UR activities have been passed to the library! If you know of any stories of this, please let us know!!
The over-flowing crowd was obviously hungry to learn more about this important topic in U.S. history…so here are some links for those who were unable to attend the talk, or who wish to educate themselves further about the shameful (and as we learned, still existent!) institution of slavery in the United States.
The Portland Maine Freedom Trail “Dedicated to the countless thousands of men and women who fled the bonds of slavery but were recaptured or died at the hands of their pursuers before they reached the safe embrace of the Underground Railroad. They are not forgotten.”
Mark Alan Leslie Missed the talk? Look to find the Maine author and journalist in one of his other Maine speaking engagements in 2019.
Slavery in the United States Wish to learn more, and not just about the Underground Railroad? PBS’ excellent “Africans in America” has history, links, interviews and access to video as well. Underground Railroad: the William Still Story, is also incredible, though it doesn’t take place in Maine.