Iowa’s Underground Railroad in the Struggle against Slavery
In Necessary Courage, historian Lowell J. Soike details long-forgotten stories of determined runaways and the courageous Iowans who acted as conductors on this most dangerous of railroads—the underground railroad. Alexander Clark, an African American businessman in Muscatine, hid a young fugitive in his house to protect him from slavecatchers while he fought for his freedom in the courts. While keeping antislavery newspapers fully apprised of the battle against human bondage in western Iowa, Elvira Gaston Platt drove a wagon full of fugitives to the next safe house under the noses of her proslavery neighbors. John Brown, fleeing across Iowa with a price on his head for the murders of proslavery Kansas settlers, relied on Iowans like Josiah Grinnell and William Penn Clarke to keep him, his men, and the twelve Missouri slaves they had liberated hidden from the authorities. Several young Iowans went on to fight alongside Brown at Harpers Ferry. These stories and many more are told here.
A suspenseful and often heartbreaking tale of desperation, courage, cunning, and betrayal, this book reveals the critical role that Iowans played in the struggle against slavery and the coming of the Civil War.
“This book represents the culmination of the Iowa Freedom Trail Grant Project, which presents the first comprehensive statewide survey of the intriguing people, long-forgotten places, and exciting events associated with the history of abolition and the underground railroad in Iowa prior to and during the Civil War.”
—Douglas W. Jones, Iowa Freedom Trail grant project manager, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines