U.S. Postal Service to Issue Stamps Commemorating the Underground Railroad

The U.S. Postal Service will release a pane of 20 stamps honoring 10 individuals who escaped slavery or helped others to escape via the Underground Railroad, a clandestine organization of former slaves, free men, and abolitionists dedicated to helping slaves escape to free states and Canada during the pre Civil War years and while the war was going on. Some of those honored in the stamps are famous, while others remain less known.

Underground Railroad Stamps. USPS image.

The two most famous individuals are Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) and Harriet Tubman (ca 1822-1913). Both were born into slavery and escaped. Tubman returned to slave states and helped lead others to freedom, and during the Civil War, acted as a spy and nurse for the Union Army. She was recently honored by commemorative coins issued by the U.S. Mint. Douglass became a noted orator and abolitionist, probably the most famous African American of his time. He fought tirelessly for emancipation, for the U.S. Army to enlist Black Soldiers in the Civil War, and for civil rights.

Others are less famous today. William Still (1821-1902) was a Philadelphia businessman, writer, and civil rights activist who was chairman of the Vigilant Association of Philadelphia, an abolitionist organization that helped fugitive slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Still’s father was a slave who had purchased his freedom, while his mother was an escaped slave.

Underground Railroad Stamps Full Pane. USPS image.

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) was born into slavery in North Carolina and eventually escaped. She wrote a book about her experiences as a slave called “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” published in 1861. During the Civil War, Jacobs aided escaped and freed slaves in Washington D.C, Alexandria, Virginia, and immediately after the war, in Savannah, Georgia.

Rev. Jermain Loguen (1813-1872) was born a slave in Tennessee and escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. He became a teacher and minister in upstate New York, where he was a leading abolitionist and popular speaker. His house was an important stop on the Underground Railroad in Syracuse, New York. Loguen wrote an autobiography called “the Rev. J.W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman: A Narrative of Real Life.”

William Lambert (1817-1890) was a free African American born in New Jersey. He was introduced to the Abolitionist movement at an early age by a Quaker schoolmaster. Lambert eventually moved to Detroit where he became a successful businessman and leading African American citizen. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad and helped fugitive slaves escape to Canada from Detroit.

Lewis Hayden (ca 1811-1889) was born into slavery in Kentucky and escaped to Canada. He later moved to Boston, where he became a lecturer on antislavery topics and businessman. He also was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, with his home serving as a station for fugitive slaves.

Three white Quakers who were prominent operatives are also honored. These include Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), who operated a station in Wilmington, Delaware (a slave state) helping escaped slaves reach nearby Pennsylvania; Catharine Coffin (ca 1803-1881), who with her husband Levi, operated stations in Fountain City, Indiana and later in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Laura Haviland (1808-1898), whose farm in southeast Michigan became the first Underground Railroad station in that state.

The stamps will be sold as forever stamps in panes of 20, and will go on sale March 9th, 2024.

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