Author Archives: Liz McCreary

Illustrations of Enslaved Resistance

We have collected here a variety of contemporary and modern images depicting resistance by enslaved African Americans as the resisted slavery or recapture.  Publication dates are in parentheses on the right.

1831 || Nat Turner’s Revolt in Virginia (1831)

Depiction of Nat Turner Rebellion published in 1831; artist unknown (Library of Congress)

1850 || Broadside Against Fugitive Slave Law (1850)

Popular illustration attacking cruelty of Fugitive Slave Law in 1850;  Created by Theodor Kaufmann // Library of Congress

1851  ||  Christiana (PA) Riot (1872)

Engraving published in William Still, The Underground Railroad in 1872 that shows the events of the Christiana riots where a shootout occurred between hunters and a dozen black men who were protecting the runaways.

1853 || Freedom Seekers Cornered in Maryland Barn (1872)

Runaways heading toward Gettysburg, PA get into a shootout with white men in a Maryland barn, Illustration and details in William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872) // House Divided Project

1855  ||  Resistance in Maryland (1872)

Five out of six Virginia runaways successfully escaped after resisting attempts at recapture in 1855;  from William Still’s The Underground Rail Road (1872).  Engraving by Charles Reed. (House Divided Project)

1859 || Doy Party Capture in Kansas Territory (1862)

Missouri slave catchers ambushed a group of runaways escorted by Dr. John Doy (an ally of John Brown’s) in 1859. (Illustration from Le Tour du Monde (1862) HathiTrust)

1860  || A Battle on the Chesapeake Bay (1872)

Runaways fight off recapture on the Chespeake Bay in1860; Engraving by John Osler in William Still’s The Underground Railroad (1872) // House Divided Project

1861  ||  Battling the Hunters (1861)

“The Hunted Slaves,” an 1861 painting by British artist Richard Ansdell (Google Arts and Culture)

Illustrations of Group Escapes

1836 ||   Family Attempts to Escape by Boat (1836)

boat escape

A family of freedom seekers attempts to escape via boat // Schomburg Center, New York Public Library

1853 ||   Freedom Seekers Set Out for Canada (1853)

flight north star

A group of freedom seekers follow the North Star towards Canada, as depicted in the Uncle Tom’s Almanac published in 1853 // Schomburg Center, New York Public Library

1856 ||   Six Freedom Seekers Escape on Two Horses (1872)

six on two horses

The escape of six freedom seekers from Maryland in 1856, depicted in William Still’s The Underground Railroad (1872); illustration by John Osler // Schomburg Center, New York Public Library

1857 ||   Cambridge Stampede Liberates 28 African Americans (1872)

A group of an enslaved families escape from Cambridge, MD following advice from Harriet Tubman; depicted in William Still’s The Underground Railroad (1872); illustration by John Osler //  House Divided)

c. 1858 || Jacob Lawrence Depicts Harriet Tubman (1967)

“Forward” by African American artist Jacob Lawrence depicts Harriet Tubman carrying a revolver while leading a  group of runaways to freedom  // North Carolina Museum of Art

1861 || Frank Leslie’s Depicts Contrabands at Fort Monroe (1861)

“Stampede Among the Negroes in Virginia,”  Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, June 8, 1861 // Library of Congress

1861  || Harpers Depicts Contrabands Fleeing to Fort Monroe (1861)

“Stampede of Slaves from Hampton to Fortress Monroe,” Harper’s Weekly, August 17, 1861  // Library of Congress

1862 ||  Eastman Johnson Depicts Virginia Contrabands (1862)

Johnson Painting

“A Ride for Liberty” by Eastman Johnson, 1862 // Brooklyn Museum of Art

c. 1862 ||  “On To Liberty” by Theodor Kaufmann (1867)

“On To Liberty” by Theodor Kaufmann depicts a group of wartime runaways or contrabands // The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1863 || Contrabands Coming Into Camp (1863)

Harpers 1863

Sketch by Alfred Waud, Harpers Weekly, January 31, 1863

1863 || Enslaved from Davis Plantation in Mississippi (1863)

Freed slaves from the Jefferson Davis plantation arrive behind Union lines at Chickasaw Bayou in 1863. By Fred B. Schell // House Divided Project

1864 ||  Sailing to Safety (1864)

escape nighttime flatboat

Enslaved people escape aboard a flatboat, from Harper’s Weekly in 1864 // House Divided Project

1864 ||  Fleeing to Freedom (1864)

Contrabands escaping to Union lines by Aflred R. Waud. Harper’s Weekly 1864  // House Divided Project

1864 || Contrabands Entering Union Lines (1864)

Leslies 1864

“The War in Virginia – Contrabands coming to the Union camp,” Sketch by Edwin Forbes, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 20, 1864

1865 ||  Escaping to Freedom in North Carolina (1865)

Escaping by boat to Union lines in Wilmington, North Carolina, By Joseph Becker, from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1865. (House Divided Project)

Photographs of Wartime Contrabands

c. 1862, Contrabands at Camp Brightwood

Group of Contrabands at Camp Brightwood, Washington, D.C.

Young liberated men behind Union lines near Washington, D.C., c. 1862 (Library of Congress) Photographer unknown.

1862 || Working at General Lafayette’s Headquarters in Virginia

runaway bond people Union soldiers

A group of freed people behind Union lines, near Yorktown, Virginia, May 1862. (Library of Congress) Photograph taken by John F. Gibson.

1862  || Gathering Outside at Cumberland Landing, Virginia

A group of liberated people outside Foller’s house in Cumberland Landing, Virginia in 1862. (Library of Congress) Photograph taken by James F. Gibson.

1862 || Contrabands in Virginia

Two freed men sitting in front of a tent in Culpeper, Virginia in 1862. (Library of Congress) Photograph taken by Timothy H. O’Sullivan.

1863 || Photograph of Gordon, Formerly Enslaved Man

The scourged back of Gordon, a runaway slave, whose photograph was taken at a Union camp in 1863. (The Metropolitan  Museum of Art) 

c. 1864 || Contrabands in army uniforms

A group of freed African American men gathered and dressed in Union army uniforms, c. 1864. (Library of Congress) Photographer unknown.

1865, Gathering in Richmond, Virginia

A group of freedmen gathered near a canal at Haxall’s Mill in Richmond Virginia in 1865. (Library of Congress) Photograph taken by Alexander Gardner.