Henry David Thoreau
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Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, and the Underground Railroad
Footnotes to Parts I - II - III - IV

Here is the National Park Service's definition of the Underground Railroad:
"Traditionally the term refers to a multitude of routes to freedom traken by fugitive slaves. ...The Underground Railroad is the name given to the many ways that blacks took to escape slavery in the southern United States before the Civil War." ("Underground Railroad," Washington DC: National Park Service, 1998, pages 7 and 90.)
Back to Part I.

Part I

1. Benjamin Quarles, Black Abolitionists, Oxford Univ Press 1969, p. 40.

2. James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, Black Bostonians: Family Life and Community Struggle in the Antebellum North, Holmes & Meier 1979, p. 1.

3. Richard Lebeaux, Young Man Thoreau, Univ of Massachusetts Press 1977, ch. 1.

4. Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau, Dover Publications 1992, p. 142.

Return to Introduction

5. James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty, Oxford Univ Press 1997, p. 251.

6. "Civil Disobedience" (any edition), paragraph 4.

7. David Walker, "Appeal... to the Colored Citizens of the World...," in Benjamin Brawley, ed., Early Black American Writers, Dover Publications 1992, pp. 129-30.

Return to Part I

8. On the strength of popular sentiment, President James A. Polk asked Congress for a declaration of war against Mexico on May 13, 1846. This was the year of America's "Manifest Destiny" - a slogan coined by a Democratic newspaperman (whom Thoreau knew) to express a widespread expansionist patriotism.
     Opponents of the war included virtually all free African Americans, who "saw the annexation of slaveholding Texas in 1845 and the outbreak of war with Mexico a year later as evidence of the expansion of slaveholders' power." (Horton, In Hope of Liberty, p. 247.) In Boston, blacks denounced a war "designed to strengthen or perpetuate slavery," and Frederick Douglass declared that Massachusetts had become "the tool of Texas."
     As the acquisition of Mexico's huge stretches of land seemed to prepare the way for expansion of slavery throughout the southwest and west, sentiment among free blacks began to shift from Garrison's nonviolence toward support for violent self-defense and for using political as well as moral pressure to win the struggle. Symbolizing this growing division, Frederick Douglass split from Garrison in 1847, left Massachusetts, and established a separate antislavery paper, The North Star.
     In Concord, the war's critics included Ralph Waldo Emerson ("Mexico will poison us") as well as Henry Thoreau.

9. "Civil Disobedience," paragraph 8.

10. "Civil Disobedience," paragraph 22.

Return to Part I

Part II

11. Joan Trumbull, "Concord and the Negro," Vassar College, 1944, p. 22, note by Mrs. Olive Brooks Banks (1919).

12. Gary Collison, Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen, Harvard Univ Press 1997, p. 150.

13. Read Thoreau's account of helping Henry Williams.

14. Thoreau, Journal, vol. II, p. 174 (April 1851).

Return to Part II

 Part III

15. Albert J. Von Frank, The Trials of Anthony Burns: Freedom and Slavery in Emerson's Boston, Harvard Univ Press 1998, p. 2.

16. Henry Meyer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, St. Martin's Press 1998, p. 444.

17. Thoreau, "Slavery in Massachusetts" (any edition), paragraph 32.

Return to Part III

 Part IV

18. For more information about John Brown (1800-1859) and his raid on Harpers Ferry (1859), visit the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park site on the Web.

19. Thoreau, "A Plea for Captain John Brown" (any edition), paragraph 57.

20. Quoted in Walter Harding, The Days of Henry Thoreau: A Biography, Dover 1982, p. 419.

Return to Part IV

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Updated Feb. 20, 2010