Museum > Iowa and the Underground Railroad

Iowa and the Underground Railroad

         Map courtesy of The Iowan (“Iowa’s Underground Railroad,” Jan/Feb 2005,, with alterations by Iowa Heritage Illustrated

Routes of the Freedom Seekers

The primitive roads and Indian trails throughout Iowa in the 1830’s through the 1850's drew a human traffic of a unique kind. Fugitive slaves, on the run to freedom in northern states and Canada, crossed into Iowa from Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Some of these Freedom Seekers made the trip on their own without help while others negotiated the landscape with the aid of a network of sympathetic citizens. Since routes depended on circumstances, this map indicates the general entry points, and known and possible routes eastward, and probable exit points from the state for fugitive slaves. Some of the Freedom Seekers remained in Iowa or eventually came back to Iowa to live. Many of the Freedom Seekers continued their journey eastward to live in other states or to leave the country to live in Canada.

The places on the map indicate areas in Iowa where Underground Railroad activities occurred and have been documented to various degrees.  Many of the people who were involved with giving aid to the fugitive slaves were abolitionists, people who believed slavery was wrong.  

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