THEY were people like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. They were also people like Arnold Gragston, David Ruggles, Calvin Fairbank, Josiah Henson, and Erastus Hussey, lesser known--but no less important--figures in the lexicon of Black American history.
With the mantra, "Liberty or death. If I can't have one, then I'd rather have the other," these heroic individuals--and countless others who may never be known--played an integral role in orchestrating the Underground Railroad, a loose string of routes, safe houses and secret hideaways that unraveled one of the worst forms of bondage the world has ever known.
These "conductors," abolitionists and White sympathizers helped some 100,000 slaves who fled the South, making a harrowing journey hundreds of miles North with little more than hope, faith, and stories of freedom to guide them.
It was across the water now known as the Ohio River, to a free land now known as Cincinnati, that many slaves tasted their first freedom. And even though Cincinnati was more of a pass-through city than a final destination, and the Underground Railroad was a continuation of at least 500 years of people seeking the promise of equality across the globe, it was at this place and time in American History that the perpetual struggle between slaves and those who enslave--between freedom and …