National Park Service Underground Railroad

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A Theme Study for the Development of Programs of the Underground Railroad in Northeast and Southeast North Carolina, and Southeast Virginia

The Waterways in Northeast and Southeast North Carolina, and Southeast Virginia, and the Permanent Communities of Runaway Slaves in The Great Dismal Swamp

Sites Designated by the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program in Northeast North Carolina

As of 2002, the National Park Service-Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program has designated nine property sites in northeast and southeast North Carolina, and southeast Virginia as part of the Underground Railroad. These sites are located within a 50 to 60 miles radius of each other, and are within driving distance in one day, with the exception of the Wilmington, North Carolina site, which is 325 to 350 miles from Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

There is a need to research the Underground Railroad sites in North Carolina and Virginia to develop an educational, tourism, and historical interpretive program that solely addresses the coastal plains waterways and the Great Dismal Swamp. In addition to escape efforts by land, these sites also represent escape by vessels on the Atlantic Ocean and on hundreds of water-ways, which reach as far as one hundred miles into the coastal plains of northeast North Carolina, and also the existence of permanent settlements established by runaway slaves within the Great Dismal Swamp, more commonly referred to as maroon colonies.


The purpose of the research program is to provide an overview of the history of slavery as it relates to North Carolina and Virginia, and to highlight the various ways enslaved African Americans resisted their condition. Focus will be placed on escape as one of the variety of methods freedom seekers used to liberate themselves. In the northeast region of North Carolina, the Underground Railroad offered unique means to gain freedom. For instance, waterways served as primary routes to freedom for runaways while the Great Dismal Swamp offered them temporary and sometimes permanent refuge.

It is proposed to include research on all of the designated NPS-UGRR sites on the coastal plains of North Carolina and Virginia as follows:

1. Roanoke Island Freedmenís Colony in Dare County, 2002.
2. Roanoke Island Freedmenís Colony Memorial Garden in Dare County, 2003.
3. The Great Dismal Swamp, 2003:
  • Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk and Chesapeake, Virginia, and Gates, Camden and Pasqoutank Counties in North Carolina.
  • Great Dismal Swamp State Park in Gates, Pasquotank and Camden Counties in North Carolina.
  • The Dismal Swamp Canal in Chesapeake, Virginia and Camden, North Carolina.
  • Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome/Visitorís Center in Camden, North Carolina.
  • Elizabeth City State University Great Dismal Swamp Boardwalk Project in Currituck County, North Carolina.
4. Colonial Park in Edenton, North Carolina, 2004.
5. Pasquotank River in northeast North Carolina, 2004.
6. Orange Street Dock on Cape Fear (Wilmington, NC, 2005)
7. Norfolk, Virginia Waterfront, 2005
8. Roanoke River, 2008
9. Neuse River, 2008

Sites designated through NPS application submitted by Wanda McLean, a consultant of ARIES.

1. 2003-The Great Dismal Swamp;
properties included in designated site are:
  • Great Dismal Swamp Fish and Widelife Refuge
  • Dismal Swamp North Carolina State Park
  • Dismal Swamp Canal
  • Dismal Swamp Welcome Center
  • ECSU GDS Boardwalk Project
2) 2004-Pasquotank River
3) 2008-Roanoke River
4) 2008-Neuse River

ARIES Official Business Address: 1042 Maple Avenue, Suite 106, Lisle, Illinois 60532

Dismal Swamp
Dismal Swamp
Pasquotank River, at headwaters
Pasquotank River, at headwaters
Runaway Slave Advertisement
Runaway Slave Advertisement
Price-Struther Map of Albemarle Sound 1808
Price-Struther Map of Albemarle Sound 1808

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