Rural northeastern Pennsylvania was a bucolic farming region in the 1800s—but political tensions churned below the surface. When a group of fugitive slaves dared to settle in the Underground Railroad village of Waverly, near Scranton, before the Civil War, they encountered a mix of support from abolitionists and animosity from ruling white supremacists. Once the war came, thirteen of the town’s black fathers and sons headed south, back into the bowels of slavery, to fight for the Union. Their valor helped to change many minds about black people.

This educational website, and the related book Embattled Freedom, lifts the Waverly men’s remarkable lives out of the shadows, while also shedding light on the racial politics and social codes they and their people endured in the divided North. Theirs was an uneasy freedom, their battle for respect never ending.

To learn more, click on the five narratives below.