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A 1898 map showing Underground Railroad routes overlaid with a drawing of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church (left) and the Thomas Hoyne residence (right).

A 1898 map showing Underground Railroad routes overlaid with a drawing of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church (left) and the Thomas Hoyne residence (right).

Historical documents offer glimpses of the Underground Railroad in Chicago

The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 turned Chicago from a destination to a stop on the Underground Railroad.

For the first three decades after Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833, slavery was legal in the United States. And for as long as slavery existed, there were people who tried to escape bondage — often walking hundreds of miles, hoping to settle in a safer place.

These “freedom seekers” sometimes got help on that journey. You’ve probably heard of the Underground Railroad, an informal network of people who offered shelter, protection, food, clothing and advice to freedom seekers.

The Underground Railroad existed throughout Illinois, including in Chicago.

Multiple listeners have asked Curious City why Chicago isn’t better known for its participation in the Underground Railroad. And if Chicago had stops, where were they?

This week, we’re revisiting that story.

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The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 turned Chicago from a destination to a stop on the Underground Railroad.