Understanding the Underground Railroad

From the Monmouth Review Atlas:

To understand the history of the Underground Railroad in Monmouth and Galesburg, it necessary to first understand about slavery, said Owen Muelder, director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Knox College, who spoke at the Warren County Library Thursday.

While slavery has been in existence for 6,800 years and started out as the profits from war, modern slavery had its roots in Portugal when Prince Henry the Navigator opened his school of navigation. It was then that Europeans began bringing back slaves from their travels. Unlike in the Americas, slavery did not become central to the already-saturated European labor market….

For the most part, abolitionists came out of churches (primarily the Quakers, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians and to some extent the Methodists and Baptists) and the Enlightenment movement.

George Washington Gale, the founder of both Galesburg and Knox College, was instrumental in the Second Great Awakening, an evangelical movement of the time, which helped to lay the groundwork for the idea of the Underground Railroad.

Muelder emphasized that those on the Underground Railroad not only believed that slavery was wrong but were willing to put themselves on the line by breaking the law.