Underground Railroad: Cultural Landscape Miller Gr
The American Missionary Association (AMA) was founded in Albany, New York on September 3, 1846 as an Eastern nonsectarian benevolent society that advocated radical abolitionist principles. Among its founding members included those who aided in the defense of the Amistad captives in 1839. The AMA helped put the abolishment of slavery onto the national political agenda. Although it was a national association, the AMA focused its financial and other resources to help Border States (where free and slave states adjoined) operate the Underground Railroad. The region of southern Illinois, including today’s Shawnee National Forest, proved vital to their cause and became a focal point. The letters of James West, an AMA preacher, confirm that Pope County and Miller Grove were a hotbed of anti-slavery activity. Over 300 missionaries, called “colporteurs,” were stationed throughout southern Illinois which they referred to as “Egypt.” They arrived there with aspirations of changing the hearts and minds of local citizens by preaching and passing out Bibles. They also distributed antislavery literature including their own magazine, the American Missionary, published from 1846 through 1934. Literacy and education was a focus of the AMA. They believed that the anti-literacy laws perpetuated slavery by enslaving minds as well as bodies. During the Civil War the AMA began to build schools for freedmen. By 1866, they had chartered seven higher education institutions for African Americans and helped in the establishment of Howard University. In 1934, the Board of Homeland Ministries absorbed the AMA. It was taken over by the by the United Church Board of Homeland Ministries in 1987. Sources: Cheryl LaRoche, Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: the Geography of Resistance Vickie Devenport and Mary R. McCorvie, “Dear Brother Tappan: Missionaries in Egypt and the Underground Railroad in the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois.” This information about the Underground Railroad is part of a geo-located multi-forest interpretive program. Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Washington Office Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources program leadership with any questions or to make changes. SGV – Recreation Data and Information Coordinator.