Wilbur H. Siebert Collection Now Open!

Portrait of a group of fugitive slaves residing in Windsor, Ontario, collected by Wilbur Siebert.
Letter from A.A. Guthrie recounting the seizure of Henry Bartlett, a free black man living in Zanesville, 1845. Via the Siebert Collection.

Have you heard the news? In years past, the Wilbur H. Siebert Collection on Ohio Memory–full of fantastic primary and secondary resources related to Siebert’s research on the Underground Railroad–has been made available without its regular subscription cost for the month of February in honor of Black History Month. But starting this year, the collection is now freely available to the public on a permanent basis–no more subscription required! Users can see over 5,000 Underground Railroad-related items in the collection online, where you can search the full text of documents and pan and zoom to view items and images in detail.

The collection includes a wide variety of materials gathered over decades of research by Professor Wilbur H. Siebert (1866–1961) of The Ohio State University, who became a leading expert on the Underground Railroad and wrote books including The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom and The Mysteries of Ohio’s Underground Railroads. In the digital collection, you’ll find correspondence with Underground Railroad participants and prominent abolitionists, photographs of agents and former slaves, maps of routes, and much more, with a particular focus on Ohio’s role.

Photograph showing Fairport in Lake County, Ohio, “one of the places from which fugitives crossed Lake Erie to Canada.” Via Ohio Memory.

Among the many fascinating items in the collection are materials about well-known abolitionists such as John Brown (of Harpers Ferry fame) and Ripley, Ohio’s famous Underground Railroad conductor John Rankin; a letter Siebert received from reformer, author, orator and former slave Frederick Douglass; and numerous documents demonstrating the critical role Ohioans played in the abolitionist movement. History related to the contributions of women to abolition and the Underground Railroad is also readily found in the collection, and can be a fascinating thread to follow.

To explore the Siebert Collection online, visit ohiomemory.org/siebert.Past blog posts can offer further hints on what to view in the collection, but we encourage you to dive in on your own to see what you can find. Not sure where to start? Try searching a last name or town in Ohio, and see what comes up!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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