Why did they call it ‘The Underground Railroad’? with Dr. Richard Bell

Why did they call it ‘The Underground Railroad’? with Dr. Richard Bell


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Why did they call it ‘The Underground Railroad’ when it was neither underground nor an actual railroad? This conversation examines this enduring mystery. Dr. Bell will guide us through the process of doing a historical investigation. Our conversation will locate and track the emergence of the metaphor of an ‘underground railroad’ in the years immediately after 1840 – when this memorable figure of speech quickly and decisively replaced old metaphors for the work done by activists who lent aid to fugitives from slavery. 

Led by an expert on the American Freedom Struggle, Dr. Richard Bell, this conversation explores the various reasons why this strange and mysterious metaphor has stood the test of time. We will think carefully about how the image of a clandestine railway underneath 19th century America worked to evoke concepts like speed, safety, invisibility, permanence, reach, scale, coordination, progress, and modernity. 

Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Award. Professor Bell is author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home," which was shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
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(6)
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B
B.K. (San Antonio, US)
Illuminating

Guest did not leave comment

S
S.K. (Oakland, US)
Exciting new research

This was another excellent learning experience with Dr. Bell, and it’s an exciting opportunity to learn with him as he develops a new angle to an area of research on the Underground Railroad. The subject is rich with further learning, reading, discussing, and Dr. Bell is a wonderful facilitator. I highly recommend any course he teaches as they are thoughtful, thought-provoking, and critical to informing oneself about this nation’s throughlines, faultlines, and contemporary tensions.

V
Vivienne (Seattle, US)
Very stimulating experience

It was very interesting to follow along with Dr. Bell as he laid out his recent research and thinking regarding the origins and use of the metaphor 'Underground Railroad." Along the way, we learned a lot about the history of the UGRR itself, contextualized within the history of its time. What I found particularly interested was seeing how Dr. Bell teased out meaning from this metaphor.

J
Jennifer Lincourt (Los Angeles, US)
Bravo - another great lecture

I am a big fan of Dr. Bell's lectures - he is a charismatic speaker and I always find the subject matter compelling.

A
Anonymous (Porto Alegre, BR)

Guest did not leave comment

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
100%
(6)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
B
B.K. (San Antonio, US)
Illuminating

Guest did not leave comment

S
S.K. (Oakland, US)
Exciting new research

This was another excellent learning experience with Dr. Bell, and it’s an exciting opportunity to learn with him as he develops a new angle to an area of research on the Underground Railroad. The subject is rich with further learning, reading, discussing, and Dr. Bell is a wonderful facilitator. I highly recommend any course he teaches as they are thoughtful, thought-provoking, and critical to informing oneself about this nation’s throughlines, faultlines, and contemporary tensions.

V
Vivienne (Seattle, US)
Very stimulating experience

It was very interesting to follow along with Dr. Bell as he laid out his recent research and thinking regarding the origins and use of the metaphor 'Underground Railroad." Along the way, we learned a lot about the history of the UGRR itself, contextualized within the history of its time. What I found particularly interested was seeing how Dr. Bell teased out meaning from this metaphor.

J
Jennifer Lincourt (Los Angeles, US)
Bravo - another great lecture

I am a big fan of Dr. Bell's lectures - he is a charismatic speaker and I always find the subject matter compelling.

A
Anonymous (Porto Alegre, BR)

Guest did not leave comment