The Underground Railroad in Portsmouth
In 2003, Norfolk State University professors Cassandra Newby Alexander, William Alexander, and Jeffrey Littlejohn launched a study of the Underground Railroad (URR) in Portsmouth, Virginia. With a supporting crew of local historians, including Mae Breckenridge-Haywood, Margaret Windley, and Sheldon Collins, the Norfolk State team focused its attention on the historical area in downtown Portsmouth. Two churches -- Emanuel A.M.E. and Monumental Methodist -- were the initial sites of investigation. Portsmouth's oral-history tradition held that members of these churches aided enslaved African Americans, who were "secreted out" of the city on ships bound for the North.
This project is an attempt to collect and distribute information about the activities of the URR in Portsmouth. Although we devote special attention to Emanuel A.M.E. and Monumental Methodist Churches, all members of the team believe that the activities of the URR went far beyond these institutions.