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Racine’s Abolitionist Spirit

By the 1850s Racine County had become a burgeoning wheat producing and shipping community. A system of roads, services and business relationships connected wheat growers in the western part of the county with warehouses, shippers and a bustling commercial harbor on Lake Michigan’s shore.

During the years leading up to the Civil War, the people of Racine County employed this system to assist individuals escaping slavery. Racine became the hub of an active abolitionist network in southeastern Wisconsin that not only harbored and aided hundreds of fugitive slaves, but brought national attention to the area on more than one occasion.

This remarkable period in our community’s history highlights the creative, innovative and progressive character of Racine County's people. This unique character, over time, is revealed in our community’s leadership in civil rights and social equality.

This train is bound for glory, this train.

This train is bound for glory, I’m not telling you a story.

This train is leaving, get on board.

                Spiritual used to guide fugitives on the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad movement and abolitionist spirit was very much alive in southeastern Wisconsin even before statehood in 1848. Local newspapers from the time are riddled with articles spreading the abolitionist spirit, calling for anti-slavery meetings and carrying stories of interest from all over the country.

Documentation exists of numerous Racine County citizens who were outspoken in their hatred of slavery; those who chose to bravely and quietly become involved in the Underground Railroad risked everything—freedom, money, family and personal safety. Many of the heroes, both fugitives and abolitionists, will never be recognized because of the secrecy of the movement, but their mark on history is permanent.

Racine’s Abolitionist Spirit