June 19-22, 2013
The theme for this year's conference was The War for Freedom: The Underground Railroad During the Civil War. The conference commemorated the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as the 15th Anniversary of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Traditional notions long held that the Underground Railroad ended with the coming of the Civil War (1861-1865), and more specifically the Emancipation Proclamation (1863). However, this is not true, as the struggle for freedom continued in the midst of the nation’s unrest. The 2013 National Underground Conference will focus on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, exploring resistance to enslavement through escape and flight during this tumultuous period of the nation’s history. As the battle over whether the nation should accept or abolish slavery waged on, people continued to fight their own personal battles against the institution of slavery, and the Underground Railroad continued to play an important role, as shown by the continual enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act during the war. It was not until the 13th Amendment eliminated “slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime” that the need for the Underground Railroad ultimately ended.