How The “Underground Railroad King” Organized A Jailbreak For Freedom

Jermain Loguen Headshot
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
November 11, 2021

Reverend Jermain Loguen knew slavery was evil: born enslaved, he’d experienced brutality since childhood. Eventually he escaped, seeking freedom in Canada, and later relocated to Syracuse, NY in 1841. 

Although free, Loguen was far from finished: he planned to free as many of his people from that evil, by any means necessary.

Nicknamed the “Underground Railroad King,” Loguen owned 13 properties, at least 1 of which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Within his lifetime he helped to free more than 1,500 enslaved runaways!

When the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, that didn’t stop him. 
A runaway, William “Jerry” Henry, was captured by police. Loguen risked his own recapture alongside the Syracuse Vigilance Committee by co-organizing a jailbreak! They rescued Henry, who escaped to freedom!

During Henry’s rescue, Loguen charged his community to do what was right even if it meant breaking the law – and he succeeded.

His community must dismiss the Fugitive Slave Law, he argued, and instead provide refuge to all enslaved runaways resisting capture. His request laid the foundation for Syracuse historically being known as a “Sanctuary City.”

Whether making moves in secret or organizing public rebellion, Jermain Loguen exercised multiple strategies to liberate his people. Like Loguen, we must develop and practice multiple approaches that work to liberate ourselves – until all Black people are free!

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