Traveling the long road to freedom, one step at a time

When historian Anthony Cohen set out to retrace a route along the legendary Underground Railroad, he recovered a piece of the American past

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Like a slave escaped from a plantation in the antebellum South--only 150 years later--Tony Cohen tested his fate on the Underground Railroad. He began his odyssey at the Library of Congress, pouring over documents and slave accounts to nail down routes and modes of transport.

Then he set out, on May 4 of this spring, from Sandy Spring, Maryland. The journey would take him 800 miles and six weeks, on a route winding through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, tracing the byways that fugitive slaves took to Canada and freedom.

Writer Donovan Webster traveled with Cohen for the last two weeks of the trip, chronicling the people Cohen met along the way as he relied on the kindness of strangers for shelter. Along his route, in small towns and ramshackle barns and old mansions, Cohen recovered some of our shared history. "Much of the railroad is still around," he says, "you only have to look for it."

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