During their June 20-24 meeting, the National Underground Railroad Conference hopes to reveal an unspoken truth about the original clandestine path that slaves took to escape to freedom. While most of us know about the path to the north made before the Civil War, the 'lesser-known' railroad often facilitated by Native Americans will be on the discussion table. The pilgrimage helped slaves escape to what was then the Spanish territory of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the American West and lasted from after the founding of Carolina Colony in 1670 to after the American Revolution of 1776.  

The conference, held in St. Augustine, Fla., will also shed light on the cultural groups established from this flight, like the Gullah of South Carolina and the Geechee in Florida and Georgia. “It’s a fascinating story and most people in America are stuck – they are either stuck on 1964 and the Civil Rights Act or they are stuck on the Civil War,” said Derek Hankerson, who is a Gullah descendant and a small business owner in St. Augustine, Fla. “We have been hankering to share these stories.” It is unknown how many slaves went through the southern path to freedom, as the early network was more informal with little written records kept, but historians do know that Spain was a sympathizer giving religious sanctuary to slaves that made it to their colonies.

How long will it take for this interesting slice of history to make it into textbooks?