Major Papers


With the turn of the 19th century, the United States continued and expanded its persecution of African Americans through the institution of slavery. Many African Americans took it upon themselves to act on their own and flee from slavery in the early 1800s in what was known as the Underground Railroad; however, after the conclusion of the Civil War, a substantial portion decided to return back to the US. Scholars have attempted to explain why these men and women decided to return to the United States despite the experiences they endured. While numerous reasons have been offered, this paper contends that, while other factors played an important role, the African Canadian population primarily returned to the United States because of the repeal of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the abolishment of slavery. Using a variety of contemporary sources, census data, individual slave narratives, and modern research, this paper seeks to address the complex factors and reasons that motivated a substantial portion of the African Canadian population to leave Canada and find a future elsewhere. The aftermath of the Underground Railroad does not depict the end of a chapter in history, but rather the continuation of the trials and tribulations that lay ahead for the black population in North America.

Primary Advisor

Guillaume Teasdale

Program Reader

Miriam Wright

Degree Name

Master of Arts



Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year