Slave Stampedes on the Missouri Borderlands


During the summer of 2018, the National Park Service (NPS) and its Network to Freedom program began a cooperative agreement with the House Divided Project at Dickinson College designed to investigate the concept of “slave stampedes” with a focus on Eastern Missouri and escapes from there into the greater Missouri borderland.  This website, launched in 2022-23, represents the completion of the first phase of this initiative. For the Missouri project area, we have provided extensive, multi-media narratives covering more than two dozen of these recorded stampedes along with supporting information on various other types of known escapes from across the state.  Ultimately, we have discovered records involving over 1,500 freedom seekers from Missouri alone.  We are now incorporating these individual stories into an online monograph (with clickable footnotes) that can help explain why both abolitionists and slaveholders viewed such slave stampedes as a powerful form of revolutionary action.   Highlights from this forthcoming monograph appear below in the form of a GIS Storymap. We hope they will spark further classroom and site-based discussions and more expansive scholarly research into this national phenomenon.



DIRECTOR:  Matthew Pinsker (House Divided) is a Professor of History and Pohanka Chair for Civil War History at Dickinson College, where he also serves as Director of the House Divided Project. Pinsker graduated from Harvard College and received a D.Phil. degree in Modern History from the University of Oxford.  He has held visiting fellowships with the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. He is the author of two books and numerous articles on Abraham Lincoln and various topics in the Civil War era and the history of slavery.  Pinsker will serve as director and principal investigator (PI) for the slave stampedes project.

NPS ORGANIZER: Deanda Johnson (National Park Service), PhD, is currently the Civil Rights Historian for Region 2 in the National Park Service. From 2010-2021, she served as the Midwest Regional Manager for the NPS, National Underground Railroad Freedom Program where she worked to preserve, promote, and educate the public about the history of one of the nation’s earliest civil rights movements. Prior to joining the NPS, she served as the Coordinator for the African American Research and Service Institute at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. A California native, Johnson received her BA from the University of California, San Diego. Her MA and PhD is in American Studies from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Johnson served as the founding agreement technical representative (ATR) for the slave stampedes project.

NPS REPRESENTATIVE (MISSOURI):  Tim Townsend is the Historian at the Lincoln National Home Historic Site in Springfield, IL, where he has worked since 1991.  Townsend received his BA in History from St. Ambrose University and an MA in History from the University of Illinois – Springfield.  Townsend is currently the ATR for the Slave Stampedes on the Missouri Borderlands phase of this project.

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:  Cooper Wingert is a PhD student in History at Georgetown University.  He received a BA in History from Dickinson College.  Wingert is the author of ten books on topics in the Civil War, slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

DICKINSON STAFF:  Technical experts from Dickinson’s Academic Technology division have included Drupal specialists Todd Bryant and Ryan Burke, GIS specialist Jim Ciarrocca and Gordon Cromley, and academic computing director, Pat Pehlman.  Senior researchers have included independent historian Rick Beard, local educator and author Todd Mealy, and House Divided Project co-founder, John Osborne.

DICKINSON STUDENTS: Interns contributing to this project have included Dickinson College undergraduates Sarah Aillon, Amanda Donoghue, Caroline Eagleton, Forbes, Charlotte Goodman, Dana Marecheau, Liz McCreary, Jordyn Ney, Gracie Perine, Jocelyn Reyes, Jordan Schucker, Amanda Sowah, Naji Thompson and Cooper Wingert, as well as Mechanicsburg Area HS student Gabe Pinsker.



Lincoln National Home (Springfield, IL) 

Gateway Arch (St. Louis, MO)

Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park (Ste. Genevieve, MO)



Richard J.M. Blackett (Vanderbilt) is the Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author, most recently, of The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the Politics of Freedom (2018) and Making Freedom: The Underground Railroad and the Politics of Freedom (2013). He teaches courses on 19th century U.S. history and the history of the Caribbean. During the academic year, 2013-14, he was Harmsworth Professor of American History at Oxford University.

Roy E. Finkenbine (University of Detroit Mercy) is professor of history and co-chair for the History Department at University of Detroit Mercy. He teaches courses in African American history, modern Africa, slave resistance, the Civil War era, and the Underground Railroad, and serves as Director of the Black Abolitionist Archive. He received a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University in 1982 and joined the Detroit Mercy faculty in 1996.  He is also the author of Sources of the African-American Past (1st ed., 1997; 2nd ed., 2004), as well as a dozen articles and book chapters on the black abolitionists and the Underground Railroad.

Diane Mutti-Burke (University of Missouri / Kansas City) is an associate professor of history at UMKC who teaches courses on the Civil War, the U.S. South, U.S. Women’s History, and 19th century U.S. social history.  She received her BA from Dartmouth College, and an MA and PhD from Emory University.  Mutti Burke’s award-winning first book On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815-1865 (University of Georgia Press, 2010) is a bottom-up examination of how slavery and slaveholding were influenced by both the geography and the scale of the slaveholding enterprise.

Lea VanderVelde (University of Iowa College of Law) is the Josephine R. Witte Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law. She writes in the fields of employment law, property law, 19th century legal history, and constitutional law.  Her latest book is Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott (Oxford University Press, 2014) is based upon the discovery of almost 300 freedom suits brought by slaves in the St. Louis courts. She is also the author of Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier (Oxford University Press, 2009) which is a full-scale biography of Harriet, the hidden protagonist in the infamous Supreme Court decision, Dred Scott v. Sandford. In 2011 she was the Guggenheim fellow in Constitutional Studies.

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