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Chasing History: The Underground Roadtrip: The Dismal Swamp

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Known for its refuge of runaway slaves, the Dismal Swamp glistened with a blowing wind, a gentle reminder that I am my ancestors wildest dream. A reminder, that we heal when we learn. Welcome to the Dismal Swamp.

A known route on the Underground Railroad, The Dismal Swamp acquired its' name Dismal, due to the menacing and hostile environment prone to deadly snakes, wild animals and insects. For centuries slaves came to the dismal seeking freedom; for some it became a permanent home.

Lake Drummond is the heart of the swamp. One of two natural lakes in Virginia and a safe harbour for generations of Indigenous and African American communities.

One of the only water-based stops on the underground railroad, it remains the largest archeological inhabitants for the Maroon colonies. Maroon colonies were self-sufficient communities established through the Dismal from the sixteenth century up to the civil war.

In 1817 Samuel Huntington Perkins said, " Traveling here without pistols is considered dangerous, owing to the great number of runaway negroes; they conceal themselves in the woods by day and frequently by night."

The Daily Press, New Port News, Va. 2/27/1994

Maroon communities turned the severity of the swamp to their advantage. They would create booby traps, false pathways, and underwater pathways to defend and hide their communities.

Covering Southeast Virginia and Northeast North Carolina, the Dismal Swamp is now managed by the Federal Wildlife Refuge. Submerged with roots of a people working for safe haven, the swamp is alive and continues to echo the names of those who have lost their souls, so that others may gain their freedoms.

Note: A must see.

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