Seeking Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the Mid-Atlantic

Lincoln University and Voices Underground - 2021 Call for Papers

Seeking Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the Mid-Atlantic
Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

March 31, April 1-2, 2022

The Lincoln University Center for the Study of the Underground Railroad and Voices Underground, an organization focused on preserving and sharing the Underground Railroad's story, welcomes proposals for its inaugural 2022 conference, Seeking Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the Mid-Atlantic. The conference will take place at Lincoln University on March 31, April 1-2, 2022.

We welcome proposals from all fields and disciplines, from historians, preservationists, independent scholars, social scientists, community leaders, undergraduate, and graduate students. Of particular interest are the lower eastern middle states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and southern New York.  We encourage individuals who are researching sites of memory, the role of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) such as Lincoln University and Cheyney University, and the importance of the free and enslaved African American community through the end of the Civil War to submit. We also desire papers that explore any or all the diverse complexities of the UGRR, including known and unknown physical sites (homes, corridors, routes) and those that extract the voices of the unheard, invisible, and underrated. As such, we welcome research that demythologizes the story and memory of the UGRR. Individuals may also suggest and write on topics that are not listed if the subject falls within this symposium's overall theme. The following list provides possible areas of inquiry.

The following list provides possible areas of inquiry.

  • African Agency
  • Architecture
  • Biographies
  • Community Organizing
  • Economy
  • Law in the 19th century
  • Literature
  • Politics
  • Propaganda
  • Preservation
  • Religious Institutions
  • Resistance and Violence
  • Spirituals/Songs
  • Women in the UGRR

The organizing committee will consider individual papers, panels, and roundtables. Panels and roundtables must designate or suggest a commentator and moderator separate from the presenters. Each participant will be allotted twenty minutes to present.

Proposals for panels and roundtables should include a brief session description (one to two pages), the theme, a 300-word maximum abstract for each participant's paper, and a short bio (200 words max) of each participant including the moderator, chair and/or commentator. Proposals for individual presentations should also include a 300-word abstract and a short bio (200 words max). All submissions should include each person's C.V. or résumé (5-page max) including contact information (complete mailing address, the institution or organization's name (if applicable), an email address, and phone number). Click here for the form.

Registration Fees: In-person $75, Virtual $50, Student $30

Participants are responsible for their own lodging and transportation.

Priority will be given to prospective participants who submit by October 15, 2021. After this date, the committee will review submissions on a rolling basis. We plan to announce the acceptance of regular submissions by December 15, 2021.

Inquiries can be sent to


Convening Committee

Nafeesa Muhammad

Lincoln University, PA
Professor of History
Dept of History, Political Science & Philosophy

Nafeesa Muhammad is an assistant professor of history at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Her areas of interests are 19th and 20th century United States, African American, Transnational, and African Diasporic history. She specializes in the history of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and the movement of Black Nationalism in America. Nafeesa earned her B.A. from Spelman College. She also has a M.A. in African American Studies and a Ph.D. in history from Georgia State University. Her current book project focuses on the economic endeavors of the NOI. Her forthcoming article “Forging Heaven: The Nation of Islam’s Transnational Connection in the Creation of its Economic Program, 1950-1975” examines the NOI’s alliances with communities in Africa and Central America.

Gregory Thompson is a scholar, writer, artist, and producer who works at the intersection of moral imagination and social change. Focusing on matters of race and democracy in the United States, Gregory currently serves as Executive Director of Voices Underground, an initiative to build a national memorial to the Underground Railroad outside of Philadelphia, and as a James Lawson Fellow for Faith and Justice at Historic Clayborn Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, the site of the Sanitation Worker’s Strike of 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s last campaign. In addition to this, he is the Co-Creator (with the acclaimed artist Sho Baraka), Producer and Co-Writer of Union: The Musical, a soul and hip-hop based musical that tells the story of the 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike, and Co-Author (with Reverend Duke Kwon) of the forthcoming book, Reparations: A Christian Call to Repentance and Repair (Brazos, April 2021.) He holds an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary, and an M.A. and PhD from the University of Virginia, where he wrote his dissertation on Martin Luther King Jr.

Gregory Thompson

Executive Director | Voices Underground
IG: @voices_underground


Paul Finkelman

Gratz College
7605 Old York Road
Melrose Park, PA 19027

Paul Finkelman, the president of Gratz College, is the author of more than 100 law review articles, 100 other scholarly articles, and more than fifty books. He is a specialist on slavery, civil rights, and race relations, African American history and has written extensively on Fugitive Slaves Laws and the relationship to slavery and the U.S. Constitution. He has also written on American Constitutional and legal history, the American Civil War, religious liberty, and the history of religion in the U.S., American Jewish history, and legal issues surrounding baseball. His recent book, Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court (Harvard University Press, 2018) explored how the key justice on the Supreme Court handles slavery cases and cases involving the Fugitive Slave Laws. This book also provided heretofore unknown information about Chief Justice John Marshall’s extensive slaveholding, his lifetime of buying and sometimes selling slaves, and how this affected his decision-making on the court. The United States Supreme Court has quoted and cited Finkelman’s work in five decisions as has numerous other federal and state courts. He has lectured on human trafficking and on human rights issues at the United Nations, throughout the United States, and in more than a dozen other countries. He is ranked in the top 10% of all scholars for downloads on SSRN. He was an expert witness in several cases including the lawsuit over the ownership of Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball (Popov v. Hayashi). In 2012 he held the John Hope Franklin Chair in Legal History at Duke Law School and in 2017 he held the Fulbright Chair in Human Rights and Social Justice at the University of Ottawa.

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