She was determined to fight back!
Our ancestors sacrificed so much and fought tirelessly for the freedoms we have today. However, even before the law said they were free, many banded together by any means necessary to guarantee that anyone who tried could have the best chance possible at freedom. As thousands fled slavery in the South with the promise of liberation in the North, systems were put in place to help those escape along the way. Most famous of these systems was the Underground Railroad, developed some time between the mid-18th to early 19th century, Same Passage reports.
These secret routes were manned by freed slaves and abolitionists who sacrificed their own well-being to lend a helping hand, transporting enslaved people as far north as they could get. For plantation owners, this was an immediate threat evidenced by a loss of free labor, production, and ultimately income. Before you knew it, slave owners and anti-abolitionists had created their own system, the Reverse Underground Railroad. This particular network focused on hiding anti-abolitionists in plain sight, disguising them as aids on the Underground Railroad that sought to capture those seeking freedom and re-sell them back into slavery to their former plantations or new owners.
The process was brutal, and many of these agents of terror would physically wound or attack freedom seekers to prevent them from running, with some killed as they tried to resist. In response to this violence, freed slaves and abolitionists devised new plans to help thwart the plans of the anti-abolitionists by fighting back. One of these freed slaves was Aunt Polly Jackson, who came to be renowned on the Underground Railroad for her tactics.
While not much is known about Jackson’s earlier life, what is known is honorable and worthy of preservation. A middle-aged woman, she was known as Aunt Polly Jackson, making a name for herself by courageously fighting off white people who sought to capture freedom seekers. Jackson had escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad, settling in an Ohio town called Africa, established near Ripley, Ohio. The settlement was made up of escaped African-Americans who were offered land to settle in the town, and it existed along the Underground Railway route. Jackson took them up on their offer, gaining land to settle in Africa and starting a small farm to take care of herself.
To pay it forward, Jackson would often help those freedom seekers who passed by her land on their way North. Fed up with the attacks from the Reverse Underground Railroad network, Jackson one day took it upon herself to rescue, protect and help formerly enslaved people seeking freedom. Jackson would dress herself up as an old lady, knowing that older people usually avoided being attacked, and she would go out at night carrying a butcher knife wrapped in cloth and a kettle of boiling water. Armed with mere kitchen essentials, Jackson would fight off slave capturers, using the boiling water as a backup if the knife didn’t work. Jackson used her home as a safe haven, housing freedom seekers and helping them navigate further north.
While it may seem like a small thing in an entire nation filled with racism and violence, Jackson’s individual efforts spread through the grapevine, inspiring others and the legend of Aunt Polly Jackson was born. Soon, many similar attacks were carried out upon white enslavers on the Underground Railroad route and many of the slave hunters were killed. Jackson’s legacy is proof that one person really can change the course of history and her bravery helped to effectively suppress anti-abolitionist efforts.
Today, we remember the sacrifice and courage of Aunt Polly Jackson. Because of her, we can!
Here’s why we should talk about Aunt Polly Jackson more often/Photo Courtesy of Same Passage