By Rev. Angelique Walker-Smith
Recently, I had the honor and opportunity to serve on an official delegation convened by Christian Churches Together (CCT) to visit Hidalgo, Texas to witness firsthand the plight of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When I landed at the airport in Brownsville, Texas, the U.S. Border Patrol was visibly present. I was suddenly reminded of my ancestors who were also greeted by “border patrol” while fleeing from the brutal chattel slavery in the southern states and making their way north – even all the way to Canada.
This treacherous journey to freedom was enabled by the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses. It operated from roughly the early to mid-19th century until Civil War.
On their trek, my ancestors were met by both hostility and hospitality. They were confronted with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 that was later solidified and strictly enforced by the Compromise of 1850. These congressional policies guaranteed the rights of slaveholders to recover escaped slaves.
Still, Christian leaders like Harriet Tubman, a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, led the Underground Railroad. There were abolitionists who aided these northern bound caravans seeking new life and advocating for policies of justice. Many were Christians who risked hiding, feeding, and prayerfully encouraging those seeking a new life.