These general definitions provide some of the characteristics of each role. They only serve as a guide to some of the common features, since individual involvement was unique.

Role: Freedom Seeker, Former Slaves

Definition: A slave is a a term for men, women, and children who are forced to perform labor or services against their will under threat of physical mistreatment or death. The term “Freedom Seeker” illustrates the African American decision to take control of his or her destiny from the slaveholder to one of their own choosing and left their master. Other terms that have been used in the past are “fugitive slave” and “runaway slave.”

Other former slaves settled in Iowa, but obtained their freedom in ways other than leaving their master while still enslaved.

Role: Abolitionist

Definition: An abolitionist believed in the total and immediate elimination of slavery and were very active to bring about this change. The more radical abolitionists believed in citizenship and legal rights for black men. To be assigned this role, the person was described in print as an abolitionist or there is evidence that they spoke of abolition.

Role: Anti-Slavery

Definition: Persons defined as anti-slavery believed in the elimination of slavery for a wide range of reasons — religious, moral or political.

Role: Station Master

Definition: Station masters provided food, clothing or shelter for Freedom Seekers as they were making their way from slavery. Often, only the husband is mentioned in writings, but if he wife was living with him at the time, she was surely aware of the activities and is included in this category.

Role: UGRR Conductor/Agent

Definition: A conductor or agent moved freedom seekers between stations or safe houses, often escorting them in wagons or by horseback.

Role: Proslavery/Anti-abolitionist

Definition: Those with proslavery or anti-abolitionist views believed that the South should be allowed to continue their economic system which included the use of slaves as their private property.