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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Cornue and Linda Lombri

The Underground Rail Road, New Jersey and Secrets at Abbott House

Towns along the central spine of New Jersey were much traveled stations on the Underground Railroad. Enslaved women and men sought freedom “riding” the UGRR from Eastern seaboard slave states to freedom in further northern states and Canada. Montclair, New Jersey was a little known stop on the UGRR. And that is where we begin our story in Secrets at Abbott House, specifically at Applegate Farm (a minor station) Ice Cream Shop.

The mystery begins with Sandra Troux and Lizbet Sheridan at Applegate Farm waiting for Bobbi Power to join them for a tour of the museum:

"Sandy grimaced as one loop of the leg irons snapped shut around her ankle. When the other one was locked and the iron bar slid through the rings in the back, she could not walk. A few minutes later the punishment collar was clamped around her neck. Four iron spikes stuck out nearly a foot and a half. She could barely breathe. She couldn’t lean against the wall or even sit back in a chair. Only two minutes and she was feeling overwhelmed, 'Ok, ok, I’ve had enough. Let me out. This is torture. Let me out!'”

The tortures Sandy is unable to endure for a few minutes were in common usage in the Antebellum and Civil War era. As Sandy, Lizbet and Bobbi travel the UGGR beginning in NJ and NYC, down through the Carolinas, Haiti and back to Montclair, they explore how love between an enslaved man and his female owner; and rape and murder during the Civil War shockingly relate to contemporary international fashion crimes and forced labor in the present.

Many today think that American slavery is all in the distant past and has no relation to present day. However the legacy of slavery runs deep in America the attitudes of many; in the worst income gap in decades despite the civil rights laws; in the incarceration of thousands of young

black men; and in the ghetto ization of a large segment of the American population.

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