"Life on the Underground" is a lo-fi, avant-garde jazz recording of saxophonist Raymond C. M. Johnson and conguero Raymond Johnson Sr. The entire session of the father-son duo was recorded in the spring of 2011. The album signifies humanity's unyielding journey toward truth and wisdom, which is often reached only after enduring long times of challenge.
The period of Abolitionism in the United States is one of many such examples of humanity's "growing pains." Raymond chose the Abolitionist Era as a way to metaphorically describe the people who are currently struggling to pursue peaceful, happy, and fulfilling lives despite the growing tyrannical, draconian governments of the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, and other opressive nations.
Raymond C. M. Johnson - tenor saxophone, flute, tambourine, and shakers
Raymond Johnson Sr. - congas
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Raymond C. M. Johnson.
Album artwork by Aaron Warner.
Slaves in the southern United Stated attempted to escape bondage by heading to the northern United states where slave laws were not recognized. Without the aid of a compass, they came to rely on other methods to find their way north. For example, moss usually grows on the north sides of trees and certain species of birds always fly north in the summer.
Since fleeing slaves were much more likely to be caught if traveling during the day, most escape attempts occurred at night. Polaris, the North Star, served as a guide for the "fugitives" to navigate in the darkness since it always points to cardinal north. Thus, the North Star came to also be known as the Northern Sun.
Henry Box Brown was an abolitionist lecturer and performer. Born a slave in Louisa County, he worked in a Richmond tobacco factory and lived in a rented house. Then, in 1848, his wife, who was owned by another master and who was pregnant with their fourth child, was sold away to North Carolina, along with their children. Brown resolved to escape from slavery and enlisted the help of a free black and a white slaveowner, who conspired to ship him in a box to Philadelphia. In March 1849 the package was accepted there by a leader of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.
As a free man, Brown lectured across New England on the evils of slavery and participated in the publication of the Narrative of Henry Box Brown (1849). In 1850, a moving panorama, Henry Box Brown's Mirror of Slavery, opened in Boston. That same year, Brown, worried that he might be re-enslaved, moved to England, where he lectured, presented his panorama, and performed as a hypnotist. In 1875, he returned to the United States with his wife and daughter Annie and performed as a magician. Brown's date and place of death are unknown, but his legacy as a symbol of the Underground Railroad and enslaved African Americans' thirst for freedom is secure."
Source: Encyclopedia Virginia
"Tombigbee's Peg Foot"
"A one-legged sailor, known as Peg Leg Joe, worked at various jobs on plantations as he made his way around the South. At each job, he would become friendly with the slaves and teach them the words to the song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd." ...
The first verse instructs slaves to leave in the winter ... The second verse told slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north. They were to look for dead trees marked with the drawings of a left foot and a round mark, denoting a peg leg. In the third verse, the hidden message instructed the slaves to continue north over the hills when they reached the Tombigbee’s headwaters. From there, they were to travel along another river—the Tennessee. There were several Underground Railroad routes that met up on the Tennessee."
Source: Owen Sounds Black History
"Salem and Pearl"
"On April 15, 1848, 76 freedom seekers escaped from owners in Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria; these African Americans were workers in homes, boardinghouses, hotels, and perhaps even the White House. Organizers of the escape included: free men like Paul Jennings (a former slave of James Madison and butler of Daniel Webster) and Daniel Bell, enslaved African Samuel Edmonson, and white abolitionists Gerrit Smith and William Chaplin.
The intended means of escape was a 54-ton bay-craft schooner called the Pearl, moored at the 7th St. Wharf on the Potomac River and chartered by Daniel Drayton. To succeed, the schooner needed to reach the Chesapeake Bay, 100 miles away, and continue 120 miles to Frenchtown, NJ. Free African American Judson Diggs betrayed the secret, and the steamboat Salem overtook the schooner."
Source: National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior