Upcoming Lectures

United States Slave Trade, 1830 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Thomas Smallwood, the Underground Railroad, and Capitol Hill

Lecture By :
Scott Shane
Thomas Smallwood, a free black man residing in the Navy Yard area organized audacious escapes for large numbers of enslaved people in Washington, Baltimore, and the surrounding region, and wrote about it in a series of extraordianarly satirical newspaper dispatches.

Thomas Smallwood has been a “lost” hero of the underground railroad for over 100 years. Born into slavery in 1801, Smallwood bought his freedom, educated himself, and operated a shoemaking business near the Navy Yard. Then in 1842, Smallwood along with a young white partner began organizing escapes for wagonloads of enslaved people from slavery's borderland. Adding insult to the financial loss inflicted on slave owners by the escapes, Smallwood wrote extraordinary satirical dispatches about the escapes for an Albany, NY, abolitionist newspaper.

The story of this remarkable man and the perilous times in which both free and enslaved black people lived will be related by Scott Shane, author of the recently published Flee North: A Forgotten Hero and the Fight for Freedom in Slavery’s Borderland. Shane, a reporter for 15 years at the New York Times where he was a member of two teams that won Pulitzer prizes, was previously a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and is author of two other books and numerous articles.

Admission is free but a reservation is required due to limited capacity. A reservation link will be available three weeks prior to the lecture date. Reservations are made through the Hill Center.


Hill Center at Old Naval Hospital

921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC

Contact Number
(202) 549-4172
Lecture Date
May 13, 2024
Cost of Lecture
Admission is free but a reservation is required.
Lecture Time
7:30 pm

Lecture Series

Since 2002, the Overbeck Project has presented four lectures per year by local historians, authors and scholars on the history of Capitol Hill and the larger Washington, D.C. community.

All lectures are open to the public and offered free of charge.

Past Lectures: