Photographs Along the Underground Railroad

In Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad, Jeanine Michna-Bales presents a remarkable series of images following a route from the cotton plantations of central Louisiana, through the cypress swamps of Mississippi and the plains of Indiana, north to Canada — a path of nearly fourteen hundred miles. The culmination of a ten-year research quest, Through Darkness to Light imagines a journey along the Underground Railroad as it might have appeared to a freedom seeker. Framing the powerful narrative is an introduction by Michna-Bales; a foreword by noted civil rights activist, politician and pastor Andrew J. Young; and essays by Fergus M. Bordewich, Robert F. Darden, and Eric R. Jackson.

Princeton Architectural Press
Hardcover, 10.5 x 7.75 in (26.7 x 19.7 cm)
192 pages: 100 color illustrations, 13 b/w illustrations
ISBN: 9781616895655


Andrew J. Young, Jr. is an American politician, diplomat, author, activist and pastor currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He has served as a United States Congressman from Georgia’s 5th congressional district, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter, and Mayor of Atlanta. He was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the Civil Rights Movement and was a close friend and supporter Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Young was a key strategist and negotiator during the Civil Rights Campaigns in Birmingham and Selma that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since leaving political office in 1990 Young has founded or served in multiple organizations centered on public policy, political lobbying and international relations. He continues his work today as the head of the Andrew J. Young Foundation focusing on eradicating world hunger and poverty.

Fergus M. Bordewich is a historian and the author of seven books on American history, including Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2005), America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union (Simon & Schuster, 2012), Washington: The Making of the American Capital (Amistad/Harper Collins, 2009), and The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

Eric R. Jackson is associate professor of history and director of the Black Studies Department at Northern Kentucky University. He is the coauthor of several books, including Reflections of African-American Peace Leaders: A Documentary History, 1898‑1967 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2003) and Cincinnati's Underground Railroad (Arcadia, 2014).

Robert F. Darden is professor of journalism, public relations, and new media at Baylor University. He is the author of People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2005) and Nothing But Love in God’s Water: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Volume I (Penn State University Press, 2014). He is also the cofounder of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor.

Ms. Michna-Bales’s quest has led to an evocative book. While much has been written about the subject, there has been little visual documentation, an absence that makes the book even more consequential, both from the standpoint of history and of our contemporary understanding of slavery in pre-Civil War America.
— The New York Times Lens Blog
This is a truly fascinating slice of U.S. history and one well served by Michna-Bales’s beautiful imagery.
— Amateur Photographer
To illuminate the historic journeys undertaken by passengers on the Underground Railroad, photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales traveled along some of the same routes, shooting images of some of the paths escaped slaves would have taken. Her photos — spanning 1400 miles from Louisiana to Ontario — show just a slice of the vast scenery that would have faced enslaved people as they made their way to freedom.
— Mental Floss
Photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales has painstakingly documented each step of the perilous journey many took through plantations, forests and swamps to sympathetic abolitionists and ultimately freedom. Her foreboding images printed together in her book highlight the dangers that both the fleeing slaves and those who helped them faced as they gave their lives in the quest of freedom and justice.
— UK Daily Mail
Michna-Bales’s images explore the famous passageway in an unprecedented way. Her contemporary perspective stirs our senses, with the quiet environments inviting us to not only reflect on these covert, risk-filled voyages but to also imagine ourselves embarking on one of our own.
— Hyperallergic
The photographs are the subject of a beautiful book published by Princeton Architectural Press with an incredibly moving preface by no less a figure in African-American history than Andrew J. Young and fascinating essays by scholars who have already published extensively on the subject of the Underground Railroad.
— Dallas Morning News
The series of photographs flips from deserted planations in Louisiana to empty railroad bridges in Indiana, with every image cloaked by dark light. The images, shot at night, emote vastness and strangeness — you can feel how remote these places might have felt to travelers passing through.
— CityLab from The Atlantic