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Calendar No. 415
105th Congress Report
2d Session 105-217
NATIONAL UNDERGROUND RAILROAD NETWORK TO FREEDOM ACT OF 1997
June 12, 1998.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany S. 887]
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was
referred the bill (S. 887) to establish in the National Park
Service the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
program, and for other purposes, having considered the same,
reports favorably thereon without amendment and recommends that
the bill do pass.
purpose of the measure
The purpose of S. 887 is to establish in the National Park
Service the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
background and need
The Underground Railroad was perhaps the most dramatic
protest action against slavery in United States history. It was
a clandestine operation that began during the colonial period,
which later became part of organized abolitionist activity in
the 19th century, reaching its peak in the period 1830-1865.
The story of the Underground Railroad is one of individual
sacrifice and heroism in the efforts of enslaved people to
reach freedom from bondage.
The phenomenon known as the Underground Railroad involved
both a deep personal commitment and defiance of certain laws.
The Underground Railroad was neither ``underground'' nor a
``railroad''. Usually scholars describe it as a loosely
constructed network of routes, that originated in the South,
intertwined throughout the North, and extending into Canada.
Escape routes, however, were not restricted to the North, they
also extended into the western territories, Mexico, and the
The underground railroad operations relied heavily on
secret codes as railroad jargon alerted ``passengers'' when
travel was safe. Runaways usually commuted either alone or in
small groups, and were occasionally assisted by black and white
``conductors'' who risked their lives to escort runaways to
freedom. By definition, this activity was clandestine, so
information about sites and routes was kept secret or not
widely distributed. After slavery was abolished, the story of
the Underground Railroad was kept alive by oral tradition and
written works, including personal accounts, and historic
documentation. Although the history of the Underground Railroad
has been described in several publications, information about
the current condition of sites and structures has been limited.
Many of these sites and structures, especially in urban areas,
have been demolished or substantially changed since the Civil
Despite its historical significance, the Underground
Railroad has not been officially recognized in any fashion. In
1990, Congress passed legislation directing the Secretary of
the Interior, through the National Park Service, to conduct a
study of options for commemorating the Underground Railroad.
The study, completed in 1996, focused on the sites, routes, and
other resources that remain throughout the Nation. The study
focused on those sites that are available for public
appreciation and education. The Underground Railroad was found
to be nationally significant and suitable for inclusion in the
National Park System. In addition, the study found a few
elements of the story are represented in existing NPS units and
other sites, but many important resource types of sites in the
underground network of sites are not adequately represented or
protected. Some sites have very high potential for
preservation, visitor use, and interpretation. No single site
or route completely reflects the complete story of the
Underground Railroad or its related activities. The story and
resources involve networks composed of a number of different
types of facilities and regions rather than specific individual
sites and trails.
The study concluded that a variety of partnership
approaches would be most appropriate for the protection and
interpretation of the Underground Railroad. These partnerships
could include the Federal, State, and localgovernments along
with a variety of private sector involvement.
Sites in danger of being lost or destroyed were identified
in the study and concern was expressed that other sites have
yet to be located and documented. The study also noted that
despite a tremendous amount of interest in the Underground
Railroad, little organized coordination and communication
exists among interested individuals and organizations.
The study documented 380 sites, including 27 sites of the
National Park System that could have a direct interpretive
relationship with the Undergound Railroad story, and another 55
park units that could have African-American history
associations. Thirty-one existing National Historic Landmarks
are associated in some manner with the Underground Railroad
story through the sub-themes of abolitionism, slavery and
plantation life and ethnic communities. Finally, a list of 42
potential new National Historic Landmarks with association to
the Underground Railroad story have been identified.
S. 887 was introduced by Senator Moseley-Braun and Senator
DeWine on June 11, 1997 and referred to the Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources. Since introduction the following
cosponsors were added: Senators Durbin, Specter, Murray,
Sarbanes, D'Amato, Snowe, Collins, Biden, Dodd, Moynihan, Robb,
Lugar, Kennedy, Bond, Abraham, Ford, Faircloth, Warner, Hagel,
Boxer, Torricelli, Lautenberg, Wellstone, Chafee, and Santorum.
The Subcommittee on National Parks, Historic Preservation and
Recreation held a hearing on S. 887 on March 24, 1998.
At its business meeting on May 13, 1998, the Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources ordered S. 887 favorably reported.
committee recommendation and tabulation of votes
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open
business session on May 13, 1998, by a unanimous vote of a
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 887. The
rollcall vote on reporting the measure was 20 yeas, 0 nays, as
Mr. Nickles \1\
Mr. Grams \1\
Mr. Burns \1\
Mr. Dorgan \1\
Mr. Graham \1\
\1\ Indicates voted by proxy.
section by section analysis
Section 1 designates the bills short title as the
``National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of
Section 2(a) gives a brief history of the underground
railroad and the role it played in bridging the divides of
race, religion, and nationality. This section discusses the
Underground Railroad Advisory Committee's study and its
findings. The Advisory Committee found that many of the sites
are in imminent danger of being lost or destroyed; no single
site or route completely reflects the Underground Railroad;
establishment of a variety of partnerships with federal, state,
local, and private sector would be the approrpriate way to
preserve and protect the Underground Railroad.
Subsection 2(b) states the purpose of the bill in
recognizing the importance of the Underground Railroad and the
sacrifices made by those involved. This section authorizes the
National Park Service to coordinate and facilitate both Federal
and non-Federal activities of the Underground Railroad.
Section 3(a) directs the Secretary of the Interior to
establish in the National Park Service a program known as the
``National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom'' (National
Network). The bill directs the Secretary to produce and
disseminate necessary educational materials; enter into
agreements to providetechnical assistance to other Federal,
State, local, and private entities; and create a uniform symbol and
associated regulations for use of symbol.
Subsection 3(b) states that the National Network includes
any existing National Park Service unit or any other Federal,
State, local or private property pertaining to the National
Network that is included and determined to be eligible for
inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Subsection 3(c) authorizes the Secretary to enter into
cooperative agreements and memorandums of understanding to
provide technical assistance to other Federal, State, local,
private entities, or with the governments of Canada, Mexico, or
any other appropriate country in the Caribbean to ensure
effective coordination of the National Network.
Subsection 3(d) authorizes appropriations of $500,000 for
1998, and $1,000,000 for each year thereafter.
cost and budgetary considerations
The following estimate of costs of this measure has been
provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, May 20, 1998.
Hon. Frank H. Murkowski,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 887, the National
Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1997.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Deborah Reis.
June E. O'Neill, Director.
congressional budget office cost estimate
S. 887--National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1997
Assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts, CBO
estimates that the National Park Service (NPS) would spend less
than $500,000 in fiscal year 1998 and about $1 million annually
in subsequent years to carry out the requirements of S. 887.
This legislation would not affect governmental receipts or
direct spending; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would not
apply. S. 887 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal
S. 887 would require the NPS to establish a program to be
known as the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
In order to implement this program, the NPS would produce and
distribute educational materials, create and adopt an official
symbol for the network, and provide technical assistance to
other interested entities. Also for this purpose, the bill
would authorize the agency to execute cooperative agreements or
memoranda of understanding with such entities, including
private organizations, other nations, and federal, state, or
local government agencies. Finally, the bill would authorize
appropriations to carry out these activities of $500,000 for
fiscal year 1998 and $1 million for each year thereafter.
Based on information provided by the NPS, CBO estimates
that the agency would spend about $500,000 to create the
network in the first several months following enactment. This
work would include basic planning, developing educational
materials and interpretive exhibits, and coordinating federal
activities with those of other interested groups or
individuals. The NPS would use the $1 million authorized for
each year beginning with 1999 to manage the network and provide
assistance to other parties under cooperative agreements.
The staff contact for this estimate is Deborah Reis. The
estimate was approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy Assistant
Director for Budget Analysis.
REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION
In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in
carrying out S. 887. The bill is not a regulatory measure in
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals
No personal information would be collected in administering
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal
Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from
enactment of S. 887, as ordered reported.
On May 14, 1998, the Committee received the following
legislative report from the Department of Interior and the
Office of Management and Budget setting forth agency
recommendations on S. 887.
Department of the Interior,
Office of the Secretary,
Hon. Frank H. Murkowski,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
Senate Dirkson Office Building, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: On Wednesday, May 13, the Committee is
scheduled to mark up S. 887, the National Underground Railroad
Network to Freedom Act of 1997, which would establish the
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program within
the National Park Service (NPS).
The Department strongly supports S. 887.
Public Law 101-628 directed the Secretary of the Interior,
through the NPS, to conduct a study of alternatives for
commemorating and interpreting the underground railroad. The
study was completed and transmitted to Congress on February 7,
1996. The underground railroad was found to be nationally
S. 887 provides a structure to identify and commemorate the
activities of the underground railroad and would promote public
education of this part of American history. The bill would
allow the NPS, working in partnership with other public
agencies and the private sector, to raise community awareness
of the value of the remaining sites and to coordinate a
regional approach to the presentation of historic sites and the
interpretation of the underground railroad story.
The underground railroad was an activity of long duration
and had wide geographic sweep. While some aspects of the
underground railroad story are represented in NPS units and
sites, for the most part such sites are outside the National
Park System. S. 887 allows the NPS to enhance interpretation at
existing sites and to identify other sites, some of which are
in danger of being destroyed.
The Office of Management and Budget advises that there is
no objection to the presentation of this report from the
standpoint of the Administration's program.
Nancy K. Hayes,
Acting Assistant Secretary
for Fish Wildlife and Parks.
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no
changes in existing law are made by S. 887, as ordered