Underground Railroad conductors were free individuals who helped fugitive slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Conductors helped runaway slaves by providing them with safe passage to and from stations. If a conductor was caught helping free slaves they would be fined, imprisoned, branded, or even hanged.
Eastern Illinois University :: Teaching with Primary Sources – Underground Railroad: A Path to Freedom
- Underground Railroad conductors were free individuals who helped fugitive slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Conductors helped runaway slaves by providing them with safe passage to and from stations. They did this under the cover of darkness with slave catchers hot on their heels.
Who was the conductor of the Underground Railroad and what was the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman: Conductor of the Underground Railroad – Meet Amazing Americans | America’s Library – Library of Congress. After Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery, she returned to slave-holding states many times to help other slaves escape. She led them safely to the northern free states and to Canada.
What were guides called on the Underground Railroad?
People known as “conductors” guided the fugitive enslaved people. Hiding places included private homes, churches and schoolhouses. These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.”
Who were the stationmasters on the Underground Railroad?
The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the
What did Harriet Tubman do as a conductor on the Underground Railroad?
Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of family members and other slaves from the plantation system to freedom on this elaborate secret network of safe houses.
What did Harriet Tubman do as a conductor on the Underground Railroad apex?
Who was Harriet Tubman? She was one of the most famous abolitionists who helped the Underground Railroad (a “conductor”). She was a Union spy and nurse during the Civil War. After she escaped from slavery, she made at least 19 trips on the underground railroad to help others escape.
What’s Harriet Tubman’s real name?
The person we know as “Harriet Tubman” endured decades in bondage before becoming Harriet Tubman. Tubman was born under the name Araminta Ross sometime around 1820 (the exact date is unknown); her mother nicknamed her Minty.
Who was the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad?
Our Headlines and Heroes blog takes a look at Harriet Tubman as the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Tubman and those she helped escape from slavery headed north to freedom, sometimes across the border to Canada.
What did Levi Coffin do?
Levi Coffin, (born October 28, 1798, New Garden [now in Greensboro], North Carolina, U.S.—died September 16, 1877, Cincinnati, Ohio), American abolitionist, called the “President of the Underground Railroad,” who assisted thousands of runaway slaves on their flight to freedom.
What did vigilance committees do?
The Vigilant Association was a group formed by the ardent abolitionist, Robert Purvis, in August 1837 to publicly promote antislavery ideology and “to create a fund to aid colored persons in distress.” The Vigilant Committee’s purpose was to appoint offices, raise revenue, and have resources readily available to assist
Which heroic qualities did William still possess?
After a forty year search, he located his brother, Peter Still, and helped him to escape to freedom. After finding his brother, he kept meticulous records concerning African resistance to slavery by running away. Still was very courageous and risked his own freedom assisting fugitive Africans.
Is Gertie Davis died?
Why does the author choose to call the individuals who worked on the Underground Railroad “conductors”? They were responsible for driving the trains that took slaves from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. They carried pistols on their hips that were known by people in the North as “conductors.”
What were Harriet Tubman’s achievements?
10 Major Accomplishments of Harriet Tubman
- #1 She made a daring escape from slavery when she was in her twenties.
- #2 She served as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad for 11 years.
- #3 Harriet Tubman guided at least 70 slaves to freedom.
- #4 She worked as a Union scout and spy during the American Civil War.
See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to freedom. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this historical period. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that publishes encyclopedias. View all of the videos related to this topic. When escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada, this was referred to as the Underground Railroad in the United States.
Even though it was neither underground nor a railroad, it was given this name because its actions had to be carried out in secret, either via the use of darkness or disguise, and because railroad words were employed in relation to the system’s operation.
In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down or capture them.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, obtained firsthand experience of escaped slaves via her association with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived for a time during the Civil War.
The existence of the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that it was only a small minority of Northerners who took part in it, did much to arouse Northern sympathy for the plight of slaves during the antebellum period, while also convincing many Southerners that the North as a whole would never peacefully allow the institution of slavery to remain unchallenged.
When was the first time a sitting president of the United States appeared on television?
Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
8 Key Contributors to the Underground Railroad
Isaac Hopper, an abolitionist, is shown in this image from the Kean Collection/Getty Images. As early as 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons,” which had sought to free a neighbor’s slave. Quakers were instrumental in the establishment of the Underground Railroad. Slavery was opposed in especially in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been described as “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground.” Hopper not only protected escaped slave hunters in his own house, but he also constructed a network of safe havens and recruited a web of spies in order to get insight into their plans.
Hopper, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled brother of the former French emperor, went to New York City in 1829 and established himself as a successful businessman.
He remained in the city, continuing to assist fugitive slaves and, at one point, battling off an anti-abolitionist crowd that had formed outside his Quaker bookstore. READ MORE: The Underground Railroad and Its Operation
2. John Brown
Isaac Hopper, an abolitionist, is shown in this image from the Kean Collection/Getty Images collection. As early as 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons,” which had sought to free a neighbor’s slave. Quakers were instrumental in the establishment of the Underground Railroad. Slavery was opposed in especially in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been dubbed “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground,” according to one source.
A tailor by profession, whose speciality was exploiting legal loopholes to secure the liberation of enslaved individuals in the courts of justice.
His work with runaway slaves continued there, and at one time he had to defend his Quaker bookstore from an anti-abolitionist crowd that had assembled outside.
3. Harriet Tubman
Isaac Hopper, an abolitionist (Kean Collection/Getty Images) As early as 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons,” which had sought to free a neighbor’s slave. Slavery was opposed in especially in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been dubbed “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground.” Hopper not only protected escaped slave hunters in his own house, but he also constructed a network of safe havens and recruited a web of spies in order to get insight into their strategies.
Hopper, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled brother of the former French emperor, went to New York City in 1829 and established himself as a businessman.
More information may be found at: How the Underground Railroad Functioned.
4. Thomas Garrett
Abolitionist Isaac HopperKean Collection/Getty Images Quakers played a significant part in the establishment of the Underground Railroad, with George Washington protesting as early as 1786 that a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons, have endeavored to free” a neighbor’s slave. Anti-slavery feeling was particularly strong in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been described as “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground.” In addition to harboring runaways in his own house, Hopper constructed a network of safe havens and built a web of spies in order to uncover the intentions of fugitive slave hunters.
Hopper, a companion of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled brother of the former French emperor Napoleon III, moved to New York City in 1829.
There, he continued to assist fugitive slaves, even battling off an anti-abolitionist mob that had assembled outside his Quaker bookstore. READ MORE: How the Underground Railroad Functioned
5. William Still
William Still is a well-known author and poet. Photograph courtesy of the Hulton Archive/Getty Images Many runaways traveled from Wilmington, the final Underground Railroad station in the slave state of Delaware, to the office of William Still in adjacent Philadelphia, which was the last stop on their journey. The Vigilance Committee of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which provided food and clothing, coordinated escapes, raised funds, and otherwise served as a one-stop social services shop for hundreds of fugitive slaves each year, was chaired by Still, who was a free-born African American.
Still ultimately produced a book in which he chronicled the personal histories of his guests, which offered valuable insight into the operation of the Underground Railroad as a whole.
His assistance to Osborne Anderson, the only African-American member of John Brown’s company to survive the Harpers Ferry raid, was another occasion when he was called upon.
6. Levi Coffin
Charles T. Webber’s painting The Underground Railroad depicts fleeing slaves Levi Coffin, his wife Catherine, and Hannah Haydock providing assistance to the group of fugitive slaves. Getty Images/Bettina Archive/Getty Images Levi Coffin, often known as the “president of the Underground Railroad,” is said to have been an abolitionist when he was seven years old after witnessing a column of chained slaves people being taken to an auction house. Following a humble beginning delivering food to fugitives holed up on his family’s North Carolina plantation, he rose through the ranks to become a successful trader and prolific “stationmaster,” first in Newport (now Fountain City), Indiana, and subsequently in Cincinnati, Kentucky.
In addition to hosting anti-slavery lectures and abolitionist sewing club meetings, Coffin, like his fellow Quaker Thomas Garrett, stood steadfast when hauled before a court of law.
7. Elijah Anderson
The Ohio River, which formed the border between slave and free states, was referred to as the River Jordan in abolitionist circles because it represented the border between slave and free states. Madison, Indiana, was an especially appealing crossing point for enslaved persons on the run, because to an Underground Railroad cell established there by blacksmith Elijah Anderson and several other members of the town’s Black middle class in the 1850s. With his fair skin, Anderson might have passed for a white slave owner on his repeated travels into Kentucky, where would purportedly pick up 20 to 30 enslaved persons at a time and whisk them away to freedom, sometimes accompanying them as far as the Coffins’ mansion in Newport.
An anti-slavery mob devastated Madison in 1846, almost drowning an agent of the Underground Railroad, prompting Anderson to flee upriver to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he eventually settled.
While carrying on his operations, he aided around 800 other fugitives before being arrested and imprisoned in Kentucky for “enticing slaves to flee.” Anderson was found dead in his cell on what some accounts claim was the exact day of his parole in 1861, raising suspicions about his death.
8. Thaddeus Stevens
Mr. Thaddeus Stevens is an American lawyer and senator. Bettmann Archive courtesy of Getty Images; Matthew Brady/Bettmann Archive Thaddeus Stevens, a representative from Pennsylvania, was outspoken in his opposition to slavery. The 14th and 15th amendments, which guaranteed African-American citizens equal protection under the law and the right to vote, respectively, were among his many accomplishments, and he also advocated for a radical reconstruction of the South, which included the redistribution of land from white plantation owners to former enslaved people.
Despite this, it wasn’t until 2002 that his Underground Railroad activities were brought to light, when archeologists uncovered a hidden hiding hole in the courtyard of his Lancaster house.
Seward, also served as Underground Railroad “stationmasters” during the era.
The Underground Railroad
At the time of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to flee to freedom in the northern states. Subjects History of the United States, Social StudiesImage
Home of Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist. This was a station on the Underground Railroad, a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in escaping to the North during the Civil War. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography. “> During the age of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in escaping to the North, according to the Underground Railroad Museum.
Although it was not a real railroad, it fulfilled the same function as one: it carried passengers across large distances.
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad were driven by a passion for justice and a desire to see slavery abolished—a drive that was so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom in order to assist enslaved people in escaping from bondage and staying safe while traveling the Underground Railroad.
- As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
- In recent years, academic research has revealed that the vast majority of persons who engaged in the Underground Railroad did it on their own, rather than as part of a larger organization.
- According to historical tales of the railroad, conductors frequently pretended to be enslaved persons in order to smuggle runaways out of plantation prisons and train stations.
- Often, the conductors and passengers traveled 16–19 kilometers (10–20 miles) between each safehouse stop, which was a long distance in this day and age.
- Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
- Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
- Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
- Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
- Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
- Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
- Person who is owned by another person or group of people is referred to as an enslaved person.
Slavery is a noun that refers to the act of owning another human being or being owned by another human being (also known as servitude). Abolitionists utilized this nounsystem between 1800 and 1865 to aid enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee to free states.
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The Secret History of the Underground Railroad
Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race was the title of a series published by De Bow’s Review, a leading Southern periodical, a decade before the Civil War. The series was deemed necessary by the editors because it had “direct and practical bearing” on 3 million people whose worth as property totaled approximately $2 billion. When it comes to African Americans’ supposed laziness (“deficiency of red blood in the pulmonary and arterial systems”), love of dancing (“profuse distribution of nervous matter to the stomach, liver, and genital organs”), and extreme aversion to being whipped (“skin.
- However, it was Cartwright’s discovery of a previously undiscovered medical illness, which he coined “Drapetomania, or the sickness that causes Negroes to flee,” that grabbed the most attention from readers.
- Despite the fact that only a few thousand individuals, at most, fled slavery each year—nearly all of them from states bordering the free North—their migration was seen by many Southern whites as a portent of a greater calamity.
- How long do you think it will take until the entire cloth begins to unravel?
- Rather, it was intentionally supported and helped by a well-organized network that was both large and diabolical in scope.
- The word “Underground Railroad” brings up pictures of trapdoors, flickering lamps, and moonlit routes through the woods in the minds of most people today, just as it did in the minds of most Americans in the 1840s and 1850s.
- At least until recently, scholars paid relatively little attention to the story, which is remarkable considering how prominent it is in the national consciousness.
- The Underground Railroad was widely believed to be a statewide conspiracy with “conductors,” “agents,” and “depots,” but was it really a fiction of popular imagination conjured up from a succession of isolated, unconnected escapes?
- Which historians you trust in will determine the solutions.
One historian (white) questioned surviving abolitionists (most of whom were also white) a decade after the Civil War and documented a “great and complicated network” of agents, 3,211 of whom he identified by name, as well as a “great and intricate network” of agents (nearly all of them white).
- “I escaped without the assistance.
- “I have freed myself in the manner of a man.” In many cases, the Underground Railroad was not concealed at all.
- The journal of a white New Yorker who assisted hundreds of runaway slaves in the 1850s was found by an undergraduate student in Foner’s department at Columbia University while working on her final thesis some years ago, and this discovery served as the inspiration for his current book.
- One of the book’s most surprising revelations is that, according to the book’s subtitle, the Underground Railroad was not always secret at all.
- The New York State Vigilance Committee, established in 1850, the year of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act, officially declared its objective to “welcome, with open arms, the panting fugitive.” Local newspapers published stories about Jermain W.
Bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” provided donated luxury items and handcrafted knickknacks just before the winter holidays, and bake sales in support of the Underground Railroad, no matter how unlikely it may seem, became popular fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities.
- Political leaders, especially those who had taken vows to protect the Constitution — including the section ordering the return of runaways to their proper masters — blatantly failed to carry out their obligations.
- Judge William Jay, a son of the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, made the decision to disregard fugitive slave laws and contributed money to aid runaway slaves who managed to flee.
- One overlooked historical irony is that, up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were cited as frequently by Northern abolitionists as they were by Southern slaveholders, a fact that is worth noting.
- It was not recognized for its abolitionist passion, in contrast to places like as Boston and Philadelphia, which had deep-rooted reformer traditions—as well as communities in upstate New York such as Buffalo and Syracuse.
Even before the city’s final bondsmen were released, in 1827, its economy had become deeply intertwined with that of the South, as evidenced by a gloating editorial in the De Bow newspaper, published shortly before the Civil War, claiming the city was “nearly as reliant on Southern slavery as Charleston.” New York banks lent money to plantation owners to acquire slaves, while New York merchants made their fortunes off the sale of slave-grown cotton and sugar.
- Besides properly recapturing escapees, slave catchers prowled the streets of Manhattan, and they frequently illegally kidnapped free blacks—particularly children—in order to sell them into Southern bondage.
- The story begins in 1846, when a man called George Kirk slipped away aboard a ship sailing from Savannah to New York, only to be discovered by the captain and shackled while awaiting return to his owner.
- The successful fugitive was escorted out of court by a phalanx of local African Americans who were on the lookout for him.
- In this case, the same court found other legal grounds on which to free Kirk, who rolled out triumphantly in a carriage and made his way to the safety of Boston in short order this time.
- In addition to being descended from prominent Puritans, Sydney Howard Gay married a wealthy (and radical) Quaker heiress.
- Co-conspirator Louis Napoleon, who is thought to be the freeborn son of a Jewish New Yorker and an African American slave, was employed as an office porter in Gay’s office.
- Gay was the one who, between 1855 and 1856, maintained the “Record of Fugitives,” which the undergraduate discovered in the Columbia University archives and which chronicled more than 200 escapes.
One first-person narrative starts, “I ate one meal a day for eight years.” “It has been sold three times, and it is expected to be sold a fourth time.
Undoubtedly, a countrywide network existed, with its actions sometimes shrouded in secrecy.
Its routes and timetables were continually changing as well.
As with Gay and Napoleon’s collaboration, its operations frequently brought together people from all walks of life, including the affluent and the poor, black and white.
Among others who decamped to Savannah were a light-skinned guy who set himself up in a first-class hotel, went around town in a magnificent new suit of clothes, and insouciantly purchased a steamship ticket to New York from Savannah.
At the height of the Civil War, the number of such fugitives was still a small proportion of the overall population.
It not only played a role in precipitating the political crisis of the 1850s, but it also galvanized millions of sympathetic white Northerners to join a noble fight against Southern slaveholders, whether they had personally assisted fugitive slaves, shopped at abolitionist bake sales, or simply enjoyed reading about slave escapes in books and newspapers.
- More than anything else, it trained millions of enslaved Americans to gain their freedom at a moment’s notice if necessary.
- Within a few months, a large number of Union soldiers and sailors successfully transformed themselves into Underground Railroad operatives in the heart of the South, sheltering fugitives who rushed in large numbers to the Yankees’ encampments to escape capture.
- Cartwright’s most horrific nightmares.
- On one of the Union’s railway lines, an abolitionist discovered that the volume of wartime traffic was at an all-time high—except on one of them.
- The number of solo travelers is quite limited.” And it’s possible that New Yorkers were surprised to open their eyes in early 1864.
The accompanying essay, on the other hand, soon put their worries at ease. It described a plan to construct Manhattan’s first subway line, which would run northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park. It was never built.
Tips for Researching the Underground Railroad – National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Primary materials are the most effective approach to gain an understanding of the Underground Railroad and the experiences of freedom seekers and conductors who used it. Sydney Howard Gay, a New York conductor, kept confidential notes on more than 200 political prisoners. William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, wrote the first book on the subject, which was released in 1872 and recounted his experiences assisting freedom seekers. Slave tales, which have been written in excess of 6,000 copies, can also give valuable information.
- Consult the Library of Congress’s collection of almost 2,300 first-person narratives of enslavement, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938
Secondary sources from abolitionists, abolitionist organizations and abolitionist newspapers
These three types of sources may be used to get information on freedom seekers, conductors, and safe houses. You can learn about them by reading their personal letters, diaries, organizational records, and newspaper articles:
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
- The Library of Congress: Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874
- Documenting the American South: Levi Coffin Papers, 1798-1877
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
A slew of novels have been produced about the Underground Railroad, freedom seekers, and conductors, among other subjects. Check out what’s available at your local library or bookshop. A short search on the internet may be beneficial for your study. Check that any books you cite were authored by a credible source, such as John Hope Franklin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Eric Foner, or David Blight, before citing them.
- To get you started, we recommend the following: Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom: The Untold Story of the Underground Railroad is a must-read.
Local and state historical societies
Inquiring with your local or state history organization is an excellent approach to learn whether or if there was Underground Railroad activity in your neighborhood. These folks are experts in all elements of your local or state history, and they are an excellent source of information.
- If you reside in Ohio, you should check out the Ohio History Connection website.
National and state park services
Some Underground Railroad or abolitionist sites may come under the administration of the National Park Agency or a state park service, while others may fall under the control of a private entity. Among other things, the home where Frederick Douglass lived at Cedar Hill is a national historic monument that is overseen by rangers from the National Park Service. nps.gov.
Colleges and universities
It’s possible that local history instructors can assist you in the proper path if you’re not sure where to begin your investigation. Some of them may also be specialists on the history of the Underground Railroad, as well as individual conductors and freedom seekers who took part in it. A number of schools and institutions have created online databases that are devoted to certain historical themes and periods. Here are a few illustrations:
- Eastern Illinois University, the Yale University Macmillan Center: Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, and the Harvard University Hutchins Center for African American Research are among the institutions involved.
The use of libraries, and especially librarians, as a resource for historical study is highly recommended. Choosing the appropriate primary and secondary materials for your assignment is something that librarians are excellent at accomplishing. In addition to books and periodicals, newspapers and databases are among the materials that are frequently available at libraries.
Library of Congress and National Archives
The Library of Congress and the National Archives are two reputable and respected databases to search for information.
In contrast to Google and other public search engines, documents on these websites are subjected to a verification and authentication procedure before being published. Using the search term “Underground Railroad,” you will receive over 40,000 “results” from the Library of Congress.
We believe that interactive learning is an excellent method to educate yourself and your family about the Underground Railroad, and that museums like ours provide a variety of learning opportunities. Look up which museums are nearest to you and make a visit to one of them.
- Tickets to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center can be purchased online
If you’re seeking for a basic introduction to the Underground Railroad, I recommend seeing a well-regarded documentary about the subject matter. You will get an informative and inspirational understanding of the Underground Railroad and William Still, a great American hero, via the viewing of Underground Railroad: The William Still Story.
The Little-Known History of the Underground Railroad in New York
Cyrus Gates House, located in Broome County, New York, was formerly a major station on the Underground Railroad’s route through the country. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons There was a time when New York City wasn’t the liberal Yankee bastion that it is now. When it came to abolitionists and abolitionist politics in the decades preceding up to the Civil War, the city was everything but an epicenter of abolitionism. Banking and shipping interests in the city were tightly related to the cotton and sugar businesses, both of which relied on slave labor to produce their products.
However, even at that time, the Underground Railroad, a network of hidden safe houses and escape routes used by fugitive slaves seeking freedom in the North, passed through the city and into the surrounding countryside.
In New York, however, the full extent of the Underground Railroad’s reach has remained largely unknown, owing to the city’s anti-abolitionist passion.
“This was a community that was strongly pro-Southern, and the Underground Railroad was working in much greater secrecy here than in many other parts of the North, so it was much more difficult to track down the Underground Railroad.”
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
runaway slaves and antislavery campaigners who disobeyed the law to aid them in their quest for freedom are the subjects of this gripping documentary. Eric Foner, more than any other researcher, has had a significant impact on our knowledge of American history. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian has reconfigured the national tale of American slavery and liberation once more, this time with the help of astounding material that has come to light through his research. Foner’s latest book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, describes how New York was a vital way station on the Underground Railroad’s journey from the Upper South to Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York, the New England states and Canada.
- Their narrative represents a phase in the history of resistance to slavery that has gotten only sporadic attention from historians up to this point.
- The existence of the Record of Fugitives, which was collected by abolitionist newspaperman Sydney Howard Gay in New York City, was unknown to researchers until a student informed Foner of its existence.
- A runaway long forgotten, James Jones of Alexandria, according to Gay’s account, “had not been treated cruelly but was bored of being a slave,” according to the records.
- Foner reports that many fugitives ran away because they were being physically abused as much as they did out of a yearning for freedom, using terms such as “huge violence,” “badly treated,” “rough times,” and “hard master” to describe their experiences.
- During the late 1840s, he had risen to the position of the city’s foremost lawyer in runaway slave cases, frequently donating his services without charge, “at tremendous peril to his social and professional status,” according to Gay.
- Agent,” a title that would become synonymous with the Underground Railroad.
- He was an illiterate African-American.
- A number of letters and writs of habeas corpus bearing his name appear later on, as well as some of the most important court cases emerging from the disputed Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
- “He was the important person on the streets of New York, bringing in fugitives, combing the docks, looking for individuals at the train station,” Foner said.
that he had ever been the liberator of 3,000 individuals from bondage.” The author, who used theRecordas a jumping off point to delve deeper into New York’s fugitive slave network, also traces the origins of the New York Vigilance Committee, a small group of white abolitionists and free blacks who formed in 1835 and would go on to form the core of the city’s underground network until the eve of the Civil War.
The New York Vigilance Committee was a small group of white abolitionists and For the duration of its existence, Foner writes, “it drove runaway slaves to the forefront of abolitionist awareness in New York and earned sympathy from many people beyond the movement’s ranks.” It brought the intertwined concerns of kidnapping and fugitive slaves into the wider public consciousness.” The publication of Gateway to Freedom takes the total number of volumes authored by Foner on antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction America to two dozen.
- His previous book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was published in 2012.
- What was the inspiration for this book?
- Everything started with one document, the Record of Fugitives, which was accidentally pointed up to me by a Columbia University student who was writing a senior thesis on Sydney Howard Gay and his journalistic career and happened to mention it to me.
- She was in the manuscript library at Columbia when she mentioned it.
- It was essentially unknown due to the fact that it had not been catalogued in any manner.
- What was the atmosphere like in New York at the time?
- As a result of their tight relationships with cotton plantation owners, this city’s merchants effectively controlled the cotton trade in the region.
The shipbuilding industry, insurance firms, and banks all had a role in the financialization of slavery.
They came to conduct business, but they also came to enjoy themselves.
The free black community and the very tiny band of abolitionists did exist, but it was a challenging setting in which to do their important job.
Routes were available in Ohio and Kentucky.
It was part of a larger network that provided assistance to a large number of fugitives.
It is incorrect to think of the Underground Railroad as a fixed collection of paths.
It wasn’t as if there were a succession of stations and people could just go from one to the next.
It was even more unorganized – or at least less organized – than before.
And after they moved farther north, to Albany and Syracuse, they were in the heart of anti-slavery area, and the terrain became much more amenable to their way of life.
People advertised in the newspaper about assisting escaped slaves, which was a radically different milieu from that of New York City at the time.
The phrase “Underground Railroad” should be interpreted relatively literally, at least toward the conclusion of the book.
Frederick Douglas had just recently boarded a train in Baltimore and traveled to New York.
Ship captains demanded money from slaves in exchange for hiding them and transporting them to the North.
The book also looks at the broader influence that escaped slaves had on national politics in the nineteenth century.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a particularly severe piece of legislation that drew a great deal of controversy in the northern states.
So that’s something else I wanted to emphasize: not only the story of these individuals, but also the way in which their acts had a significant impact on national politics and the outbreak of the Civil War. Activism History of African Americans Videos about American History that are recommended
Honors US History I Chapters 11-12 Test Flashcards
Definitions: In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a succession of laws, mostly in the Southern colonies, were created to define the status of slaves and formalize the denial of fundamental civil rights to them. Black Codes are defined as “laws issued by states and municipalities restricting numerous rights of citizenship to free black people prior to the American Civil War. Identify and describe the living circumstances of slaves authorized by slave owners in response to the following question: 1) Because they were denied even the most fundamental human rights, slavery was a horrendous existence.
As stated in the text, “slaves were not permitted to own property, enter into contracts, possess firearms or alcoholic beverages, legally marry (except in Louisiana), leave plantations without the written permission of the plantation owner, or testify in court against their masters or any other white person” (306).
- According to the book, “the slaves subsisted mostly on rations of cornmeal, salt pork, vegetables they produced in little garden pots, and the odd captures of game and fish.” In terms of vitamins and minerals, this diet was frequently deficient” (306).
- They had continual, unpleasant work to complete, and they were frightened of being whipped if they did not do anything exactly as they were told to do it.
- Despite the fact that the former kind was treated the most harshly (as the other two were granted such things as extra rations, weekends off, an allowance to visit other plantations, earning money, etc.) When compared to whites, the living conditions of slaves were deplorable on all counts.
- When confronted with the horrendous conditions in which they were forced to live, the slaves found strength in their faith and in their families.
Both a mother and a father were present in two-thirds of slave families (the remaining one-third was absent because of death or separation), and this helped their families succeed because “slave fathers struggled to help feed their families by hunting and fishing, [and] they risked beating and death to defend their wives from sexual abuse by the overseer or master” (307).
- Because slave families were so robust, there existed “a support network for the vulnerable slave family,” according to historians.
- As a result, slaves were able to find consolation in their difficult circumstances.
- Although there were many various faiths among the slaves, as their forefathers brought a variety of them over, Christianity eventually became the religion of 20% of the slave population, a significant increase from the previous figure of 5%.
- Slaves relied on their religious beliefs as well as their families for support in overcoming their situation.
- Even though they were seldom successful, slave rebellions did occur, and they gave slaves a feeling of self-respect and dignity in their own right.
- Prosser, a slave preacher and blacksmith, was imprisoned at this location for organizing a revolt against the city of Richmond, Virginia.
Approximately a decade after the Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion in New Orleans, the United States Army crushed them, murdering more than 60 slaves and placing “of the leading rebels posted on poles along the Mississippi River to warn others of the punishment that awaited rebellious blacks” (309).
Vesey’s plot, on the other hand, was defeated as a result of two slaves betraying him.
Nat Turner’s Insurrection was yet another instance of slave rebellion, in which Turner, a literate field laborer, planned a murderous spree of white men as a result of prophetic visions he had seen in the night sky.
The Underground Railroad, as a last piece of proof for slave resistance, was discovered in 1857.
The slaves in this location are defying their owners and fleeing on their own initiative in order to obtain their freedom. 1,000 slaves every year are liberated from their lords thanks to this approach.
Underground Railroad in Iowa
Initially funded by the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program in 2002, the Iowa Network to Freedom project, which investigated persons and locations involved with the Underground Railroad in Iowa, became the Iowa Freedom Trail Project in 2003. After a five-year period of grant funding, volunteers have continued to collect information from historical resources and compile it into a form containing general information, such as biographical data, resource references, associated properties, and researcher information, among other things, to be used by the public.
- Individuals (by name)
- Individuals (by county)
- Places (by county)
- Research Files (by county)
- Inventory of Individuals (by name)
- Inventory of Places (by county)
- Inventory of Research Files
If you have any concerns concerning the Iowa Freedom Trail Project, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Researching Underground Railroad Activity
Since 2002, volunteers at the State Historical Society of Iowa have been doing research into the Underground Railroad’s presence in the state. The research and biographical form instructions can be found here. If you are interested in researching Underground Railroad activity in Iowa and have access to historical documents and primary sources, please review the instructions for submitting a research and biographical form to learn how you can contribute to the project.
- Instructions for the Research and Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
- Sample Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
Iowa and the Underground Railroad
Beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Underground Railroad was a network of people who assisted runaway slaves in their attempts to escape slavery. It included both northern and southern states, spanning from Texas all the way up to Maine. The vast majority of runaway slaves fled to Canada from the Deep South, although a minor number journeyed further south to Mexico and the Caribbean. Due to the fact that slaves were considered property in the United States at the time, helping runaway slaves was deemed larceny under American law at the time.
Prior to the American Revolution, slavery was lawful across the British Empire, including the United States.
These principles would transform the lives of black people, and many of them fought in the American Revolution in the hope that these rights would be given to them as well.
Vermont became the first state in the new United States of America to pass anti-slavery legislation after the British were defeated in the Revolutionary War in 1777.
Apart from that, there were no laws in the newly created United States that forced civilians to return fugitive slaves to their owners.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution both stated similar views on the subject at the time.
Taking it a step further, the Fleeing Slave Act of 1850 declared aiding and abetting fugitive slaves a federal felony punishable by penalties or jail.
As the Underground Railroad network began to take shape, people began to fill a number of positions inside it.
Fugitive slaves were often referred to as passengers, cargo, fleece, or freight when they were on the run.
Others choose to play a more passive role.
The modes of transportation used varied from one region to the next, and were mostly determined by concealment and closeness to slave hunters.
In contrast to this, the majority of fleeing slaves travelled at night, particularly in towns with ambivalent sentiments regarding slavery.
In the middle of the night, conductors would walk or ride horses to the next station to transport them.
Because of its physical proximity between Missouri, a slave state to the south, and Illinois, a free state to the east, Iowa saw a substantial amount of Underground Railroad activity during this period.
That meant that when Iowa became a state in the Union in 1846, it would be a free state.
Most fugitive slaves crossed through Iowa on their route to other free states farther north or to Canada, where Britain would protect them from being arrested and returned to slavery.
Southeastern Iowa was also home to a large number of fugitive slaves from northern Missouri who were making their way to the Mississippi River and Illinois.
Numerous Iowans also became involved in the growing political opposition to the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which culminated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and granted Kansas and Nebraska the authority to determine their own slave-holding status.
You may get further information about the history of the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movements in Iowa and other states by clicking here. Take a look at the resources listed below.
- Beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Underground Railroad was a network of people who assisted runaway slaves in their attempts to flee slavery. Between Texas and Maine, it stretched over northern and southern states. While the vast majority of fugitive slaves fled to Canada, a small number made their way south to Mexico and the Caribbean islands. Because they were legally considered property at the time, helping fugitive slaves was deemed larceny under U.S. law during that time frame. Anyone found guilty of supporting an escaped slave might face a fine as well as imprisonment. The institution of slavery was lawful across the British Empire prior to the American Revolution. It happened after the Enlightenment period, when people came to believe in and advocate for the notion of a person’s right to life, liberty, and property. In the minds of black people, these values would transform their lives, and many fought in the American Revolution in the hopes that these rights would be given to them as well. Slavery was questioned by many early American colonists, prompting the emergence of the abolitionist movement in response to their beliefs. Vermont was the first state to join the newly formed United States of America with anti-slavery legislation after the British were defeated in the American Revolutionary War in 1775. By 1780, Pennsylvania had followed suit, and by 1804 all northern states had done the same. The newly founded United States also did not have any laws requiring individuals to return fugitive slaves to their owners. Laws mandating the return of fugitive slaves were enacted, however, out of concern for property rights. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution both stated identical views on the subject at the time of their adoption. A provision in the Constitution known as the “fugitive slave clause” states that “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws of that State, who escapes into another, shall, as a result of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall, upon the Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due, be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.” Abolishing slavery was strengthened by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which granted slaveholders the power to retrieve runaway slaves and granted judges the authority to determine the legal status of fugitive slaves. Taking it a step further, the Fleeing Slave Act of 1850 declared aiding and abetting fugitive slaves a federal felony punishable by penalties and jail. Treason charges might be brought against those who are proven guilty in some instances. A number of positions were filled within the Underground Railroad network as the network came into being. Among the slave networks, station masters, for example, concealed slaves in their homes or on their land, which was known to as a station or depot by those who worked in it. Fleecing slaves were referred to as passengers, cargo, fleece, and freight when they were on the run. It was the responsibility of Underground Railroad conductors to guide runaway slaves via the Underground Railroad routes or tracks. Others were more passive in their participation. General agents, for example, connected fleeing slaves to persons who could assist them on the Underground Railroad, and investors contributed to the Underground Railroad network’s financial well-being. Depending on the locale, transportation techniques varied and were mostly dictated by concealment and closeness to slave hunters, among other considerations. When fleeing slaves were carried during the day in covered wagons, they were generally disguised under hay or other items of value in villages that were nearly completely anti-slavery. In contrast to this, the majority of fleeing slaves travelled at night, especially in towns with ambivalent sentiments regarding slavery. They remained in near-constant concealment in numerous locations, which included fields and secret chambers in private homes. Nighttime transportation was provided by walking or horseback conductors, who transported them to the next location. In addition to buses, trains were sometimes utilized, but this was less frequent due to the high cost and careful supervision. Given its physical proximity to Missouri, a slave state to the south, and Illinois, a free state to the east, Iowa had a substantial amount of Underground Railroad activity during this period. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 also stated that no state north of the 36°30′ parallel (apart from Missouri) could be admitted as a slave state into the United States of America. In other words, when Iowa became a state in 1846, it would be a free one. Some settlers in Iowa did not believe slavery was wrong, but many did, and many of those who did came from neighboring free states or were linked with religious groups such as the Quakers and Congregationalists, who were outspoken in their opposition to the institution. Fugitive slaves sometimes went through Iowa on their route to other free states farther north or to Canada, where Britain would protect them from being returned if they were caught. The majority of Underground Railroad action in Iowa took occurred in Fremont and Mills counties, when runaway slaves journeyed from western Missouri to escape their captors. Many fleeing slaves from northern Missouri made their way to the Mississippi River and Illinois through southeastern Iowa, as well. During the 1850s, large Underground Railroad stations were established at Tabor and Civil Bend, both in western Iowa. There were many Iowans who became involved in the growing political opposition to the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which culminated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise while granting Kansas and Nebraska the authority to determine their own slave-holding status. Do you want to learn more about the history of the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movements in Iowa and beyond? Look no further. See the links below for further information.