What is the Underground Railroad about in the Underground Railroad?
- Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, a runaway slave who travels from state to state on railroad cars physically under the ground of the American South. Persuaded by a fellow slave named Caesar, Cora escapes from the Georgia plantation where she was born and travels north,
What was the social impact of the Underground Railroad?
The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North.
What challenges did passengers on the Underground Railroad face?
Traveling along the Underground Railroad was a long a perilous journey for fugitive slaves to reach their freedom. Runaway slaves had to travel great distances, many times on foot, in a short amount of time. They did this with little or no food and no protection from the slave catchers chasing them.
What were some signals on the Underground Railroad?
Certain Songs were sung as symbols of Underground Railway members. “All Clear” was conveyed in safe houses using a lighted lantern in a certain place as this symbol. Knocks on doors used a coded series of taps as symbols of identity. Certain items, such as a quilt, were hung on a clothesline.
What is the message of the Underground Railroad?
-Harriet Tubman, 1896. The Underground Railroad—the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape.
Why was the Underground Railroad significant?
The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ample evidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to African American philosophy.
Why was the Underground Railroad so successful?
The success of the Underground Railroad rested on the cooperation of former runaway slaves, free-born blacks, Native Americans, and white and black abolitionists who helped guide runaway slaves along the routes and provided their homes as safe havens.
Why did Harriet Tubman wear a bandana?
As was the custom on all plantations, when she turned eleven, she started wearing a bright cotton bandana around her head indicating she was no longer a child. She was also no longer known by her “basket name”, Araminta. Now she would be called Harriet, after her mother.
How did Underground Railroad lead to civil war?
The Underground Railroad physically resisted the repressive laws that held slaves in bondage. By provoking fear and anger in the South, and prompting the enactment of harsh legislation that eroded the rights of white Americans, the Underground Railroad was a direct contributing cause of the Civil War.
How did the Underground Railroad affect the African Americans?
The Underground Railroad was established to aid enslaved people in their escape to freedom. The railroad was comprised of dozens of secret routes and safe houses originating in the slaveholding states and extending all the way to the Canadian border, the only area where fugitives could be assured of their freedom.
What were two common terms known to be associated with the Underground Railroad?
The code words often used on the Underground Railroad were: “tracks” (routes fixed by abolitionist sympathizers); “stations” or “depots” (hiding places); “conductors” (guides on the Underground Railroad); “agents” (sympathizers who helped the slaves connect to the Railroad); “station masters” (those who hid slaves in
How were runaway slaves caught?
Other slaves seeking freedom relied upon canoes. Some runaways pretended to be free blacks, Native Americans, or whites. Runaway slaves who were caught typically were whipped and sometimes shackled. Some masters sold recovered runaway slaves who repeatedly defied their efforts at control.
What does the code word liberty lines mean?
Other code words for slaves included “freight,” “passengers,” “parcels,” and “bundles.” Liberty Lines – The routes followed by slaves to freedom were called “liberty lines” or “freedom trails.” Routes were kept secret and seldom discussed by slaves even after their escape.
Why do you think the author chose to portray a literal railroad?
This aspect of the story made the actual underground railroad come alive in a way.. it showed the links of people hiding people across the south, risking their lives for the freedom of others.
Is the Underground Railroad appropriate for high school students?
Supporting the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in reading literature for high school curriculums, The Underground Railroad is an appropriate selection for grades eleven and twelve in language arts or U.S. history classes.
The Underground Railroad
Keri Wallace’s Colson Whitehead is a fictional character. Overview The Underground Railroad, written by Colson Whitehead, is the story of Cora, a slave girl who escapes bondage in Georgia and embarks on a physical and emotional journey. The Underground Railroad is something Cora is looking for after a particularly traumatic event. She is following in the footsteps of her mother who fled before her, and she chooses to go out with fellow literate slave Caesar to look for it. While traveling over the Underground Railroad in this story, Cora and Caesar get assistance from black and white conductors and station agents as they go farther along their journey.
Colson Whitehead began writing his novel, The Underground Railroad, in 2015, after sixteen years of deliberating on how to address the topic of slavery via fiction.
In the end, he decided on a female protagonist because he wanted to portray not just a complicated mother-daughter relationship, but also the special problems of female slaves who, by the age of fourteen, were typically considered ‘breeding material’ for the colony’s livestock.
This policing is exposed through evidence that is addressed in the novel’s setting, which includes the roots of contemporary policing, the Black Lives Matter Movement, the American eugenics movement, and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
In an interview with Time Magazine, Whitehead admits that he’d had the concept for a while, but that Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement are part of a “periodic eruption” in which “we truly are thinking about race in a different manner.” In spite of the fact that Whitehead did not intend The Underground Railroad to be a critique on these specific events, the novel is still a criticism on current police violence.
“The patroller required no cause to halt a person of race” and “Rogue blacks who would not surrender may be shot,” says Martin, an agent of the Underground Railroad, as he hides Cora in his attic.
Not by chance, there is a striking connection between the story and contemporary police.
Kappeler, Associate Dean of the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, “Slave patrols and Night Watches, both of which evolved into current police forces, were both created to regulate the conduct of minorities.” Because of the Fugitive Slave Laws, they were able to carry out their activities.
- Its mission is to campaign against such behavior.
- It is also via the state’s control of black reproduction and fertility that the policing of black bodies takes shape.
- The eugenics movement, which advocated for lowering the birth rates of women of color, first appeared in the early 1900s and gradually faded away as the Nazi affiliation was discredited during World War II (Rivard and Bouche).
- Weinberger was decided in 1974, it was a landmark case involving two destitute African American sisters, aged 14 and 12, who were sterilized after their illiterate mother signed a “X” on paperwork that she assumed would allow them to obtain birth control injections (Bridgewater, 408).
- Because of the social Darwinist ideology that certain individuals were more fit than others, the handicapped, criminals, the destitute, and minority women were singled out for persecution.
The true “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” which began in 1932 and was conducted undercover by the United States Public Health Service, with the true purpose of the study remaining hidden from the study’s participants as well as the general public until the study’s conclusion in the late 1970s.
Rather than socioeconomic considerations, these academics felt the spread of a disease that was threatening the survival of the race was due to the lustful appetites of black people, saying that “improved medical treatment could not alter the evolutionary plan” (Brandt 22).
Themes and Design Styles With the intention of providing a “easy way to frame it for people,” Whitehead’s third-person narrative is written in accordance with the time-tested structure of Gulliver’s Travels and the Odyssey, in which the main character is tested through a series of “allegorical episodes,” which Whitehead describes in detail.
- Cora’s varied struggles and tribulations serve to show the different ways in which black bodies are dominated, ultimately leading to her own spiritual enlightenment.
- While working on an exhibit in South Carolina that is intended to provide a look into the history of black lives for white audiences, Cora is subjected to the disapproving and indifferent gazes of visitors.
- Also noteworthy is the fact that white children were present during the minstrel show that was conducted in the “North Carolina” chapter prior to the lynching.
- The museum display and minstrel show are deceiving because they sanitize the genuine brutalities of slavery and eliminate opportunities to create sympathy for those who are witnessing them.
- It all starts with Cora’s grandmother Ajarry cultivating a garden near the slave hut in order to protect the survival of her family.
- When a new slave constructed a doghouse in the heart of her plot without the assistance of the other slaves, Cora slashed it with an ax, with the dog within just escaping with his life.
- In addition to sealing her spot in the Hob, the farm’s cabin for troubled female slaves, her unexpected and violent revenge conveyed a strong message of independence to the other slaves on the estate.
However, after personally suffering at the hands of one of her slave owners and seeing brutality for the final time, she acts on the belief that she has experienced enough bondage despite this knowledge.
Anyone who deviates from the accepted norm is considered insane by the majority of people in society.
An additional tragedy that slavery brought about was the creation of negative perceptions about black women, which made it easier to govern their lives.
Cora was exiled to The Hob, where she joined the ranks of the other insane slave females.
If you look at Cora, for example, she was raped by her fellow slaves because she had no one to defend her and because there were others who were aware she might be used.
Kropp, et al.
Because of the inherent promiscuity of female slaves, they were raped by their masters and later exploited to legitimize the institutional control over their bodies.
It is frequently carried out by an unreasonable white majority in society.
Additionally, the “Freedom Trail” serves as a darker metaphor for all of the martyrs and sacrifices that have been and will continue to be made before African Americans may gain their independence.
Several inhabitants’ comments about the colony’s existence, made before the catastrophe happened, hinted that the hamlet will be destroyed by its dissatisfied neighbors in the not too distant future.
As opposed to approaching or accepting assistance from the two white parties who pass her by, Cora decides to place her trust in the third, an old black wagon driver with “gentle eyes.” As a result of witnessing her loved ones being slaughtered in the Indiana massacre, Cora prefers to go with the black parties rather than risking her life by traveling with the white parties, which the reader believes is the implicitly correct decision.
The Need for Critical Conversation The Underground Railroad is frequently praised for its critical and realistic portrayal of slavery, and it was finally awarded a National Book Award for its eloquent treatment of the subject matter.
The National Review’s senior editor, Jay Nordlinger, acknowledges the brilliance of the prose that Whitehead has written, but argues that the author has transformed himself into a “social-studies instructor, with one didactic paragraph after another.” Cora is reduced to the status of a point of view rather than an actual character.
Following that, Cora’s response is a thoughtful, but straightforward acknowledgement that slaves are aware of the threat their numbers pose to the white population.
This reasoning is devoid of any emotional content whatsoever.
A tragic view of history is expressed by writer Kakutani in a book review published in The New York Times, as it applies to The Underground Railroad: “the past is never dead.” “It hasn’t even passed yet.” The themes in the work, despite the fact that they are set in the past, speak to the different difficulties that the black community is currently facing.
- Keeping their movements restricted is essential for the survival of young black males, revealing that black freedom is still plagued by the prospect of death.
- In tackling these concerns with an unrelenting picture of violence, Whitehead defines The Underground Railroadas a modern slave story, as opposed to other slave narratives.
- Because they did not want to risk being accused of telling “inflammatory” or “improbable” stories, the writers did not go into the “sordid specifics of their encounter” (Morrison 87,90).
- It is explicitly stated in the book about the costs of slavery, including descriptions of the gruesome ‘Freedom Trail’ and appalling slave punishments, that the Underground Railroad existed.
- Furthermore, the odyssey-like structure with an uncertain ending differs from the consistent happy ending that is eventually reached by the characters.
- Acknowledging and acknowledging these inconsistencies is an important step in the healing process for the United States.
- “America’s Hidden History: The Eugenics Movement,” a book published by the University of California Press.
“Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” by Allan M.
It was published in The Hastings Center Report, volume 8, number 6, on pages 21–29.
Bridgewater’s article “Legal Stories and the Promise of Problematizing Reproductive Rights” is available online.
402–414, is a peer-reviewed journal.
Kappeler’s “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing” is a brief history of slavery and the origins of American policing.
Leigh Guldig is the author of Guldig.
The New Yorker is a publication dedicated to journalism.
Toni Morrison’s “The Site of Memory” is included in Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, 2nd edition, edited by William Zinsser.
“The Underground Railroad: A Novel with a Difficulty Winning a Pulitzer Prize.” National Review, vol.
National Review, 11 April 2017, available at nationalreview.com.
Volscho’s article, “Sterilization Racism and Pan-Ethnic Disparities of the Past Decade: The Continued Encroachment on Reproductive Rights,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
17–31 in Wicazo Sa Review, vol.
“6 Questions for Colson Whitehead, Author of The Underground Railroad.” Radhika Jones conducts an interview time.com/4447972/colson-whitehead-the-underground-railroad/ on August 11, 2016.
Colson and Whitehead A conversation with Colson Whitehead on abolitionists, success, and writing the novel that scared him to death.
nytimes.com, August 2, 2016, accessed November 1, 2017.
David Bianculli and Terry Gross conducted the interview.
Transcript of a radio broadcast.
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a must-read.
Journal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol.
Celeste Walley-Jean is a model and actress.
Gender Families, vol.
2, 2009, pp.
Black Women, Gender Families Landman, W.
“Journal of Medical Ethics.” Journal of Medical Ethics, vol.
3, 2002, pp.
“Journal of Medical Ethics.” Journal of Medical Ethics, vol.
3, 2002, pp.
“The Mules of the World,” by Stacey Patton, is available online.
A review of the book in The Women’s Review of Books, vol. 28, no. 1, 2011, pp. 3–5. Keywords Stereotypes of Black Females Freedom for the African-American Community CoraSlavery The Underground Railroad is a term used to describe a system of transportation that allows people to flee their homes.
6 Strategies Harriet Tubman and Others Used to Escape Along the Underground Railroad
Despite the horrors of slavery, the decision to run was not an easy one. Sometimes escaping meant leaving behind family and embarking on an adventure into the unknown, where harsh weather and a shortage of food may be on the horizon. Then there was the continual fear of being apprehended. On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, so-called slave catchers and their hounds were on the prowl, apprehending runaways — and occasionally free Black individuals likeSolomon Northup — and taking them back to the plantation where they would be flogged, tortured, branded, or murdered.
In total, close to 100,000 Black individuals were able to flee slavery in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
The majority, on the other hand, chose to go to the Northern free states or Canada.
1: Getting Help
Although fleeing slavery was a difficult choice, it was necessary. Sometimes escaping meant leaving behind family and embarking on an adventure into the unknown, where harsh weather and a shortage of food may be on the horizon. Furthermore, the continual possibility of capture loomed over the group. So-called slave catchers and their hounds scoured both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, apprehending runaways—and occasionally free Black individuals likeSolomon Northup—and taking them back to the plantation, where they would be flogged, tortured, branded, or murdered, depending on the circumstances.
It’s estimated that up to 100,000 African-Americans were freed from slavery in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
The majority, on the other hand, chose to migrate to the Northern free states or to Canada instead.
Tubman developed a number of other methods during the course of her career to keep her pursuers at arm’s length. For starters, she preferred to operate during the winter months when the longer evenings allowed her to cover more land. Also, she wanted to go on Saturday because she knew that no announcements about runaways would appear in the papers until the following Monday (since there was no paper on Sunday.) Tubman carried a handgun, both for safety and to scare people under her care who were contemplating retreating back to civilization.
The railroad engineer would subsequently claim that “I never drove my train off the track” and that he “never lost a passenger.” Tubman frequently disguised herself in order to return to Maryland on a regular basis, appearing as a male, an old lady, or a middle-class free black, depending on the occasion.
- They may, for example, approach a plantation under the guise of a slave in order to apprehend a gang of escaped slaves.
- Some of the sartorial efforts were close to brilliance.
- They traveled openly by rail and boat, surviving numerous near calls along the way and eventually making it to the North.
- After dressing as a sailor and getting aboard the train, he tried to trick the conductor by flashing his sailor’s protection pass, which he had obtained from an accomplice.
Enslaved women have hidden in attics and crawlspaces for as long as seven years in order to evade their master’s unwelcome sexual approaches. Another confined himself to a wooden container and transported himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, where abolitionists were gathered.
4: Codes, Secret Pathways
Circa 1887, Harriet Tubman (far left) is shown with her family and neighbors at her home in Auburn, New York. Photograph courtesy of MPI/Getty Images The Underground Railroad was almost non-existent in the Deep South, where only a small number of slaves were able to flee. While there was less pro-slavery attitude in the Border States, individuals who assisted enslaved persons there still faced the continual fear of being ratted out by their neighbors and punished by the law enforcement authorities.
In the case of an approaching fugitive, for example, the stationmaster may get a letter referring to them as “bundles of wood” or “parcels.” The terms “French leave” and “patter roller” denoted a quick departure, whilst “slave hunter” denoted a slave hunter.
5: Buying Freedom
The Underground Railroad, on the other hand, functioned openly and shamelessly for long of its duration, despite the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which prescribed heavy fines for anybody proven to have helped runaways. Stationmasters in the United States claimed to have sheltered thousands of escaped slaves, and their activities were well documented. A former enslaved man who became a stationmaster in Syracuse, New York, even referred to himself in writing as the “keeper of the Underground Railroad depot” in his hometown of Syracuse, New York.
At times, abolitionists would simply purchase the freedom of an enslaved individual, as they did in the case of Sojourner Truth.
Besides that, they worked to sway public opinion by funding talks by Truth and other former slaves to convey the miseries of bondage to public attention.
The Underground Railroad volunteers would occasionally band together in large crowds to violently rescue fleeing slaves from captivity and terrify slave catchers into going home empty-handed if all else failed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, John Brown was one among those who advocated for the use of brutal force. Abolitionist leader John Brown led a gang of armed abolitionists into Missouri before leading a failed uprising in Harpers Ferry, where they rescued 11 enslaved individuals and murdered an enslaver.
Brown was followed by pro-slavery troops throughout the voyage.
The Underground Railroad
Because of the accounts written by former slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad, very little information about their journey and their experiences at their destinations has survived to the present day. As a result of the concentrated efforts of both black and white abolitionists in our community, we have been able to piece together a more complex narrative than is typical in a small town. Basil Dorsey, Henry Anthony, John Brown, John Williams, Stephen C. Rush, Lewis French, Joseph Willson and Ezekiel Cooper were among the self-emancipated (escaped) former slaves who sought refuge in Northampton prior to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, which drastically altered the landscape of the fugitive slave trade.
- Hill, Moses Breck, and Samuel Parsons conveyed escaped slaves on their treks north during the American Civil War.
- Springfield, Westfield, and Southampton were the starting points.
- The Ross Family’s Homestead This country’s history can be more extensive and complex because of the availability of information regarding the runaway slaves who traveled here to seek refuge.
- Following the arrival in this area of UGRR agent David Ruggles, once New York City’s most daring UGRR agent, and entrepreneur J.P.
- Given the large number of former slaves who chose to remain, we know a great deal about their life.
- The federal census of 1850, which had far more information than the census of 1840, reveals that many blacks born in the South felt secure enough to reveal their genuine birthplaces to government officials.
- We discover that other families, all of whom were thought to be former slaves, were residing with people who were now property owners, as well as with free blacks such as Sarah Askin and Timothy Harley, among others.
- However, we also have the recollections of those who, at the start of the twentieth century, recognized that this was an important narrative that needed to be preserved and passed it on.
- Hill’s memoir “Anti-Slavery Days in Florence,” Joseph Marsh’s “Underground Railroad in Florence,” B.S.
We are honored to be a part of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom operated by the United States National Park Service. Please join us in extensively exploring these tales, both online and in our David Ruggles Center LibraryArchives. We look forward to seeing you there.
The true story behind The Underground Railroad
When author Colson Whitehead writes the novel The Underground Railroad, he ingeniously makes literal the metaphorical network of the Underground Railroad, the 19th century network of clandestine channels and safe houses established by abolitionists to assist enslaved people fleeing the Deep South and seeking refuge in the free states of the Northern United States. With an underground platform accessible by a trapdoor, a decaying box car being carried through subterranean tracks by a steam engine, and the presence of a semi-mythic conductor on board, Whitehead’s figurative, fantasy railroad is a work of art in its own right.
Following the epic journey of resilient heroine Cora (portrayed by Thuso Mbedu), a young enslaved girl who escapes from a plantation and discovers the underground railway, stopping off on the steam locomotive at various dangerous Southern States in a desperate bid for freedom, the story is told in flashback.
The film follows Cora as she travels across the United States.
Ridgeway, portrayed by Joel Edgerton, is a persistent slave catcher who is determined to bring Cora back to the plantation from which she fled.
Amazon In spite of the fact that the first episode of The Underground Railroadfeatures depictions of torture and punishment that are graphic and violent, Jenkins is said to have softened Whitehead’s pages, which are soaked in trauma and brutality, in order to avoid creating something exploitative or triggering for viewers.
I’m hoping that it will help to re-contextualize rather than perpetuate prejudices about my ancestors that have been permitted to endure over the years of research.”
The true story of the Underground Railroad
Because of the growing opposition to slavery in the early 1800s, sympathetic parties began to develop and organize a secret network to assist enslaved people in their escape from the Deep South and into the free states of the North – or, for those who didn’t trust America, into free Canada – through the Underground Railroad. It is believed that the network has assisted over 100,000 persons in their attempts to flee slavery (BBC). It is believed that the railroad was most active between 1810 and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1862, and that its members included “conductors,” who guided fugitive people on the run, and “stationmasters,” who hid the absconders in schoolhouses or their homes, which were code named “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots,” respectively.
- The vast majority of the operators led regular lives as farmers, teachers, business owners or clergy.
- After escaping from a plantation in Maryland in 1849, Tubman returned multiple times to save the lives of fellow fugitives from slavery.
- Colson Whitehead describes the history of the Underground Railroad and how it served as inspiration for the plot of his award-winning novel, The Underground Railroad.
- When slaves were transported north by ship or in the back of their wagons, they were given money, they were hidden, and they were assisted in crossing rivers.
- The underground railroad was not a physical network, but rather a social network of people who came together to assist one another.
- Awakening is a work by Simone Padovani.
They often plotted their escape at night, with the North Star as their only source of navigation and guidance.
The Fugitive Slave Act
It was initially passed in the Deep South in 1793 and gave local governments the authority to “apprehend and extradite recapture and return escapees from inside the limits of free states back to their point of origin” (History). Those who sought to assist their escape were subjected to severe punishment by their masters. Bounty hunters who converted to slave catchers, such as the vicious Ridgeway in Whitehead’s novel, made a lucrative profession out of capturing Cora and returning her to a plantation in Georgia as a result of this conduct.
Originally passed in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was intended to strengthen the existing legislation, which citizens in the southern states believed was not being effectively enforced.
Some Underground Railroad conductors migrated to Canada in order to greet and assist the fugitives in their new home.
After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, it was announced that “all individuals kept as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforth shall be free.” This was approximately the time that the subterranean railroad had ceased operations, and the results of its labor were brought to light as a visible aspect of the Union fight against the Confederacy.
Tubman played a crucial part in the rescue of the newly freed enslaved people as she directed intelligence operations and served as a commanding officer in Union Army operations – becoming the first woman in US history to do so – and became the first woman to command a military expedition (The National Geographic).
In Jenkins’ words, “slavery is a historical fact that we don’t want to face because of the shame and trauma associated with it.” “It’s almost like it’s something America tries to hide, and this program gives us a chance to see individuals for who they really are.” This endeavor took place during a period in which the phrase “Make America Great Again” was popular.
The show’s creators believe that “there has to be some kind of vacuum or void” because “if you can say ‘Make America Great Again,’ you have plainly failed to accept what America was and has been for centuries.” On Friday, May 14th, The Underground Railroadwill be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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Myths About the Underground Railroad
It was initially approved in the Deep South in 1793 and gave local governments the authority to “apprehend and extradite recapture and return escapees from inside the limits of free states to their point of origin” (History). Escape attempts from slave owners were met with harsh punishments by their masters. Bounty hunters who converted to slave catchers, such as the vicious Ridgeway in Whitehead’s novel, made a profitable career out of capturing Cora and returning her to a plantation in Georgia as a result of this legislation.
- Originally passed in 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was intended to strengthen the existing legislation, which citizens in the southern states believed was not being properly enforced.
- In order to greet and assist the fugitive slaves in their new home, several Underground Railroad conductors migrated to Canada.
- On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed that “all people held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforth shall be,” free from slavery.
- The involvement of Tubman was crucial, as she oversaw intelligence operations and assumed leadership of Union Army operations – becoming the first woman in US history to do so – in the rescue of freshly emancipated enslaved people.
- Courtesy Despite the fact that Donald Trump was still in power at the time of filming, Barry Jenkins has stated that the phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ served as a reminder of how vital it was to have his series done and for people to finally confront this awful chapter in America’s past.
- ” At the time of this endeavor, the phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ was prominent in the political discourse.
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The Railroad in Lore
Following is a brief list of some of the most frequent myths regarding the Underground Railroad, which includes the following examples: 1. It was administered by well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers. 2. The Underground Railroad was active throughout the southern United States. Most runaway slaves who managed to make their way north took refuge in secret quarters hidden in attics or cellars, while many more managed to escape through tunnels. Fourteenth, slaves made so-called “freedom quilts,” which they displayed outside their homes’ windows to signal fugitives to the whereabouts of safe houses and safe ways north to freedom.
When slaves heard the spiritual “Steal Away,” they knew Harriet Tubman was on her way to town, or that an ideal opportunity to run was approaching.
scholars like Larry Gara, who wrote The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad and Blight, among other works, have worked tirelessly to address all of these problems, and I’ll outline the proper answers based on their work, and the work of others, at the conclusion of this piece.
A Meme Is Born
As Blight correctly points out, the railroad has proven to be one of the most “enduring and popular strands in the fabric of America’s national historical memory.” Since the end of the nineteenth century, many Americans, particularly in New England and the Midwest, have either made up legends about the deeds of their ancestors or simply repeated stories that they have heard about their forebears.
It’s worth taking a look at the history of the phrase “Underground Railroad” before diving into those tales, though.
Tice Davids was a Kentucky slave who managed to escape to Ohio in 1831, and it is possible that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was invented as a result of his successful escape.
According to Blight, he is believed to have said that Davids had vanished as though “the nigger must have gone off on an underground railroad.” This is a fantastic narrative — one that would be worthy of Richard Pryor — but it is improbable, given that train lines were non-existent at the time.
The fleeing slave from Washington, D.C., who was tortured and forced to testify that he had been taken north, where “the railroad extended underground all the way to Boston,” according to one report from 1839, was captured.
constructed from Mason and Dixon’s to the Canada line, upon which fugitives from slavery might come pouring into this province” is the first time the term appears.
14, 1842, in the Liberator, a date that may be supported by others who claim that abolitionist Charles T. Torrey invented the phrase in 1842, according to abolitionist Charles T. Torrey. As David Blight points out, the phrase did not become widely used until the mid-1840s, when it was first heard.
Myth Battles Counter-Myth
Historically, the appeal of romance and fantasy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over what the Civil War was all about — burying Lost Cause mythology deep in the national psyche and eventually propelling the racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a handy weapon in the stories of the Underground Railroad to accomplish this goal.
Immediately following the fall of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to purportedly uneducated or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for independence was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a poor and nameless “inferior” race.
Siebert questioned practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even flew to Canada to interview former slaves who had traced their own pathways from the South to freedom as part of his investigation.
In the words of David Blight, Siebert “crafted a popular tale of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey to freedom.”
Truth Reveals Unheralded Heroism
That’s a little amount of history; what about those urban legends? The answers are as follows: It cannot be overstated that the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement itself were possibly the first examples in American history of a truly multiracial alliance, and the role played by the Quakers in its success cannot be overstated. Despite this, it was primarily controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, with the most notable exception being the famous Philadelphian William Still, who served as its president.
- The Underground Railroad was made possible by the efforts of white and black activists such as Levi Coffin, Thomas Garrett, Calvin Fairbank, Charles Torrey, Harriet Tubman and Still, all of whom were true heroes.
- Because of the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the railroad’s growth did not take place until after that year.
- After all, it was against the law to help slaves in their attempts to emancipate themselves.
- Being an abolitionist or a conductor on the Underground Railroad, according to the historian Donald Yacovone, “was about as popular and hazardous as being a member of the Communist Party in 1955,” he said in an email to me.
- The Underground Railroad was predominantly a phenomena of the Northern United States.
- For the most part, fugitive slaves were left on their own until they were able to cross the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon Line and thereby reach a Free State.
- For fugitives in the North, well-established routes and conductors existed, as did some informal networks that could transport fugitives from places such as the abolitionists’ office or houses in Philadelphia to other locations north and west.
(where slavery remained legal until 1862), as well as in a few locations throughout the Upper South, some organized support was available.
I’m afraid there aren’t many.
Furthermore, few dwellings in the North were equipped with secret corridors or hidden rooms where slaves might be hidden.
What about freedom quilts?
The only time a slave family had the resources to sew a quilt was to shelter themselves from the cold, not to relay information about alleged passages on the Underground Railroad that they had never visited.
As we will discover in a future column, the danger of treachery about individual escapes and collective rebellions was much too large for escape plans to be publicly shared.5.
No one has a definitive answer.
According to Elizabeth Pierce, an administrator at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the figure might be as high as 100,000, but that appears to be an overstatement.
We may put these numbers into context by noting that there were 3.9 million slaves and only 488,070 free Negroes in 1860 (with more than half of them still living in the South), whereas there were 434,495 free Negroes in 1850 (with more than half still living in the South).
The fact that only 101 fleeing slaves ever produced book-length “slave narratives” describing their servitude until the conclusion of the Civil War is also significant to keep in mind while thinking about this topic.
However, just a few of them made it to safety.
How did the fugitive get away?
John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, as summarized by Blight, “80 percent of these fugitives were young guys in their teens and twenties who absconded alone on the majority of occasions.
Because of their household and child-rearing duties, young slave women were significantly less likely to flee than older slave women.
Lyford in 1896 reported that he could not recall “any fugitives ever being transported by anyone, they always had to pilot their own canoe with the little help that they received,” suggesting that “the greatest number of fugitives were self-emancipating individuals who, upon reaching a point in their lives when they could no longer tolerate their captive status, finally just took off for what had been a long and difficult journey.” 7.
What is “Steal Away”?
They used them to communicate secretly with one another in double-voiced discussions that neither the master nor the overseer could comprehend.
However, for reasons of safety, privacy, security, and protection, the vast majority of slaves who escaped did so alone and covertly, rather than risking their own safety by notifying a large number of individuals outside of their families about their plans, for fear of betraying their masters’ trust.
Just consider the following for a moment: If fleeing slavery had been thus planned and maintained on a systematic basis, slavery would most likely have been abolished long before the American Civil War, don’t you think?
According to Blight, “Much of what we call the Underground Railroad was actually operated clandestinely by African Americans themselves through urban vigilance committees and rescue squads that were often led by free blacks.” The “Underground Railroad” was a marvelously improvised, metaphorical construct run by courageous heroes, the vast majority of whom were black.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrible and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the total numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in escaping, were “not huge.” There were thousands of heroic slaves who were helped by the organization, each of whom should be remembered as heroes of African-American history, but there were not nearly as many as we often believe, and certainly not nearly enough.
Approximately fifty-five of the 100 Amazing Facts will be published on the website African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. On The Root, you may find all 100 facts.