What was the Underground Railroad and how did it work?
- During the era of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, places, and people that helped enslaved people in the American South escape to the North. The name “Underground Railroad” was used metaphorically, not literally. It was not an actual railroad, but it served the same purpose—it transported people long distances.
How did the Underground Railroad transport people?
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.
What does freight mean in the Underground Railroad?
Cargo / Freight: Cargo or Freight was the name given to fugitive slaves who received assistance from conductors on the Underground Railroad. Passengers: Passengers was another name give to slaves traveling the escape routes.
Does the Underground Railroad still exist?
It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. Ashtabula County had over thirty known Underground Railroad stations, or safehouses, and many more conductors. Nearly two-thirds of those sites still stand today.
Where did the Underground Railroad take place?
These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.” There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa. Others headed north through Pennsylvania and into New England or through Detroit on their way to Canada.
What happened in the Underground Railroad?
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.
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.
What code words were used in 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
Did the Underground Railroad use quilt codes?
Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. Quilts with patterns named “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw” appear to have contained secret messages that helped direct slaves to freedom, the pair claim.
How did Underground Railroad get its name?
(Actual underground railroads did not exist until 1863.) According to John Rankin, “It was so called because they who took passage on it disappeared from public view as really as if they had gone into the ground. After the fugitive slaves entered a depot on that road no trace of them could be found.
Why are the trees painted white in Underground Railroad?
Trees painted white protects them from sun damage Paint can also be used to protect exposed tree trunks in cases where the bark has been damaged, this method protects the fragile trunk against pests and further damage until the bark has recovered.
How many slaves did Harriet Tubman save?
Fact: According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people —family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.
Were there tunnels in the Underground Railroad?
Contrary to popular belief, the Underground Railroad was not a series of underground tunnels. While some people did have secret rooms in their houses or carriages, the vast majority of the Underground Railroad involved people secretly helping people running away from slavery however they could.
What happened to Cesar in the Underground Railroad?
While the show doesn’t show us what happens after their encounter, Caesar comes to Cora in a dream later, confirming to viewers that he was killed. In the novel, Caesar faces a similar fate of being killed following his capture, though instead of Ridgeway and Homer, he is killed by an angry mob.
How many slaves were saved by the Underground Railroad?
According to some estimates, between 1810 and 1850, the Underground Railroad helped to guide one hundred thousand enslaved people to freedom.
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
Harriet Tubman, maybe around the 1860s. The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information. No matter how brave or brilliant they were, few enslaved individuals were able to free themselves without the assistance of others. Even the smallest amount of assistance, such as hidden instructions on how to get away and who to trust, may make a significant difference. The most fortunate, on the other hand, were those who followed so-called “conductors,” like as Harriet Tubman, who, after escaping slavery in 1849, devoted her life to the Underground Railroad.
Tubman, like her other conductors, built a network of accomplices, including so-called “stationmasters,” who helped her hide her charges in barns and other safe havens along the road.
She was aware of which government officials were receptive to bribery.
Among other things, she would sing particular tunes or impersonate an owl to indicate when it was time to flee or when it was too hazardous to come out of hiding.
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
With family and neighbors in her house in Auburn, New York, around 1887, Harriet Tubman is shown on the far left. Getty Images/MPI/MPI/MPI Only a few slaves were able to escape from the Deep South, where the Underground Railroad was almost non-existent. 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 officers in the region. Their actions were consequently well guarded secrets, which they achieved in part through the use of coded communication.
It was understood that the phrases “French leave” and “patter roller” denoted a hasty departure, but “slave hunter” denoted a long-term absence.
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.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.
As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.
Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
Stations were the names given to the safe homes that were utilized as hiding places along the routes of the Underground Railroad. These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.
- Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
- They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
- They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
- After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.
American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.
He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.
Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.
Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.
Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.
- They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
- Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
- He went on to write a novel.
- John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.
Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.
The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.
The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.
His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.
Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.
For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.
- I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
- On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
- It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
- Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
- I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
- Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
- The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
- This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.
For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.
Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.
Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.
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.
Underground Railroad Terminology
Written by Dr. Bryan Walls As a descendant of slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad, I grew up enthralled by the stories my family’s “Griot” told me about his ancestors. It was my Aunt Stella who was known as the “Griot,” which is an African name that means “keeper of the oral history,” since she was the storyteller of our family. Despite the fact that she died in 1986 at the age of 102, her mind remained keen till the very end of her life. During a conversation with my Aunt Stella, she informed me that John Freeman Walls was born in 1813 in Rockingham County, North Carolina and journeyed on the Underground Railroad to Maidstone, Ontario in 1846.
- Many historians believe that the Underground Railroad was the first big liberation movement in the Americas, and that it was the first time that people of many races and faiths came together in peace to fight for freedom and justice in the United States.
- Escaped slaves, as well as those who supported them, need rapid thinking as well as a wealth of insight and information.
- The Underground Railroad Freedom Movement reached its zenith between 1820 and 1865, when it was at its most active.
- A Kentucky fugitive slave by the name of Tice Davids allegedly swam across the Ohio River as slave catchers, including his former owner, were close on his trail, according to legend.
- He was most likely assisted by nice individuals who were opposed to slavery and wanted the practice to be abolished.
- “He must have gotten away and joined the underground railroad,” the enraged slave owner was overheard saying.
- As a result, railroad jargon was employed in order to maintain secrecy and confound the slave hunters.
In this way, escaping slaves would go through the forests at night and hide during the daytime hours.
In order to satiate their hunger for freedom and proceed along the treacherous Underground Railroad to the heaven they sung about in their songs—namely, the northern United States and Canada—they took this risky route across the wilderness.
Despite the fact that they were not permitted to receive an education, the slaves were clever folks.
Freedom seekers may use maps created by former slaves, White abolitionists, and free Blacks to find their way about when traveling was possible during the day time.
The paths were frequently not in straight lines; instead, they zigzagged across wide places in order to vary their smell and confuse the bloodhounds on the trail.
The slaves could not transport a large amount of goods since doing so would cause them to become sluggish.
Enslaved people traveled the Underground Railroad and relied on the plant life they encountered for sustenance and medical treatment.
The enslaved discovered that Echinacea strengthens the immune system, mint relieves indigestion, roots can be used to make tea, and plants can be used to make poultices even in the winter when they are dormant, among other things.
After all, despite what their owners may have told them, the Detroit River is not 5,000 miles wide, and the crows in Canada will not peck their eyes out.
Hopefully, for the sake of the Freedom Seeker, these words would be replaced by lyrics from the “Song of the Fugitive: The Great Escape.” The brutal wrongs of slavery I can no longer tolerate; my heart is broken within me, for as long as I remain a slave, I am determined to strike a blow for freedom or the tomb.” I am now embarking for yonder beach, beautiful land of liberty; our ship will soon get me to the other side, and I will then be liberated.
No more will I be terrified of the auctioneer, nor will I be terrified of the Master’s frowns; no longer will I quiver at the sound of the dogs baying.
All of the brave individuals who were participating in the Underground Railroad Freedom Movement had to acquire new jargon and codes in order to survive. To go to the Promised Land, one needed to have a high level of ability and knowledge.
Underground Railroad Secret Codes : Harriet Tubman
Dr. Bryan Walls’s contribution My family’s “Griot” (grandfather) told me stories of his ancestors who were slaves on the Underground Railroad, and I grew up interested by what he had to say. It was my Aunt Stella who was known as the “Griot,” which is an African name that means “keeper of the oral history,” since she was the family storyteller. Despite the fact that she died in 1986 at the age of 102, her mind remained keen till the very end of her existence. Aunt Stella told me that John Freeman Walls was born in 1813 in Rockingham County, North Carolina, and that he moved to Maidstone, Ontario, Canada, in 1846, via the Underground Railroad.
People of all races and faiths came together in harmony to fight for freedom and justice along the Underground Railroad, which is widely regarded as the first great freedom movement in the Americas and the first instance in which people of different races and faiths came together to fight for freedom and justice.
- People who helped escaped slaves needed to be nimble with their thoughts and possess a lot of insight and information.
- The Underground Railroad Freedom Movement reached its zenith between 1820 and 1865, when it had its greatest popularity.
- Tice managed to evade capture after they crossed the border near the town of Ripley, Ohio (which was a busy “stop” on the Underground Railroad).
- “Abolitionists” were those who supported freedom and opposed slavery.
- Secrets were essential since slaves and anybody who assisted them in their escape from slavery faced heavy consequences.
The following code words were frequently used on the Underground Railroad: “tracks” (routes fixed by abolitionist sympathizers); “stations” or “depots” (hiding places); “conductors” (guides on the Underground Railroad); “agents” (sympathizers who assisted slaves in connecting to the Railroad); “station masters” (those who hid slaves in their homes); “passengers,” “cargo,” “fleece,” Even though the constellations sometimes fluctuate, the North Star stays constant in the night sky, according to millennia of African wisdom passed down through generations.
- This led to the escapees running through the woods at night and hiding during the day.
- In order to fulfill their thirst for freedom and proceed along the treacherous Underground Railroad to the heaven they sung about in their songs—namely, the northern United States and Canada—they took this risky route through the forest.
- They were brilliant folks, despite the fact that they were not permitted to receive an education while under slavery.
- Maps created by former slaves, White abolitionists, and free Blacks would aid the freedom seekers with instructions and geographical markers when traveling was possible during the day.
- The paths were not always in straight lines; they frequently zigzagged across wide regions in order to change their smell and confuse the bloodhounds tracking them.
- In order to keep their speed as high as possible, the captives could not carry a large amount of supplies.
- Slaves relied on local plant life for sustenance and medical treatment while traveling the Underground Railroad route.
- The enslaved discovered that Echinacea strengthens the immune system, mint relieves indigestion, roots can be used to make tea, and plants can be used to make poultices even in the winter when they are dormant, all of which were previously unknown.
- They would discover that, contrary to what their owners may have told them, the Detroit River was not 5,000 miles wide and that the crows in Canada would not peck their eyes out.
- It is hoped that these lyrics would give birth to lyrics from the “Song of the Fugitive: The Freedom Seeker,” which would be beneficial to him.
- The auctioneer will no longer be a source of dread, and the Master’s frowns will no longer make me shudder at the sound of hounds barking.
All of the brave individuals who were participating in the Underground Railroad Freedom Movement had to acquire new jargon and ciphers in order to communicate. To get to the Promised Land, it took a tremendous deal of talent and expertise.
|Agent||Coordinator, who plotted courses of escape and made contacts.|
|Baggage||Fugitive slaves carried by Underground Railroad workers.|
|Bundles of wood||Fugitives that were expected.|
|Conductor||Person who directly transported slaves|
|Drinking Gourd||Big Dipper and the North Star|
|Flying bondsmen||The number of escaping slaves|
|Forwarding||Taking slaves from station to station|
|Freedom train||The Underground Railroad|
|French leave||Sudden departure|
|Gospel train||The Underground Railroad|
|Stockholder||Those who donated money, food, clothing.|
|Load of potatoes||Escaping slaves hidden under farm produce in a wagon|
|Operator||Person who helped freedom seekers as a conductor or agent|
|Parcel||Fugitives that were expected|
|Patter roller||Bounty hunter hired to capture slaves|
|Preachers||Leaders of and spokespersons for the Underground Railroad|
|River Jordan||Ohio River|
|Shepherds||People who encouraged slaves to escape and escorted them|
|Station||Place of safety and temporary refuge, a safe house|
|Station master||Keeper or owner of a safe house|
Following that will be Songs of the Underground Railroad. Underground Railroad codes, coded language, coded music, Underground Railroad followers, underground railroad, supporters of the Underground Railroad Underground Railroad is a subcategory of the category Underground Railroad.
What is the Underground Railroad? – Underground Railroad (U.S. National Park Service)
Harvey Lindsley captured a shot of Harriet Tubman. THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY
I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I neverran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.
Photo by Harvey Lindsley of Harriet Tubman, 1860. CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY
The Underground Railroad was a clandestine network of abolitionists that operated between 1861 and 1865. (people who wanted to abolish slavery). In order to get away from enslavement in the American South, they assisted African Americans in escaping to free northern states or Canada. The Underground Railroad was the most important anti-slavery emancipation movement in North America at the time of its founding. It was responsible for transporting between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (nowCanada).
- Please check The Underground Railroad for a plain English explanation of the subject matter (Plain-Language Summary).
- (people who wanted to abolish slavery).
- The Underground Railroad was the most important anti-slavery emancipation movement in North America at the time of its founding.
- This is the full-length entry on the Underground Railroad that can be found here.
When the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery was passed, a clause specified that any enslaved person who made it to Upper Canada would be declared free upon arrival. In response to this, a limited number of enslaved African Americans in quest of freedom were urged to enter Canada, mostly on their own. During and after the War of 1812, word traveled even further that independence was possible in Canada. The enslaved slaves of US military commanders in the South carried news back to the North that there were free “Black men in red coats” in British North America, which was confirmed by the British.
It gave slavecatchers the authority to track down fugitives in northern states.
This underground network of abolitionists was established in the early nineteenth century, with the majority of its members being based in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Within a few decades, it had developed into a well-organized and vibrant network of organizations. The phrase “Underground Railroad” first appeared in the 1830s and has been in use ever since. It had already begun to take shape at that point, an informal covert network to assist escaping slaves. The Underground Railroad was not a real train, and it did not operate on actual railroad rails like other railroads.
abolitionists who were devoted to human rights and equality were responsible for keeping the network running.
Its members comprised free Blacks, fellow enslaved individuals, White and Indigenous supporters, Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists, residents of urban centers and farmers, men and women, from all over the world (including the United States and Canada).
Symbols and Codes
In order to conceal the clandestine actions of the network, railroad language and symbols were employed. This also assisted in keeping the general public and slaveholders in the dark. Escaped slaves were referred to as “conductors” by those who assisted them on their voyage. It was their job to guide fugitives via the Underground Railroad’s routes, which included numerous kinds of transit on land and sea. Harriet Tubman was one of the most well-known conductors in history. The names “passengers,” “cargo,” “package,” and “freight” all referred to fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.
Terminals, which were stations located in numerous cities and towns, were referred to as “terminals.” Occasionally, lighted candles in windows or strategically positioned lanterns in the front yard may be used to identify these ephemeral havens of safety.
“Station masters” were in charge of running the safe houses. They welcomed fugitives into their house and gave them with meals, a change of clothing, and a safe haven to rest and hide from the authorities. Prior to delivering them to the next transfer location, they would frequently give them money. WilliamStill, a black abolitionist who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was in command of a station there. He accompanied a large number of freedom seekers on their way to Canada. He kept a list of the men, women, and children that came to his station, including Tubman and her passengers, and he transcribed their names.
- He was the owner and operator of a radio station in Syracuse, New York.
- Catharines, both in Upper Canada, from 1837 until 1841, when he decided to permanently move there.
- A large number of women worked as station masters as well.
- A large number of other women worked alongside their spouses to own radio stations.
“Ticket agents” assisted freedom-seekers in coordinating safe excursions and making travel arrangements by putting them in touch with station masters or conductors, among other things. It was not uncommon for ticket agents to be people who traveled for a living, such as circuit preachers or physicians, to work. They were able to hide their abolitionist operations as a result of this. Among those who served on the Underground Railroad were doctors such as Alexander Milton Ross (born in Belleville).
He also gave them with a few basic items so that they could get started on their escape. Stockholders were those who made contributions of money or materials to help in the emancipation of slaves.
Ways to the Promised Land
In order to assist freedom-seekers in contacting station masters or conductors, “ticket brokers” planned safe excursions and made travel arrangements on their behalf. People who traveled for a living, such as circuit preachers or physicians, were occasionally employed as ticket salesmen. Consequently, their abolitionist actions were kept under wraps. For example, the Belleville-born doctor Alexander Milton Ross was a member of the Underground Railroad. As he traveled around the southern states, informing enslaved individuals of the existence of the network, he used his bird-watching interest as a cover.
“Stockholders” were those who made contributions of money or materials to help in the emancipation of slaves.
The Canadian Terminus
During the last decades of enslavement in the United States, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 freedom seekers crossed the border into Canada. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 fugitives entered the Province of Canada between 1850 and 1860 alone. Because of this, it became the primary terminal for the Underground Railroad. The immigrants settled in various sections of what is now the province of Ontario. Among these were Niagara Falls, Buxton, Chatham, Owen Sound, Windsor, Sandwich (now a part of Windsor), Hamilton, Brantford, London, Oakville, and Toronto.
- Following this huge migration, Black Canadians assisted in the creation of strong communities and made significant contributions to the development of the provinces in where they lived and worked.
- The Provincial Freeman newspaper published a thorough report of a specific case in its publication.
- They were on the lookout for a young man by the name of Joseph Alexander.
- Alexandra was present among the throngs of people and had a brief verbal encounter with his previous owner.
- The guys were forced to flee town after the mob refused to allow them to steal Alexander’s possessions.
The Underground Railroad functioned until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibited slavery, was ratified in 1865. Freedom-seekers, free Blacks, and descendants of Black Loyalists settled throughout British North America during the American Revolutionary War. It is possible that some of them resided in all-Black colonies, such as the Elgin Settlement and the Buxton Mission in Ontario, the Queen’s Bush Settlement and the DawnSettlement near Dresden in Ontario, as well as Birchtown and Africaville in Nova Scotia, although this is not certain.
- Early African Canadian settlers were hardworking and forward-thinking members of society.
- Religious, educational, social, and cultural institutions, political groupings, and community-building organizations were all founded by black people in the United States.
- (See, for example, Mary Ann Shadd.) African-American men and women held and contributed to a diverse variety of skills and abilities during the time period of the Underground Railroad.
- They also owned and operated saw companies, frozen food distributors, livery stables, pharmacies, herbal treatment services and carpentry firms.
- Black people took an active role in the struggle for racial equality.
- In their communities, they waged war on the prejudice and discrimination they met in their daily lives in Canada by getting meaningful jobs, securing homes, and ensuring that their children received an education.
- Many people were refused the right to dwell in particular neighborhoods because of their color.
- Through publications, conferences, and other public activities, such as Emancipation Day celebrations, Black groups expressed their opposition to racial prejudice and worked to make society a better place for everyone.
- Beginning with their search for independence, security, wealth, and human rights, early Black colonists worked to create a better life for themselves, their descendents, and their fellow citizens in the United States.
In addition, see: Underground Railroad (Plain Language Summary); Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain Language Summary); Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Anti-slavery Society of Canada; Josiah Henson; Albert Jackson; Richard Pierpoint; and Editorial: Black Female Freedom Fighters (in English and French).
Stories from the Underground Railroad, 1855-56
William Still was an African-American abolitionist who risked his life on several occasions in order to aid slaves from their captivity. After reading these extracts, readers will have the opportunity to read some of the letters Still received from abolitionists and former slaves. They offer light on issues like as family separation, the financial expenses of escaping to freedom, and the logistical challenges faced by those on the Underground Railroad. Appellation on behalf of a destitute slave in Petersburg, Virginia, written by John H.
STILL, MY DEAR FRIEND: —I’m writing to let you know that Miss Mary Wever has arrived in this city in good health.
I believe they will tie the knot as soon as they are able to get ready.
Hill will begin putting the items together the next day.
It is not my responsibility to inform you of his situation because Miss Wever has already informed you of it in detail.
Tell my uncle to travel to Richmond and inquire as to the location of this individual.
He doesn’t have a lot of money.
We shall, on the other hand, raise all of the money that is needed to ensure his safe arrival.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Bustill writes a letter to the editor (U.G.R.R.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, March 24, 1956.
These people got here this morning about 8:45 a.m.
I would appreciate it if you could email me any information that you think would be of interest to them.
This is our first instance, and I am hopeful that it will turn out to be a complete success.
This Road was chosen because it allowed us to gain time; it is predicted that the owners would arrive in town this afternoon, and by using this Road, we gained five hours of valuable time, which we may need in the future.
Depot) to the editor.
When responding, use the term “goods” in your response.
Bustill, who lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, about three weeks ago.
Jones in Elmira, and the next day they were out looking for the package again; it was delivered safely to Elmira, according to a letter I received from Jones, and everything is in order.
The date was September 28, 1856.
SIR:— I take the opportunity of writing to you a few lines about my children because I am so anxious to obtain them and I would appreciate it if you could kindly do everything you can to help me.
Nash, a sister-in-law of Dr.
You may find her by asking for Dr.
And I have faith in you to attempt whatever you believe would be the most effective method.
Yours Respectfully, Jefferson Pipkins is a fictional character created by author Jefferson Pipkins.
I currently reside in Yorkville, which is close to Toronto Canada West.
Still has received my wife’s heartfelt condolences.
WELCOME, OLD FRIEND STILL:—I am writing to you on behalf of Mrs.
She hails from the city of Washington.
She is making a pit stop in our city and expresses a strong desire to hear back from her children.
Biglow, of Washington City.
As I’m sure you’re aware, she is quite concerned about her children.
She is interested in learning whether Mr.
She would appreciate it if you will write to Mr.
She extends her heartfelt greetings to you and your loved ones.
Please address your letter to me, dear brother, and I will see that it is sent to her on her behalf.
Watkins went for Ithaca, New York, and other destinations in that section of the state.
Watkins, and other notables; Gerritt Smith was also there.
We have a great deal of admiration for her.
The FBI has apprehended 31 fugitives in the previous twenty-seven days; however, we are confident that you have apprehended many more than that.
I am, of course, yours truly, J.W.
He is the author of the book J.W.
Loguen: A Novel, ed.
The Underground Railroad: A Record(Philadelphia: PorterCoates, 1872), pages 41, 43, 378, 137, and 158. William Still, The Underground Railroad: A Record(Philadelphia: PorterCoates, 1872), pages 41, 43, 378, 137, and 158. Google Books has a copy of this book.