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 slaves hide in underground railroad?
Hiding places included private homes, churches and schoolhouses. 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.
What were the Underground Railroad secret code words?
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 did slaves communicate during the Underground Railroad?
Spirituals, a form of Christian song of African American origin, contained codes that were used to communicate with each other and help give directions. Some believe Sweet Chariot was a direct reference to the Underground Railroad and sung as a signal for a slave to ready themselves for escape.
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.
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 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 2 methods did they use to create symbolism in the Underground Railroad?
The “Underground Railroad”, operating under essential secrecy, adopted many symbols and signs that were made known to the fugitive slaves:
- Passwords were used to ensure the fugitives were genuine.
- Messages were sent by drumming stones together.
- The hoot of an owl was used to convey messages.
Why did they call it underground railroad?
(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.
How did Harriet Tubman get involved in the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad and Siblings Tubman first encountered the Underground Railroad when she used it to escape slavery herself in 1849. Following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia.
What role did the Underground Railroad play?
The Underground Railroad provided hiding places, food, and often transportation for the fugitives who were trying to escape slavery. Along the way, people also provided directions for the safest way to get further north on the dangerous journey to freedom.
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.
Is Gertie Davis died?
At the age of thirteen Harriet received a horrible head injury. A slave owner tried to throw an iron weight at one of his slaves, but hit Harriet instead. The injury nearly killed her and caused her to have dizzy spells and blackouts for the rest of her life.
Did Harriet Tubman ever marry?
Sometime around 1844, she married John Tubman, a free Black man. Shortly after her marriage, Araminta, known as “Minty” to her family, changed her name to Harriet to honor her mother.
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
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.
Underground Railroad Secret Codes : Harriet Tubman
Supporters of the Underground Railroad made use of the following words: Railroad conductors were hired on a daily basis to construct their own code as a secret language in order to assist slaves in escaping. The railroad language was chosen since it was a new mode of transportation at the time, and its communication language was not widely used. Secret code phrases would be used in letters sent to “agents” in order to ensure that if they were intercepted, they would not be apprehended.
A form of Underground Railroad code was also utilized in slave songs to allow slaves to communicate with one another without their owners being aware of their activities. The following are the most often used code terms, as well as their meanings:
|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|
Supporters of the Underground Railroad made use of the following phrases: Railroad conductors were hired on a daily basis to construct their own code as a secret language in order to assist slaves in escaping. The railroad language was chosen since the train was a new mode of transportation at the time, and its communication language was not widely understood. Secret code phrases would be used in letters sent to “agents” in order to ensure that if they were intercepted, they would not be identified.
This is a list of the most often used code terms, along with their definitions:
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.
- 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.
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 proposed a plan to construct Manhattan’s first subway line, which would travel northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park. It was never built.
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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Tyson Brown is a member of the National Geographic Society.
The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration of the world’s natural wonders.
Gina Borgia is a member of the National Geographic Society. Jeanna Sullivan is a member of the National Geographic Society.
According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
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Pathways to Freedom
Introduction-Aboard the Underground Railroad
|The Underground Railroad refers to the effort -sometimes spontaneous, sometimes highly organized – to assist persons held in bondage in North America to escape from slavery.While most runaways began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, each decade in which slavery was legal in the United States saw an increase in the public perception of an underground network and in the number of persons willing to give aid to the runaway. Although divided, the abolitionist movement was successful in expanding the informal network known as the underground railroad and in publicizing it.The term “underground railroad” had no meaning to the generations before the first rails and engines of the 1820s, but the retrospective use of the term in is made so as to include incidents which have all the characteristics of underground railroad activity, but which occurred earlier.These activities foreshadowed and helped to shape the underground railroad.The origin of the term “underground railroad” cannot be precisely determined.What is known is that both those who aided escapees from slavery and those who were outraged by loss of slave property began to refer to runaways as part of an “underground railroad” by 1840.The “underground railroad” described an activity that was locally organized, but with no real center.It existed rather openly in the North and just beneath the surface of daily life in the upper South and certain Southern cities.The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another.Farther along, others would take the passenger into their transportation system until the final destination had been reached. The rapidity with which the term became commonly used did not mean that incidents of resistance to slavery increased significantly around 1830 or that more attempts were made to escape from bondage. It did mean that more white northerners were prepared to aid runaways and to give some assistance to the northern blacks who had always made it their business to help escapees from slavery. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ampleevidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to AfricanAmerican philosophy. Perhaps the most important factor or aspect tokeep in mind concerning the underground railroad is that its importanceis not measured by the number of attempted or successful escapes fromAmerican slavery, but by the manner in which it consistently exposedthe grim realities of slavery and -more important- refuted the claimthat African Americans could not act or organize on their own. The secondaryimportance of the underground railroad was that it provided an opportunityfor sympathetic white Americans to play a role in resisting slavery.It also brought together, however uneasily at times, men and women ofboth races to begin to set aside assumptions about the other race andto work together on issues of mutual concern. At the most dramatic level,the underground railroad provided stories of guided escapes from theSouth, rescues of arrested fugitives in the North, complex communicationsystems, and individual acts of bravery and suffering. While most ofthe accounts of secret passageways, sliding wall panels, and hiddenrooms will not be verified by historic evidence, there were indeed sufficientdramas to be interpreted and verified.Visitors may be interested inHistoricHotels of America, a program of the National Trust for HistoricPreservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.List of Sites|HomeComments or Questions Last Modified:EST|
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 next.For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy.
For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources.
The fugitives would move at night.
While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.The fugitives would also travel by train and boat – conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for.
This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.