To assist their flight to freedom, some escapees hid on steamboats in the hope of reaching Mobile, where they might blend in with its community of free blacks and slaves living on their own as though free. Others headed northward on steamboats to reach free territory and free states.
How easy was it for slaves to escape the Underground Railroad?
- Nothing about using the Underground Railroad or escaping slavery safely in general was easy though. Only a small fraction of slaves were ever able to escape. After they escaped, often by a “conductor” entering a plantation disguised as a slave, they would travel 10-20 miles by foot to the next station at night.
How did slaves communicate to escape?
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.
What were escaped slaves called 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
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.
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.
Was there ever a real Underground Railroad?
Nope! Despite its name, the Underground Railroad wasn’t a railroad in the way Amtrak or commuter rail is. It wasn’t even a real railroad. The Underground Railroad of history was simply a loose network of safe houses and top secret routes to states where slavery was banned.
Where did the Underground Railroad originate?
The Underground Railroad was created in the early 19th century by a group of abolitionists based mainly in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Within a few decades, it had grown into a well-organized and dynamic network. The term “Underground Railroad” began to be used in the 1830s.
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.
Is Gertie Davis died?
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.
What happened to Harriet when she was thirteen that gave her dizzy spells the rest of her life?
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.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
She was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, and her name is Harriet Tubman. In 1849, she and two of her brothers managed to escape from a farm in Maryland, where they were born into slavery under the name Araminta Ross. Harriet Tubman was her married name at the time. While they did return a few of weeks later, Tubman set out on her own shortly after, making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other people.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other runaway slaves to the Maryland state capital of Fredericksburg. In order to avoid being captured by the United States, Tubman would transport parties of escapees to Canada.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was at this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting fleeing enslaved individuals in their journey to Canada. Abolitionist John Brown would go on to play a variety of roles during his life. His most well-known duty was conducting an assault on Harper’s Ferry in order to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Ultimately, Brown’s forces were beaten, and he was executed for treason in 1859.
- The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved lady and her young daughter.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
- After being apprehended in 1844 while transporting a boatload of freed slaves from the Caribbean to the United States, Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was sentenced to prison for life.
- John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to assist in the rescue of enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their families as they made their way north.
- He managed to elude capture twice.
End of the Line
Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.
During the American Civil War, the Underground Railroad came to an end about 1863. When it came to the Union fight against the Confederacy, its activity was carried out aboveground. This time around, Harriet Tubman played a critical role in the Union Army’s efforts to rescue the recently liberated enslaved people by conducting intelligence operations and serving in the role of leadership. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THESE STATEMENTS. Harriet Tubman Led a Brutal Civil War Raid Following the Underground Railroad.
Rack with Bells In 1860, an estimated 435,000 enslaved persons lived in Alabama, accounting for around 45 percent of the state’s entire population. Because no evidence of an organized underground railroad has been discovered in Alabama, scholars are forced to conclude that slaves seeking freedom in the state relied on their own survival skills, with assistance from some fellow slaves and free blacks, as well as some members of the white community, to achieve their freedom. Slave runaway estimates have also proven difficult for historians to come up with at any particular point in history.
- Most major plantations in the South, on the other hand, had slaves who managed to escape.
- However, many enslaved people who were able to do so chose to do so.
- Some attempted to reunite with family members who were residing on neighbouring homes.
- Some slaves may have sought freedom, even if it was only for a few days away from the farm, as a result of an overseer who had a reputation for treating slaves cruelly.
- Some fugitives disguised themselves as steamboat passengers in the goal of reaching Mobile, where they might fit in with the population of free blacks and slaves who were living on their own as if they were free.
- In an effort to curtail this kind of conduct, the Alabama government enacted an ordinance in the Alabama Code of 1852 that fined slave owners or masters of boats who permitted slaves to board their vessels without a pass.
- Some runaways pretended to be free blacks, Native Americans, or whites in order to avoid being apprehended.
For example, in Greene County in 1840, an escaped slave was caught by officials who believed him to be a Native American.
Another example is the case of a guy called London Fenderson, who was imprisoned in Mobile, Alabama, for being a fugitive slave.
Runaway slaves who were apprehended were often beaten and occasionally chained as punishment.
Kidnapping of enslaved employees was an issue for some owners, just as persons convincing slaves to leave their masters and travel to a free state was a problem for others.
In one occasion, a man kidnapped around 60 slaves belonging to the State Bank of Tuscaloosa County and transported them to Florida, where they were forced to labor on a slave farm.
Earlier this year in Mobile, a free man of color and a slave were both convicted guilty of inducing a slave to flee.
Mobile authorities, on the other hand, freed three other individuals who were accused of harboring and enticing slaves away from their masters.
Mobile police arrested an old black man who said he was free for allegedly harboring an escaped female slave.
One free lady of color who was suspected of harboring a runaway slave was ordered to post a bail of $1,000.
Other cases have involved black women who were officially considered slaves but were living as free people.
A free man of color who was suspected of keeping a slave was released from custody.
It will need further investigation to discover how the laws were applied and if the punishment differed for those accused of being black and those accused of being white.
Advertisement for a Runaway Slave A great deal may be learned about slave life and runaways through descriptions of fugitive slaves that were published in historical newspapers.
Some runaways were said to have been missing fingers or toes in some instances.
They were known to transport clothes and steal money from their masters.
Others brought personal belongings with them, such as musical equipment.
Most slaves fled by themselves or in small groups and concealed from authorities for several weeks at a time, according to historical records.
If fugitive slaves were apprehended, their owners were required to pay fines to get them released from prison.
As an example, if the slave had committed a serious offense, the reward could be in the range of $1,000 to $2,000.
From the spring of 1862 on, the Union Army often controlled much of Alabama’s Tennessee Valley as part of its campaign against the Confederacy.
Outside of this area of influence, union forces hardly reached the Black Belt and other districts of the state until early in the spring of 1865.
Resources that aren’t included on this page Franklin, John Hope, and Loren Schweninger are among others who have contributed to this work.
The Oxford University Press, New York, published this book in 1999.
In response to emancipation and reconstruction in Alabama, First Freedom: The Response of the Black Community in Alabama was published.
Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1972. Sellers, James Benson, and others. Slavery in the state of Alabama. Originally published in 1950 by the University of Alabama Press in Tuscaloosa.
Myths About the Underground Railroad
When it comes to teaching African-American Studies today, one of the great delights is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery enabled those events to take place, never to be lost again. Among our ancestors’ long and dreadful history of human bondage is the Underground Railroad, which has garnered more recent attention from teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry than any other institution from the black past.
- Nevertheless, in the effort to convey the narrative of this magnificent institution, fiction and lore have occasionally taken precedence over historical truth.
- The sacrifices and valor of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, are made all the more noble, heroic, and striking as a result.
- I think this is a common misconception among students.
- As described by Wilbur H.
- Running slaves, frequently in groups of up to several families, were said to have been directed at night on their desperate journey to freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ secret name for the North Star.
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.
First, a brief overview of the Underground Railroad’s history:
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.
Myth Battles Counter-Myth
It has proven to be one of America’s greatest “enduring and popular threads in the fabric of the nation’s national historical memory,” as Blight puts it so eloquently. Numerous Americans, particularly those in New England and the Midwest, have either made up stories about their ancestors’ adventures or simply repeated stories they have heard about them since the end of the nineteenth century. It’s worth taking a look at the history of the phrase “Underground Railroad” before diving into those tales, though.
Because of his successful escape from Kentucky to Ohio in 1831, it is possible that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was developed as a result of his experience.
According to Blight, he is believed to have said that Davids had vanished, as though “the nigger must have gotten away on the subterranean railroad.” It’s a fantastic tale, and one that would be worthy of Richard Pryor, however the likelihood of this happening is remote given the lack of train infrastructure 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.
11, 1839, in an editorial by Hiram Wilson of Toronto, who called for the construction of “a great republican railroad.
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 Torrey. As David Blight points out, the term did not become widely used until the mid-1840s, when it was first recorded.
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.
But enough about history; what about those urban legends? Answers to the questions are as follows: It cannot be overstated that the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement as a whole were possibly the first examples in American history of a genuinely multiracial alliance, with the Quakers playing a critical part in its success. Although it was mostly controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, it was also dominated by Philadelphians, most notably the famous William Still.
- Some of the Underground Railroad’s most heroic figures were both white and black campaigners.
- As reported by James Horton, William Still himself was responsible for the rescue of 649 fugitives who sought refuge in Philadelphia, including 16 who came on a single day (June 1, 1855), according to Blight.
- People were involved in its activities, but only a small number of them, relative to the number of people in the world.
- It is possible to be charged with “constructive treason” if you violate the 1850 Act of Congress.
- Because of this, it concentrated its operations mostly in the Free States.
- Because of these circumstances, the Underground Railroad could be put into operation.
Additionally, in Washington, D.C.
In addition, some slaves were aided in their attempts to flee from Southern seaports, albeit only a small number of people.
You know, those secret passageways or rooms in attics, garrets, cellars, or basements.
Tunnels were rarely used by escaped slaves, who preferred to sneak out of towns at night than than via them, which would have been a massive task and extremely expensive project.
Simply put, this is one of the strangest urban legends to have been perpetuated in the whole history of African-American culture and civilization.
The truth is that messages of many kinds were sent out at black church gatherings and prayer sessions from time to time, but none of them had information concerning Harriet Tubman’s arrival date and time.
How many slaves actually managed to escape to a new life in the North, in Canada, Florida, or Mexico?
No one is certain of anything.
It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people worked at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, according to Elizabeth Pierce, a center spokeswoman, but that sounds a bit optimistic to me given the current state of the economy.
In light of the fact that these data would include those fugitives who had successfully crossed into Canada via the Underground Railroad as well as natural growth, we can see how modest the numbers of runaway slaves who successfully crossed into Canada in this decade, for example, were.
According to John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger’s groundbreaking book, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, more than 50,000 slaves fled not to the North, but “inside the South,” as Blight explains, “annually throughout the late antebellum period,” according to Franklin and Schweninger.
Families as a group?
Because of their family and child-rearing duties, young slave women were significantly less inclined to flee away.
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 become “Steal Away” is the seventh question.
Inventing coded languages to communicate clandestinely with one another, in double-voiced discourses that the master and overseer couldn’t comprehend, was a brilliant trait of African Americans during the slave trade era.
They did not put themselves or their families at danger by alerting a large number of individuals outside of their families about their plans, out of fear of being betrayed.
Let’s consider the following for a moment: If fleeing slavery had been this planned and maintained on a systematic basis, slavery would most likely have been abolished long before the American Civil War, don’t you believe?
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 majority of whom were African Americans.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrifying and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the aggregate numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in escaping, was “not enormous.” 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 nothing like as many as we often believe, and certainly not nearly enough.
Approximately fifty-five of the 100 Amazing Facts will be made available on the African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website. On The Root, you may read all 100 facts.
Fugitive Slaves, Runaways, Enslavement, African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865, Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature, Toolbox Library, National Humanities Center
|–||Virginia runaway ads, 1745-1775(PDF)|
|–||A runaway’s explanation, William Chase letter, 1827(PDF)|
|–||Escape to Canada, Littles’ narratives, 1856, excerpts(PDF)|
|–||Escape to Canada, W. W. Brown narrative, 1847, excerpts(PDF)|
|–||On running away, selections from WPA narratives, 1930s(PDF)|
“The hour has arrived,” James Pennington recounts of his emancipation from slavery, “and the man must act and be free, or he will stay a slave for the rest of his life. if I did not confront the crisis that day, I would be damned to perdition.” Despite the fact that many slaves were fully aware that an unsuccessful escape would spell doom, they persisted in their efforts. In the words of Martin Jackson’s father, “There’s no use in moving from bad to worse,” adding that “the War wasn’t going to go foreverour forever would be spent living among the Southerners, once they were licked.” The choice to flee was a difficult one to make because there were so many considerations to consider.
The organized features of escape, such as the Underground Railroad and fugitive-aid groups, will be discussed in greater depth in the following Theme, COMMUNITY.
- In his account of his emancipation from slavery, James Pennington says, “the hour has come, and the man must act and be free, or he will stay a slave for the rest of his life. if I did not confront the crisis that day, I would be doomed for all time.” Even while many slaves were fully aware that an unsuccessful escape would result in their death, they were nonetheless unable to prevent it from happening. There was no use in moving from bad to worse, Martin Jackson’s father suggested, adding that “the War wouldn’t go foreverour eternity would be spent living among the Southerners, after they had been licked.” Decision to flee was a difficult one to make because there were so many variables to take into consideration. We’ll look at whether or not a person makes the decision to run away (and the implications of not doing so) in this section. Following that, we will look at the organized parts of escape, such as the Underground Railroad and fugitive-assistance groups, in the following Theme, COMMUNITY.
In Theme III: COMMUNITY,7: Fugitives, compare the accounts of two Underground Railroad “conductors” with the letters written by fugitives to their former slaveholders in Theme IV: IDENTITY,2, Slave to Free. (There are 31 pages total.) Questions for further discussion
- Why did someone choose to leave slavery in the first place
- What reasons influenced their decision
- In what circumstances and in what manner did they bring family members with them
- Why did some fugitives choose to return to their farms voluntarily
- List the instances of bravery, quick thinking, assistance, and good fortune that played a role in the successful escapes. What circumstances contributed to unsuccessful escape attempts
- Describe the reasons why some enslaved people decided not to try an escape (or a second escape). When it comes to successful runaway slaves’ life in freedom (before to 1865), how do they characterize them? What problems remained to be overcome
- Describe the types of slave resistance behaviors (and attitudes) that are shown in the fugitive advertising. Which aspects of their advertisements show that they have a hidden regard for their runaway slaves
- What opinions against slavery in general emerge from the advertisements for runaways placed by slaveholders
- Is it for this reason that Anthony Chase takes the uncommon step of sending a letter to explain his escape
- Is it for this reason that he insists his wife is not involved in his escape
- Describe why you believe Jeremiah Hoffman sent money to the owner of Chase’s land to compensate her for the loss of property. Compare and contrast the accounts of John Little and his wife, paying particular attention to the specifics of their escape and their subsequent life as farmers in Canada. What does each one place an emphasis on? Why
- Compare and contrast the Littles’ accounts with those of William Wells Brown, both of which were published before to the Civil War. Identify and compare the parallels and contrasts in their escapes, the audience for their written recollections, and the attitude they have about their newfound freedom. What is it about William Wells Brown’s choice of a new name that is so crucial to him after he has escaped? What makes him pick the name “Wells Brown”? Why did he retain the name “William”? Compare and contrast the accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Remember to take into account their audience as well as the period elapsed between enslavement and the tale, their attitude toward their former slaveholders, and their assessment of their own life as former slaves and subsequently freemen. Determine the spectrum of sentiments regarding fleeing expressed by African Americans who were questioned in the 1930s, and then compare them. What may be the source of this wide spectrum of sentiments, which does not exist in the nineteenth-century accounts
- And Create a fictional chat between the pair of fugitive slaves shown below by picking one of them at random. Identify a central subject for the debate (goals for escape, backup plan if caught, message to the twenty-first century, etc.). Include the following quotations:
- When a person makes the option to leave slavery, there are several elements that influence their decision. In what circumstances and in what manner did they bring family members along? Why did some fugitives choose to return to their farms despite their imprisonment? List the instances of bravery, quick thinking, assistance, and good fortune that had a role in the successful evasions Why did people fail to make it out of their homes? Describe the reasons why some enslaved individuals chose not to try an escape (or a second escape). When it comes to successful runaway slaves’ life in freedom (before to 1865), what do they say about their experiences? Identify the remaining challenges. Describe the types of slave resistance behaviors (and attitudes) that are shown in the fugitive advertising
- Is it possible to discern a hidden admiration for their fugitive slaves in the advertisements
- And When slaveholders advertise for runaways, what opinions regarding slavery and enslavement in general do they elicit? Is it for this reason that Anthony Chase takes the uncommon step of sending a letter to explain his escape
- Is it for this reason that he insists his wife is not involved in his escape
- Or both? Describe why you believe Jeremiah Hoffman sent money to Chase’s owner in order to compensate her for property loss. Compare and contrast the accounts of John Little and his wife, paying particular attention to the specifics of their flight and their subsequent lives as farmers in Canada, respectively. Each one emphasizes a different aspect of the text. Why
- The Littles’ stories are comparable to those of William Wells Brown, who wrote around the same time period. Identify and compare the parallels and contrasts in their escapes, the audience for their recorded recollections, and the attitude they have toward living as free people. Why is it so vital to William Wells Brown after his escape that he chooses a new name? “Wells Brown” is the name he choose. “William” is still in his possession, but why? Examine the accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Remember to take into account their audience as well as the period elapsed between enslavement and the tale, their attitude toward their former slaveholders, and their evaluation of their own life as former slaves and subsequently freemen. Investigate the diversity of opinions regarding fleeing expressed by African Americans who were questioned in the 1930s. What may be the source of this wide spectrum of sentiments, which does not exist in nineteenth-century accounts
- And Create a hypothetical chat between the pair of fugitive slaves shown below by choosing one of them. Determine the topic of discussion (goals for escape, backup plan if caught, message to the twenty-first century, etc.). Incorporate the following quotations into your document:
|W. W. Brown narrative:||7|
- “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
- “Brown narrative,” 1st edition (1847)
- And “Brown narrative,” 2nd edition (1849)
- “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
- -A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee, 1856, by Benjamin Drew
- Interviews with fugitive slaves in Canada, including John Little and his wife
- -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of
WPA Slave Narratives, 1930s, full text as digital images, Library of CongressAn Introduction to the WPA Slave Narratives, Norman A. Yetman (Library of Congress)”Should the Slave Narrative Collection Be Used?,”by Norman A. Yetman (Library of Congress)Guidelines for Interviewersin Federal Writers’ Project (WPA) on conducting and recording interviews with former slaves, 1937(PDF)General Resourcesin African American HistoryLiterature, 1500-1865
Image: Runaway slave advertisement, no date, no publication. Reproduced by permission of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library,485464.*PDF file- You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.
If you do not have this software, you maydownload it FREEfrom Adobe’s Web site.