Reaction in the South to the growing number of slaves who escaped ranged from anger to political retribution. Large rewards were offered for runaways, and many people eager to make money or avoid offending powerful slave owners turned in runaway slaves. The U.S. Government also got involved.
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 affect the South?
By provoking fear and anger in the South, and prompting the enactment of harsh legislation that eroded the rights of white Americans, the Underground Railroad was a direct contributing cause of the Civil War. It also gave many African Americans their first experience in politics and organizational management.
How did the Underground Railroad affect the north and south?
The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North. Many northerners thought that slavery was so horrible that they grew to hate the South.
Was the Underground Railroad in the North or South?
Underground Railroad, in the United States, a system existing in the Northern states before the Civil War by which escaped slaves from the South were secretly helped by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach places of safety in the North or in Canada.
How did the railroad affect slaves?
Railroads bought and sold slaves with contracts and elaborate, printed bills of sale. They recorded these events in balance sheets and company account books. Railroads also developed forms for contracts to hire enslaved labor from slaveholders.
What happened to the Underground Railroad after the Civil War?
The Underground Railroad ceased operations about 1863, during the Civil War. In reality, its work moved aboveground as part of the Union effort against the Confederacy.
Where did the Underground Railroad lead to?
Underground Railroad routes went north to free states and Canada, to the Caribbean, into United States western territories, and Indian territories. Some freedom seekers (escaped slaves) travelled South into Mexico for their freedom.
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.
How does Underground Railroad end?
In the end, Royal is killed and a grief-stricken Cora is caught again by Ridgeway. Ridgeway forces Cora to take him to an Underground Railroad station, but as they climb down the entrance’s rope ladder she pulls Ridgeway off and they fall to the ground.
Was there actually an 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.
Which railroad route did the southerners favor?
Amiel W. Whipple, assistant astronomer of the Mexican Boundary Survey, and Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives surveyed the route along the 35th parallel westward to southern California. This line was favored by Jefferson Davis and was essentially the route traversed by Josiah Gregg in 1839 and later surveyed by Col.
What happened to Lovey in the Underground Railroad?
She secretly decides to join Cora and Caesar’s escape mission but she is captured early in the journey by hog hunters who return her to Randall, where she is killed by being impaled by a metal spike, her body left on display to discourage others who think of trying to escape.
What were some of the routes slaves took to get from the south to the north?
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.
Who built the Southern railroads?
Southern Pacific Railroad, one of the great American railroad systems, established in 1861 by the “big four” of western railroad building— Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker.
What did railroads do for the South?
Every major Civil War battle east of the Mississippi River took place within twenty miles of a rail line. Railroads provided fresh supplies of arms, men, equipment, horses, and medical supplies on a direct route to where armies were camped.
Were slaves forced to build railroads?
Enslaved women and children were also forced to work on the railroads, running wheelbarrows, moving dirt, cooking, picking up stones, and shoveling. Some skilled slaves, especially blacksmiths, were hired as well on these construction crews.
In 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, thereby ending slavery in the United States. Freedom-seekers, free Blacks, and descendants of Black Loyalists settled throughout British North America during the American Revolutionary War period. 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 seems unlikely.
Early African Canadian settlers were hardworking and forward-thinking members of their communities.
Religious, educational, social, and cultural institutions, political groupings, and community-building organizations were all founded by black people during the course of their history.
For further information, see the biography of Mary Ann Shadd.
- Food stores, boutiques, and hat shops were among the enterprises they operated.
- In the struggle for racial equality, black people were vocal and active participants.
- In their communities, they waged war on the prejudice and discrimination they met in their daily lives in Canada by getting productive work, acquiring homes, and ensuring that their children received a quality education.
- As a result of their race, many people were refused the ability to dwell in specific areas.
- When segregated schools were present in some regions of Ontario and Nova Scotia, parents were obligated to take their children to them.
- They made significant contributions to the socio-economic development of the communities in which they resided wherever they settled in British North America.
- Even now, they have left a lasting and rich legacy that is still visible.
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
Enslaved man Tice Davids fled from Kentucky into Ohio in 1831, and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his release. This was the first time the Underground Railroad was mentioned in print. In 1839, a Washington newspaper stated that an escaped enslaved man called Jim had divulged, after being tortured, his intention to go north through a “underground railroad to Boston” in order to avoid capture. After being established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard fugitive enslaved individuals from bounty hunters, Vigilance Committees quickly expanded its duties to include guiding runaway slaves.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THESE STATEMENTS.
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.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during her lifetime. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet Tubman (her married name was Araminta Ross). They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own shortly after, making her way to Pennsylvania. In the following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and others. She attempted to rescue her spouse on her third trip, but he had remarried and refused to go.
Tubman transported large numbers of fugitives to Canada on a regular basis, believing that the United States would not treat them favorably.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor on the Underground Railroad. 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 an enslaved woman. They returned a few weeks later, but Tubman departed on her own shortly after, making her way to Pennsylvania. Tubman later returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and others. On her third journey, she attempted to rescue her husband, but he had remarried and refused to leave.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin leading other escaped slaves to Maryland. Tubman transported groups of fugitives to Canada on a regular basis, believing that the United States would not treat them fairly.
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.
Pathways to Freedom
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? Return to the past for the really American responses. Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights
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 independence. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this campaign. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that specializes in encyclopedias. This page contains a number of videos. It is a term used to refer to the Underground Railroad, which was a system that existed in the Northern states prior to the Civil War by which 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.
It was known as lines, halting sites were known as stations, people who assisted along the way were called conductors, and their charges known as packages or freight were known as packages or freight were known as freight 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 and capture them.
Members of the free black community (including former slaves such as Harriet Tubman), Northern abolitionists, benefactors, and church leaders such as Quaker Thomas Garrett were among those who most actively enabled slaves to escape by use of the “railroad.” During her time working with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novelUncle Tom’s Cabin, got firsthand experience of escaped slaves.
- From 40,000 to 100,000 black individuals, according to various estimates, were released during the American Civil War.
- Test your knowledge of the Britannica.
- The first time a president of the United States appeared on television was in the year 1960.
- In the most recent revision and update, Amy Tikkanen provided further information.
The Constitution and the Underground Railroad: How a System of Government Dedicated to Liberty Protected Slavery (U.S. National Park Service)
A new clause for the draft constitution was proposed by Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney, two South Carolina delegates to the Constitutional Convention that met on August 28, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It had been more than three months since the Convention had started considering the new structure of governance. Throughout the summer, there had been extensive and bitter disputes over the impact of slavery on the new form of government being established. Many safeguards to maintain the system of human bondage had been requested and achieved by Southerners throughout the years.
- Unknown artist created this piece.
- The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-6088).
- The three-fifths provision of the new Constitution included slaves in the calculation of congressional representation, resulting in an increase in the power of slave states in both the House of Representatives and the electoral college as a result.
- Exports were exempt from taxation by Congress and the states, which safeguarded the tobacco and rice farmed by slaves from being taxed.
- The Constitution also stated that the national government would suppress “domestic violence” and “insurrections.” When “fugitive slaves and servants” escaped into neighboring states, Butler and Pinckney asked that they be “given up like criminals,” as they had done in the past.
- The next day, without any further debate or even a formal vote, the Convention passed the Fugitive Slave Clause, which became law in 1850.
- Although the word slave was avoided, it appeared that if a slave managed to flee to a free state, that state would be unable to free that person, and any runaway who was apprehended would be turned over to the person who had claimed ownership of the slave in the first place.
- As a result, the phrasing of the sentence, as well as its structural placement, suggested that this was something that the states would have to figure out amongst themselves.
- Northerners were completely unaware of its capacity to cause harm to their neighbors or to disturb their culture.
During a speech to the South Carolina state assembly, General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (whose younger cousin had submitted the clause) boasted, “We have acquired the right to recapture our slaves in wherever part of America they may seek sanctuary, which is a right we did not have before.” In a similar vein, Edmund Randolph used this phrase to demonstrate that slavery was protected by the Constitution in the Virginia convention.
The author stated that “everyone is aware that slaves are obligated to serve and labor.” Using the Constitution, he contended that “power is granted to slave owners to vindicate their property” since it permitted a Virginian citizen to travel to another state and “take his fugitive slave” and bring “him home.” At the Convention, no one seems to have considered the possibility that the new government might operate as an agent for slaveowners.
- However, only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, the subject of fugitive slaves and the extradition of felons was brought before Congress for consideration.
- However, Virginia’s governor rejected, claiming that the free black had in reality been captured and that thus no crime had been committed.
- As a result, a legislation was passed in 1793 that governed both the return of fugitive felons and the return of runaway slaves.
- Fugitive slave harborers may be fined up to $500 (a large sum of money at the time), and they could also be sued for the value of any slaves that were not recaptured.
- People who did not obey the regulations under these state laws were subject to severe penalties under the law.
- Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that all of these statutes were unconstitutional because, according to the Court, Congress had the only authority to govern the return of fugitive slaves to their homelands.
- Many northern governments responded by passing legislation prohibiting the use of state property (including jails) for the repatriation of runaway slaves, as well as prohibiting state personnel from taking part in fugitive slave cases.
This landmark anti-slavery ruling mobilized the whole federal government in support of attempts to apprehend runaway slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Fugitive slaves would be extremely difficult to repatriate if they did not have the help of the northern states.
Federal commissioners were appointed in every county around the country as part of the new national law enforcement system.
The commissioners were given the authority to utilize state militias, federal marshals, as well as the Army and Navy, to bring fugitive slaves back to their owners.
The punishment for anybody who assists a slave in fleeing might be six months in jail and a fine of up to a whopping thousand dollars.
It also interfered with the right of the northern states to defend their free black inhabitants from being claimed as fugitives by the federal government.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had a variety of consequences.
Between 1850 and 1861, around 1,000 African-Americans would be deported to the South as a result of this statute.
In state legislatures, courtrooms, and on the streets, there was fierce opposition to the bill throughout the northern United States.
“The Oberlin rescuers at Cuyahoga County prison, c.1859,” says the artist.
The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue became renowned as a result of this incident.
During this time of year when we commemorate Constitution Day, it is important to remember that this document protected slavery and laid the groundwork for the federal government to hunt down and arrest people whose only crime was the color of their skin and their desire to enjoy “the Blessings of Liberty” that the Constitution claimed it was written to achieve.
In some areas, such as upstate New York and northern Ohio, the 1850 law was virtually unenforceable because the average, usually law-abiding citizens participated in the Underground Railroad, choosing to support human liberty and fundamental justice even when the laws of the United States and the Constitution itself criminalized such activities.
Paul Finkelman, Ph.D. He has written more than 50 books and hundreds of articles, and he is a prolific writer. His most recent book, Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court, was released by Harvard University Press in 2018 and is about slavery in the United States Supreme Court.
A new clause for the draft constitution was proposed by Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney, two South Carolina delegates to the Constitutional Convention that met on August 28, 1787, in Philadelphia. It had been more than three months since the Convention began considering the new style of governance. There had been extensive and heated arguments during the summer over how slavery would effect the new type of government that was being established. Many safeguards to maintain the system of human bondage had been requested and gained by Southerners.
- Unknown artist has created this piece of art.
- This approach was not extended to any other social or economic organization.
- According to the Constitution, Congress was given the authority to control all foreign trade, with the exception of the African slave trade, which could not be abolished by Congress until at least twenty years after it was established.
- “Domestic Violence” and “Insurrections” were defined as “domestic violence” and “insurrections,” respectively, in the United States Constitution, which for slaveowners meant only one thing: slave revolts.
- It was the next day that the Convention passed the Fugitive Slave Clause, without any further debate or even a formal vote.
- Although the word slave was avoided, it appeared that if a slave managed to flee to a free state, that state would be unable to free that person, and any runaway who was apprehended would be handed over to the person who had claimed ownership of the slave in the first place.
- The phrasing of the sentence, as well as its structural placement, suggested that this was something that the states would have to figure out between them.
- Northerners were completely unaware of its ability to cause harm to their neighbors or to undermine their own social structure.
During a speech to the South Carolina state assembly, General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (whose younger cousin had submitted the clause) boasted, “We have acquired the right to collect our slaves in whatever portion of America they may seek sanctuary, which is a privilege we did not have before.” In a similar vein, Edmund Randolph used this phrase to demonstrate that slavery was protected by the Constitution in the Virginia Convention.
- “Everyone is aware that slaves are obligated to serve and labor,” he explained.
- However, only a few years after the Constitution was ratified, the subject of fugitive slaves and the extradition of felons was brought before Congress for discussion.
- However, Virginia’s governor declined, claiming that the free black had in reality been mistreated and that no crime had been committed as a result of this.
- It was this legislation that resulted in the passage of a statute in 1793 that governed the return of fugitive felons as well as runaway slaves.
- Fugitive slave harborers may be fined up to $500 (a substantial sum of money at the time), and they could also be sued for the value of any slaves that were not captured.
- People who did not obey the regulations under these state laws faced severe penalties under the law.
- Pennsylvania, the United States Supreme Court ruled that all of these statutes were unconstitutional because, according to the Court, Congress had the only authority to govern the return of fugitive slaves to their homelands.
Many northern governments responded by passing legislation prohibiting the use of public property (including jails) for the return of runaway slaves, as well as prohibiting state personnel from taking part in fugitive slave investigations.
Prigg was a landmark anti-slavery ruling that mobilized the whole federal government in support of attempts to apprehend runaway slaves in the South.
Returning fugitive slaves would be extremely difficult without the aid of the northern states.
Federal commissioners were appointed in every county in the country as part of the new national law enforcement system.
Federal marshals, state militias, and the Army and Navy were permitted to assist the commissioners in bringing runaway slaves back to their homelands.
The punishment for anybody who assists a slave in fleeing might be six months in prison and a fine of up to a whopping $1000.
The right of the northern states to safeguard their free black inhabitants from being claimed as fugitives was also infringed upon by this act.
Fugitive Slave Law, 1850, and Its Consequences Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-1286).
In the event that they assisted freedom seekers in their escape through the Underground Railroad, a large number of abolitionists would face fines and imprisonment.
It was only in 1864 that Congress overturned the statute that the deployment of soldiers to execute it was outlawed.
During the 1858 rescue of a freedom seeker called John Price, twenty men were apprehended in Ohio under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law as a result of their cooperation.
Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-73349).
Because of the Constitution and two fugitive slave laws, thousands of northerners, both black and white, surreptitiously assisted in the protection of blacks from slave collectors during the American Civil War.
In these areas, the average, usually law-abiding citizens participated in the Underground Railroad, choosing to support human liberty and fundamental justice even when the laws of the United States and the Constitution themselves prohibited such activities.
Over 50 books and hundreds of articles have been written on him by other authors. Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court was the title of his most recent book, which was released by Harvard University Press in 2018.
The Underground Railroad and the Coming of War
The Underground Railroad served as a symbol for the abolition of slavery. Despite this, many textbooks refer to it as the official name of a covert network that formerly assisted fugitive slaves in their escape. The pupils who are more literal in their thinking begin to wonder whether these established escape routes were genuinely beneath the surface of the land. However, the phrase “Underground Railroad” is best understood as a rhetorical technique that was used to illustrate a point by comparing two entities that were diametrically opposed to one another.
- Understanding the origins of the term has a significant impact on its meaning and use.
- There could be no “underground railroad” until the general public in the United States became aware with genuine railways, which occurred throughout the 1830s and 1840s.
- The term also draws attention to a particular geographic direction.
- Even while slaves fled in every direction on a map, the metaphor delivered its most potent punch in areas that were closest to the nation’s busiest railroad stations.
- Also, why would they want to compare and irrevocably link a large-scale operation to assist escaped slaves with a well-organized network of hidden railways in the first place?
- Abolitionists, or those who pushed for the abolition of slavery as soon as possible, desired to publicize, and possibly even inflate, the number of slave escapes and the depth of the network that existed to help those fugitives in order to gain public support.
- This appeared to be a potentially deadly game to several of the participants.
According to his Narrativein 1845, “I have never approved of the very public manner in which some of our western friends have conducted what they call theunderground railroad,” warning that these mostly Ohio-based (“western”) abolitionists were establishing a “upperground railroad” through their “open declarations.” The public’s awareness of slave escapes and open disobedience of federal law only grew in the years that followed, especially when the contentious Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed.
- Anxious fugitives and their accomplices retaliated with greater force this time around.
- A former slave called William Parker was aided to escape to Canada by him in September 1851 after Parker had organized a resistance movement in Christiana, Pennsylvania that resulted in the death of a Maryland slaveholder and the confusion of federal officials.
- The infamously strict statute was used to prosecute just around 350 fugitive slave cases between 1850 and 1861, with none of them taking place in the abolitionist-friendly New England states after 1854.
- Students sometimes appear to image escaped slaves cowering in the shadows, while cunning “conductors” and “stationmasters” constructed sophisticated covert hiding spots and coded communications to aid spirit fugitives on their route to freedom in the nineteenth century.
- An alternative explanation for the Underground Railroad should be offered in terms of sectional divisions as well as the onset of the Civil War.
- When American towns felt endangered in the nineteenth century, they turned to extra-legal “vigilance” clubs for assistance.
- Almost immediately, though, these organizations began providing protection to fugitive slaves who had escaped from their masters.
Many now-forgotten personalities such as Lewis Hayden, George DeBaptiste, David Ruggles, and William Still were instrumental in organizing the most active vigilance committees in cities such as Boston, Detroit, New York, and Philadelphia during the era of the Great Depression.
It was via these vigilance groups that the Underground Railroad came to be regarded as the organized core of the network.
The vigilance concept was imitated during the 1840s, when William Parker established a “mutual protection” group in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and when John Brown established his League of Gileadites in Springfield, Massachusetts, respectively.
They kept their secrets close to their chests, but these were not clandestine operators in the way of France’s Resistance.
vigilance agents in Detroit crammed newspaper pages with information regarding their monthly traffic volume.
One entrepreneurial individual circulated a business card with the words “Underground Railroad Agent” written on the back.
In addition to being available for classroom use, a surprising amount of this covert material may be found online.
The book presents the fascinating materials he collected while serving as the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee’s head of research and documentation.
And the amount of literature about the Underground Railroad that is readily available is growing all the time.
How could they disclose their presence and run the danger of being apprehended if they kept documents detailing their illicit activities?
Aside from the security provided by state personal liberty statutes, those assisting fleeing criminals sometimes benefited from an overarching unwillingness across the North to support federal action or reward southern authority.
Attempts to pass personal liberty or anti-kidnapping legislation in northern states, led by Pennsylvania, began as early as the 1820s.
The Supreme Court ruled in two important instances, Prigg v.
Booth (1859), that these northern personal liberty guarantees were unconstitutional and hence unenforceable.
They may also be surprised to learn that a federal jury in Philadelphia found the primary defendant in the Christiana treason trial not guilty after only fifteen minutes of deliberation.
This was the popular mood that was utilized by northern vigilance committees in order to keep their problematic efforts on behalf of fugitives going for as long as possible.
No well-known Underground Railroad worker was ever killed or sentenced to a considerable amount of time in prison for assisting fugitives once they crossed the Mason-Dixon Line or the Ohio River in the course of their work.
The branding of Jonathan Walker, a sea captain convicted of transporting runaways, with the mark “S.S.” (“slave-stealer”) on his hand was ordered by a federal marshal in Florida in 1844 after he was apprehended.
What did occur, on the other hand, was an increase in rhetorical violence.
The threats became more serious.
Following that, the outcomes affected the responses that eventually led to war.
The hunt for fugitives and those who assisted them served as a major catalyst for the nation’s debate about slavery, which began in 1850.
When measured in words, however, as seen by the antebellum newspaper articles, sermons, speeches, and resolutions prompted by the fugitive-hunting issue, the “Underground Railroad” proved to be a metaphor that served to spark the American Civil War in the most literal sense.
In Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, published by the Anti-Slavery Office in Boston in 1845, page 101 is quoted ().
Campbell’s book, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law: 1850–1860 (New York: W.
Norton, 1970), contains an appendix that discusses this topic.
See, for example, Graham Russell Gao Hodges’ David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City (David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City) (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
To learn more about this, see Fergus M.
Douglass, Frederick, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” in Park Publishing’s Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Hartford, CT: Park Publishing, 1881), p.
He is the author of Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home (2003) and the co-director of House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, both of which are located in Pennsylvania.
- Always ready to stand up for someone else, Tubman blocked a doorway to protect another field hand from an angry overseer.
- It fell short, striking Tubman on the head.
- (She was born Araminta Ross; she later changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.) In 1849, in fear that she, along with the other slaves on the plantation, was to be sold, Tubman resolved to run away.
- With some assistance from a friendly white woman, Tubman was on her way.
- The following year she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister’s two children to freedom.
- On her third return, she went after her husband, only to find he had taken another wife.
She devised clever techniques that helped make her “forays” successful, including using the master’s horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn’t be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger.
Tubman even carried a gun which she used to threaten the fugitives if they became too tired or decided to turn back, telling them, “You’ll be free or die.”By 1856, Tubman’s capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South.
She promptly pulled out a book and feigned reading it.
Of the famed heroine, who became known as “Moses,” Frederick Douglass said, “Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than.” And John Brown, who conferred with “General Tubman” about his plans to raid Harpers Ferry, once said that she was “one of the bravest persons on this continent.”Becoming friends with the leading abolitionists of the day, Tubman took part in antislavery meetings.
On the way to such a meeting in Boston in 1860, in an incident in Troy, New York, she helped a fugitive slave who had been captured.During the Civil War Harriet Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse, and even a spy.
After the war she settled in Auburn, New York, where she would spend the rest of her long life. She died in 1913.Image Credit: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center