Most of the enslaved people helped by the Underground Railroad escaped border states such as Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. In the deep South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped enslaved people a lucrative business, and there were fewer hiding places for them.
How was the Underground Railroad related to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?
It was developed by abolitionists and slaves as a means of escaping the harsh conditions in which African Americans were forced to live, and ultimately to assist them in gaining their freedom.
Did the Fugitive Slave Act stop the Underground Railroad?
Under the original Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, officials from free states were required to assist slaveholders or their agents who recaptured fugitives, but some state legislatures prohibited this, and citizens of many free states ignored the law, and the Underground Railroad thrived.
What impact did the Underground Railroad have on Canada?
They helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. The Underground Railroad was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America. It brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (now Canada).
How successful was the Underground Railroad?
Ironically the Fugitive Slave Act increased Northern opposition to slavery and helped hasten the Civil War. The Underground Railroad gave freedom to thousands of enslaved women and men and hope to tens of thousands more. In both cases the success of the Underground Railroad hastened the destruction of slavery.
Why was the Underground Railroad important?
The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ample evidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to African American philosophy.
What happened after the Underground Railroad ended?
After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 the Underground Railroad was rerouted to Canada as its final destination. Thousands of slaves settled in newly formed communities in Southern Ontario. Those who helped slaves were subjected to $1000 fine or 6 months in prison.
What happened in the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad— the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape.
Why did the Underground Railroad lead to Canada?
After 1850, most escaping enslaved people traveled all the way to Canada. They had to go to Canada to make sure they would be safe. The reason was that the United States Congress passed a law in 1850 called The Fugitive Slave Act. So, you could say that the Underground Railroad went from the American south to Canada.
Fugitive Slave Acts
Runaway slaves were captured and returned to their owners under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Acts, which were a set of federal statutes passed in 1850 and 1851, respectively, in the United States. The original Fugitive Slave Act, passed by Congress in 1793, empowered local governments to catch and return fugitive slaves to their owners while also imposing penalties on anybody who assisted them in their escape. Widespread opposition to the 1793 statute resulted in the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which expanded the number of rules applicable to runaways and imposed even harsher penalties for interfering with their arrest or capture attempts.
What Were the Fugitive Slave Acts?
Runaway slaves were captured and returned to their owners under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Acts, which were enacted by Congress in 1850 and 1854, respectively. The original Fugitive Slave Act, passed by Congress in 1793, empowered local governments to apprehend and return fugitive slaves to their owners while also imposing penalties on anybody who assisted them in their escape. As a result of widespread opposition to the 1793 legislation, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, which expanded the protections for runaways and imposed even harsher penalties for anyone who interfered with their apprehension.
Fugitive Slave Act of 1793
However, even after the Fugitive Slave Clause was ratified into law in the United States Constitution, anti-slavery feeling persisted in most of the Northern United States during the late 1780s and early 1790s, with many petitioning Congress to abolish the institution entirely. Ultimately, Congress approved the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, in response to increased pressure from Southern legislators, who believed that the slave question was causing a wedge between the newly constituted states. Many of the provisions of this decree were identical to those of the Fugitive Slave Clause, but it offered a more thorough description of how the legislation was to be put into effect.
- In the case that they apprehended a suspected runaway, these hunters were required to take them before a judge and present documentation demonstrating that the individual was their property.
- A $500 fine was also levied on anybody who assisted in harboring or concealing fugitives under the terms of the statute.
- Northerners were outraged at the prospect of their states becoming a hunting ground for bounty hunters, and many contended that the law amounted to legalized kidnapping in the first instance.
- Most Northern states refused to be implicated in the system of slavery and, as a result, they purposefully ignored to enforce the legislation.
They even enacted “Personal Liberty Laws,” which granted alleged runaways the chance to stand trial in front of a jury and also safeguarded free blacks, many of whom had been seized by bounty hunters and sold into slavery.
Prigg v. Pennsylvania
The anti-slavery stance in the United States remained strong in the North even after the Fugitive Slave Clause was incorporated into the United States Constitution in the late 1780s and early 1790s, and many petitioned Congress to outlaw the institution completely. Ultimately, Congress approved the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, in response to increased pressure from Southern legislators, who believed that the slave dispute was causing a rift between the newly constituted states. Many of the provisions of this decree were identical to those of the Fugitive Slave Clause, but it offered a more thorough description of how the rule was to be implemented.
- After apprehending a suspected runaway, these hunters were required to bring the individual before a judge and present proof demonstrating that the individual was their property.
- Additionally, anybody who assisted in harboring or concealing fugitives may face a $500 fine.
- Those living in the northern states were outraged at the prospect of their states becoming a hunting field for bounty hunters, and many believed the law amounted to legalized kidnapping.
- Most Northern states refused to be implicated in the system of slavery and, as a result, they purposefully failed to implement the laws against slavery.
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Because of rising pressure from Southern lawmakers, Congress amended the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and approved a new version the following year. This new rule, which was enacted as part of Henry Clay’s renowned Compromise of 1850—a set of laws that helped quell early aspirations for Southern secession—forcibly required individuals to aid in the arrest of runaway children. Moreover, it removed the right to a jury trial from the hands of enslaved people and increased the punishment for interfering with the rendition process to $1,000 and six months in prison.
They were compensated more for returning a suspected runaway than they were for freeing them, prompting many to believe the legislation was prejudiced in favor of slaveholders in the Southern United States.
As a result, states such as Vermont and Wisconsin developed additional legislation aimed at circumventing and even nullifying the rule, while abolitionists stepped up their efforts to help runaways.
On rare occasions, the resistance erupted into riots and revolutions.
Shadrach Minkins, an escapee from federal detention, was forcibly released from federal custody in 1851 by a crowd of antislavery protestors who stormed a Boston courthouse. Similar rescues were carried out in the following years in New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Acts
Widespread resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 resulted in the statute becoming essentially unenforceable in several Northern states by 1860, with only around 330 enslaved persons successfully returned to their Southern masters. Despite the fact that Republican and Free Soil members periodically filed measures and resolutions relating to the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, the statute remained in effect until after the outbreak of the Civil War. It wasn’t until a joint resolution of Congress passed on June 28, 1864, that both of the Fugitive Slave Acts were abolished.
Fugitive Slave Acts
Historically, the Fugitive Slave Acts were two pieces of legislation established by Congress in 1793 and 1850 (and repealed in 1864) that allowed for the capture and return of fugitive slaves who escaped from one state into another or into a federally administered region. The 1793 legislation carried out Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution by permitting any federal district judge or circuit court judge, as well as any state magistrate, to determine the legal status of an accused fugitive slave without the need for a trial by jury.
- These laws established that fugitives who challenged an initial ruling against them were entitled to a jury trial.
- The Underground Railroad is a term used to describe a system of transportation that allows people to flee their homes.
- Weber (c.1893).
- LC-USZ62-28860) Quiz on the Encyclopedia Britannica This quiz will examine the history of slavery and resistance.
- Who was the leader of the mutiny of 53 enslaved individuals on the Spanish slave ship Amistad that occurred in 1839?
- Take the quiz to find out.
Under this rule, fugitives were not permitted to testify in their own defense, nor were they given the opportunity to stand trial before a jury.
In addition, under the 1850 statute, special commissioners were to have concurrent jurisdiction with the United States courts in the enforcement of the law.
There was a rise in the number of abolitionists, the Underground Railroad activities grew more efficient, and new personal-liberty legislation were established in several Northern states during this period.
The attempts to put the legislation of 1850 into action sparked a great deal of animosity and were very certainly responsible for stoking sectional antagonism as much as the debate over slavery in the territory.
The Library of Congress’s Printed Ephemera Collection is located in Washington, D.C.
Portfolio 22, Folder 12b) A period of time during the American Civil War was regarded to be a period of time during which the Fugitive Slave Acts were still in effect in the instance of Blacks fleeing from masters in border states that were loyal to the Union authority.
It wasn’t until June 28, 1864, that the acts were finally overturned by the legislature. Those in charge of editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica Adam Augustyn was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.
1850 Fugitive Slave Act · The Underground Railroad · The Underground Railroad in the Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana Borderland
Historically, the Fugitive Slave Acts were two pieces of legislation established by Congress in 1793 and 1850 (and repealed in 1864) that allowed for the capture and return of fugitive slaves who had escaped from one state into another or into a federally administered territory. It was enacted in 1793 to carry out Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which authorized any federal district or circuit court judge, as well as any state magistrate, to determine the legal status of an accused fugitive slave without the need for a jury trial.
- These laws established that fugitives who appealed an original ruling against them were entitled to a jury trial.
- The Underground Railroad is a term used to describe a system of transportation that allows people to flee their homes and seek asylum elsewhere in the country.
- Weber from around 1893.
- The Slavery and Resistance in Historical Perspective Quiz Which presidents of the United States held slaves during their lifetimes and which did not?
- Take a test to see how much you know.
- Because of the desire from the South for more stringent regulation, a second Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, which became effective in 1861.
- Federal marshals who failed to execute the law or from whom a runaway fled were subjected to severe penalties; fines were also imposed on people who assisted slaves in their escape.
- When the 1850 law was enforced harshly, it resulted in abuses and ultimately negated its intended result.
- This set of state legislation was among the issues that South Carolina formally cited in December 1860 as reason for its separation from the Union.
- the payment made in exchange for the return of a fugitive slave advertisement from 1838 offering a $150 prize for the return of a person who managed to flee the bonds of servitude Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Printed Ephemera Collection (call no.
The repeal of the statutes did not take effect until June 28, 1864. In the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the editors write about: In the most recent revision and update, Adam Augustyn made significant changes to the article.
The Underground Railroad – Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
When we talk about the Underground Railroad, we’re talking about the attempts of enslaved African Americans to earn their freedom by escaping bondage, which took place from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of the war. In every country where slavery existed, there was a concerted attempt to flee, first to maroon communities in remote locations far from settlements, then across state and international borders. Runaways were considered “fugitives” under the rules of the period because of their acts of self-emancipation, albeit in retrospect, the term “freedom seeker” appears to be a more fair description.
It’s possible that the choice to aid a freedom seeking was taken on the spur of the moment.
Freedom seekers traveled in a variety of directions, including Canada, Mexico, the United States West, the Caribbean islands, and Europe.
The Fugitive Slave Acts
Until the end of the Civil War, enslavement in the United States was considered lawful and acceptable. In contrast to the rhetoric of the Revolutionary War era about freedom, the new United States constitution safeguarded the rights of individuals to possess and enslave other people, including women. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 further reinforced these slaveholding rights, allowing for the return to captivity of any African American who was accused or simply suspected of being a freedom seeker under certain circumstances.
It was a $500 punishment for anybody who supported a liberator or just interfered with an arrest, a clear recognition of the significance and lasting influence on American society of the Underground Railroad phenomenon decades before it was given its official name.
Individuals in the North were brought face to face with the immoral issue by the spectacle of African Americans being reenslaved at the least provocation and the selling of abducted free African Americans to the South for slavery.
Those who aided freedom seekers in their attempts to flee were considered members of the Underground Railroad. “Buy us too,” says H.L. Stephens in his parting words. The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information.
Motivation of Freedom Seekers
Time period, geographic location, kind of agriculture or industry, size of the slaveholding unit, urban vs rural environment, and even the temperament and financial stability of the enslaver all influenced the degree to which people were enslaved. All of these experiences have one thing in common: the dehumanization of both the victim and the oppressor as a result of the demands of a system that treats human beings as property rather than as individuals. This element, probably more than any other, helps to explain why some people opted to escape and why their owners were frequently taken aback by their actions.
Many people were able to flee because they had access to knowledge and abilities, including reading, which gave them an advantage.
The slaves rebelled despite the fact that the slavery system was intended to train them to accept it.
Geography of the Underground Railroad
Wherever there were enslaved African Americans, there were those who were desperate to get away. Slavery existed in all of the original thirteen colonies, as well as in Spanish California, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as in all of the Caribbean islands, until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the British abolition of slavery brought an end to slavery in the United States (1834). The Underground Railroad had its beginnings at the site of enslavement in the United States. The routes followed natural and man-made forms of movement, including rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, as well as roads and trails and other infrastructure.
Freedom seekers used their inventiveness to devise disguises, forgeries, and other techniques, drawing on their courage and brains in the process.
Commemoration of Underground Railroad History
The desire to emigrate could be found everywhere there were enslaved African-Americans. Slavery existed in all of the original thirteen colonies, as well as in Spanish California, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as on all of the Caribbean islands, until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the British abolition of slavery brought an end to slavery in the British Empire (1834). At the point of servitude, the Underground Railroad got its beginnings. The routes followed natural and man-made forms of transit, including rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, as well as roads and paths in the forest.
Disguises, forgeries, and other techniques were devised by freedom seekers with the help of their ingenuity, daring, and intellect.
Running away slaves were tracked down and apprehended using the lure of announced incentives to entice the populace to assist in the capture and enslavement of runaway slaves on predicted routes of escape.
Uncovering Underground Railroad History
Despite years of assertions that the Underground Railroad’s history was shrouded in secrecy, local historians, genealogists, oral historians, and other researchers have discovered that primary sources describing the flight to freedom of many enslaved African Americans have survived to the present day. It is becoming clearer that the slaves were determined to pursue their own and their families’ freedom, as evidenced by court documents, memoirs of conductors and freedom seekers, letters, runaway advertisements in newspapers, and military records.
A lot of the time, no one has been able to piece together the parts of freedom seekers’ narrative by looking at their starting and ending locations, let alone the moments in between.
Anthony Burns is a writer who lives in New York City.
Unknown Underground Railroad Heroes
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known as the “Moses of her people,” and Frederick Douglass, a freedom seeker who rose to become the greatest African American leader of his time, are two of the most well-known figures linked with the Underground Railroad. Both were from the state of Maryland. Those seeking freedom, on the other hand, came from every part of the world where slavery was legalized, even the northern colonies. Harriet Jacobs arrived from North Carolina, where she had spent the previous seven years hidden in her grandmother’s attic.
- Louis and journeyed 700 miles until she reached Canada, where she sought sanctuary.
- Lewis Hayden, his wife, and their kid were able to flee from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Ohio thanks to the assistance of Delia Webster and Calvin Fairbanks.
- Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black businesswoman from San Francisco, took in a fugitive named Archy Lee and hosted him in her house, setting the stage for an important state court case.
- Coffin and Rankin are two white clergymen from the Midwest who aided freedom seekers in their efforts to gain their independence.
- Residents of Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, both black and white, stood up to slave hunters and refused to allow them to return John Price to his servitude in the state of Kentucky.
- Charles Torrey, Leonard Grimes, and Jacob Bigelow were among the members of a multiracial network in Washington, D.C., who worked for years to assist individuals like as Ann Marie Weems, the Edmondson sisters, and Garland White in their quest for freedom.
William and Ellen Craft managed to flee over one thousand miles from Georgia to Boston by putting on a convincing disguise.
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
In addition to coordinating preservation and education efforts across the country, the National Park Service Underground Railroad program integrates local historical sites, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. The Network also seeks to foster contact and collaboration between scholars and other interested parties, as well as to help in the formation of statewide organizations dedicated to the preservation and investigation of Underground Railroad locations.
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
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 a vital part of our country’s history. This pamphlet will give a glimpse into the past through a range of primary documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad, which will be discussed in detail. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs relating 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 American Civil War.
Consequently, secret codes were developed to assist them in protecting themselves and their purpose.
It was the conductors that assisted escaped slaves in their journey to freedom, and the fugitive slaves were known as cargo when they were transported.
On the Underground Railroad, safe homes that were utilized as hiding places were referred to as “stations.” Outside each station would be a lamp that was illuminated.
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included inside many textbooks, despite the fact that it is a vital part of our nation’s history. This ebook will give a look into the past through a range of primary documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs relating to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
- The Underground Railroad was a covert structure designed to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the American Civil War.
- As a result, secret codes were developed to assist them in protecting themselves and their purpose.
- Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free people who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
- These stations would be identified by a lighted lantern placed outside.
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.
One of American History’s Worst Laws Was Passed 165 Years Ago
Despite the fact that it had been 30 years since Thomas Jefferson compared the combustible subject of slavery expansion to “a fire bell in the night'” that would one day ring “a death knell for the Union,” the fulfillment of Jefferson’s ominous prophecy appeared to be very close in the year 1850. Although they were still a minority in the 1830s, northern abolitionists grew loud and disruptive enough to cause genuine worry in the slave states while making additional political concessions to slavery in the free states increasingly difficult.
Initially, the Senate’s balance of slave-state and free-state votes didomed the legislation, but demographic statistics were shifting at the time.
The admission of California as a free state swayed the scales in the Senate as well.
18, 1850, exactly 165 years ago today.
It compelled the federal government to go far beyond its constitutional authority in defense of slavery at a time when anti-slavery sentiment was clearly on the rise, provoking outrage and defiance in the North and, as a result, further deepening southerners’ suspicions that their rights could no longer be protected within the United States of America Initially, the new law appeared to be a straightforward attempt to enforce the United States Constitution, specifically Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, which stated that slaves did not become free simply by escaping to a free state and, as a result, stipulated that slaves must be returned to their legal owners.
The framers of the 1850 measure, however, went far beyond earlier efforts that were little more than lip service to this mandate, transferring jurisdiction from northern courts to a federal commission that was blatantly encouraged to rule in favor of the slaveholder by a compensation rate of $10 for each black person returned to the South (as opposed to only $5 if the claim was disallowed) and a compensation rate of $10 for each black person remanded North.
- In addition to prohibiting testimony from the putative fugitives themselves, the legislation obliged ordinarily disinterested private persons to aid in the apprehension and return of the suspects under fear of punishment or jail.
- However, there were some more tangible concerns at play.
- It was no accident that both Douglass and Garnet were able to make their way out of Maryland at the same time.
- Hummel and Barry R.
- The fact that the most dangerous flight risks were also the most expensive to replace meant that able-bodied male slaves became a significantly less appealing investment in border nations.
- However, if the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to strengthen slavery in any way, there is no evidence to suggest that it did so.
- Over the next decade, the number of runaways reduced by just 200, and the 330 people who returned to slavery barely exceeded the number of escapes from the Border States alone in 1860, according to the Bureau of the Census.
- Even whites in the north, who had previously been apprehensive about the presence of African Americans in their midst, now call for stronger state guarantees for personal liberty and freedom.
- Rather than forcing its nefarious expansionist will on remote geographical frontiers, the oft-invoked “slave power cabal” seems set on imposing it on their very own, purportedly “free,” communities, under the authority and muscle of their own government.
- As such, it not only exacerbated the very fears and concerns on both sides that had thrown the Union into crisis in 1850, but it also further undermined the political fortunes of those who had demanded it in the first place, as would become evident later.
It was made apparent by the Fugitive Slave Act that any further extension of the physical and political reach of human bondage would be irreconcilable with the shift in substantive northern objectives and the attendant establishment of a new public morality that would result as a result of this shift.
Distinguished professor of history James C. Cobb is now the Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia, and he previously served as president of the Southern Historical Association.
Get our History Newsletter.Put today’s news in context and see highlights from the archives.
We’ve sent you a confirmation email to the address you provided as a precautionary measure. To confirm your subscription and begin getting our newsletters, please click on the link provided. You should receive a confirmation email within 10 minutes. If you do not receive a confirmation email, please check your spam folder. TIME Magazine has more must-read stories.
- Ahead of time, Shonda Rhimes knows what you’re going to watch next on television. How Donald Trump Turned the Sixth of January into a Windfall
- In order to learn to live with COVID-19, we must start in 2022. Black teachers in public schools are finding it difficult to keep their jobs. What These Ex-Teachers Say About Why
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Rochelle Walensky, is dealing with a resurgent virus—and a crisis of trust. How Addictive Social Media Algorithms May Finally Be Called Into Account by the Year 2022 The Supreme Court may allow religious schools to accept funds from the government. Former students have stated that this is a mistake.
Please contact us at [email protected]
The Underground Railroad
WGBHA For a number of reasons, African-Americans fled slavery in the South to the north. Many slaves were driven to risk their lives in order to escape plantation life because of brutal physical punishment, psychological torture, and countless hours of hard labor without remuneration. When a master passed away, it was customary for slaves to be sold as part of the estate and for familial links to be severed. However, while some slaves journeyed with families or friends, the vast majority traveled alone, relying on the charity of fellow African Americans or abolitionist whites they met along the road for help.
- African American men and women of all ages escaped from the plantation and travelled north in search of liberty and opportunity.
- Escape from the deep South and make it north to New York, Massachusetts, or Canada required a trek of hundreds of miles, much of which was done on foot, to get there.
- Runaway slave advertising in local newspapers were routinely issued by plantation owners whose slaves had gotten away.
- Not all fugitive slaves made their way to the North.
- Some runaways created freedmen’s encampments in harsh rural places where they could remain concealed from slave catchers and local law enforcement agencies, while others chose urban settings.
- The trip to freedom for slaves who resided in border states such as Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia may be short and less terrifying if they lived in one of these states.
- Slaves who resided in areas where they had access to freshwater and saltwater ports were frequently stowed away or employed as crew members on Northbound boats.
After the enactment of the second Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, escaping from bondage became more difficult than it had ever been.
Federal marshals who failed to enforce the law against fugitive slaves, as well as anybody who assisted them, were subjected to harsh punishment.
Hicksite Quakers and other abolitionists in the North were among those who supplied some of the most organized assistance for the Underground Railroad.
The vast majority of the thousands of slaves who attempted to flee the farms each year were unsuccessful.
Others were escorted back to their homes in chains after being apprehended by law enforcement or professional slave catchers.
In 1791, a statute was established in Upper Canada, which is now Ontario, to progressively phase out slavery over a period of time.
The Underground Railroad thrived in communities such as Rochester and Buffalo, which were close to the boundaries of Upper Canada and were hotbeds of activity. Canada represented the Promised Land for those who had braved the long voyage and all of its difficulties.
Escapees from slavery travelled north in order to reclaim their freedom and escape harsh living conditions in their home countries. They required daring and cunning in order to elude law enforcement agents and professional slave catchers, who were paid handsomely for returning them to their masters’ possession. Southerners were extremely resentful of people in the North who helped the slaves in their plight. They invented the name “Underground Railroad” to refer to a well-organized network dedicated to keeping slaves away from their masters, which occasionally extended as far as crossing the Canadian border.
In 1850, Congress created the Fugitive Slave Law, which imposed severe fines on anybody found guilty of assisting slaves in their attempts to flee.
Underground Railroad “Stations” Develop in Iowa
Iowa shares a southern border with Missouri, which was a slave state during the American Civil War. The abolitionist movement (those who desired to abolish slavery) built a system of “stations” in the 1840s and 1850s that could transport runaways from the Mississippi River to Illinois on their route to freedom. Activists from two religious movements, the Congregationalists and the Quakers, played crucial roles in the abolitionist movement. They were also involved in the Underground Railroad’s operations in the state of New York.
- According to one source, there are more than 100 Iowans who are participating in the endeavor.
- The Hitchcock House, located in Cass County near Lewis, is another well-known destination on the Underground Railroad in one form or another.
- George Hitchcock escorted “passengers” to the next destination on his route.
- Several of these locations are now public museums that are available to the general public.
- Individual families also reacted when they were approached for assistance.
- When the Civil War broke out and the Fugitive Slave Law could no longer be enforced in the northern states, a large number of slaves fled into the state and eventually settled there permanently.
Iowa became the first state to offer black males the right to vote in 1868. It was determined that segregated schools and discrimination in public accommodations were both unconstitutional in Iowa by the Supreme Court.
Iowa: A Free State Willing to Let Slavery Exist
Slavery has been a contentious topic in the United States since its inception, and it continues to be so today. As new states entered the Union, the early fights did not revolve over slavery in the South but rather its expansion. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 created an east-west line along the southern boundary of Missouri, which would remain in place for the rest of time, separating free and slave settlement. States to the south may legalize slavery, whilst states to the north (with the exception of slave state Missouri) were prohibited from doing so.
- The majority of Iowans were ready to allow slavery to continue in the South.
- They enacted legislation in an attempt to deter black people from settling in the state.
- Iowa did have a tiny community of abolitionists who believed that slavery was a moral wrong that should be abolished everywhere.
- This increased the likelihood that Nebraska, which borders Iowa on its western border, would become a slave state.
- The Republican Party has evolved as a staunch opponent of any future expansion of slavery into western areas in the United States.
- $200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
- “Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Print, 1850 (Image)
- Fugitive Slave Law, 1850 (Document)
- Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
- Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Do
How did runaway slaves rely on the help of abolitionists to escape to freedom?
- Article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle titled “William and Ellen Craft,” published on February 23, 1849 (Document)
- Anti-Slavery Bugle Article titled “Underground Railroad,” published on September 16, 1854 (Document)
- “A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article published on November 8, 1855 (Document)
- William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, circa 1890 (Image)
How did some runaway slaves create their own opportunities to escape?
- A newspaper article entitled “The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry Box Brown” published on June 23, 1849 (Document)
- The Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, published in 1850 (Image, Document)
- “The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” illustration published in 1850 (Image)
- Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” published on June 14, 1862 (Do
$200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847
After escaping enslavement, many people depended on northern whites to guide them securely to the northern free states and eventually to Canadian territory. For someone who had previously been forced into slavery, life may be quite perilous. There were incentives for capturing them, as well as adverts such as the one seen below for a prize. More information may be found here.
“Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Illustration, 1850
Written in strong opposition to the Runaway Slave Act, which was approved by Congress in September 1850 and expanded federal and free-state duty for the return of fugitive slaves, this letter is full of anger. The bill called for the appointment of federal commissioners who would have the authority to enact regulations. More information may be found here.
Fugitive Slave Law, 1850
As a result of the Fleeing Slave Law of 1850, it became unlawful for anybody in the northern United States to aid fugitive slaves in their quest for freedom. This statute supplemented the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act with additional clauses addressing runaways, and it imposed even harsher sanctions for interfering with their escape. More information may be found here.
Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “William and Ellen Craft,” February 23, 1849
In this article from the abolitionist journal, The Anti-Slavery Bugle, the narrative of Ellen and William Craft’s emancipation from slavery is described in detail.
Ellen disguised herself as a male in order to pass as the master, while her husband, William, claimed to be her servant as they made their way out of the building. More information may be found here.
Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “Underground Railroad,” September 16, 1854
The Anti-Slavery Bugle article indicates the number of runaway slaves in northern cities in 1854, based on a survey conducted by the organization. This group contained nine slaves from Boone County, Kentucky, who were seeking refuge in the United States. Their captors were said to be on the lookout for them in Cincinnati, and they were found. More information may be found here.
“A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article, November 8, 1855
This newspaper story was written in Fayettville, Tennessee, in 1855 and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a priest in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article details his ordeal in detail. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting escaped slaves on their way to freedom. More information may be found here.
William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, 1890
It was published in the Fayetteville, Tennessee, newspaper in 1855, and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a clergyman in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article tells what happened. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting fugitive slaves on their way out of the country. More information may be found at.
“Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried” – A Daily Gate City Article, April 13, 1915
This story, which was published in the Keokuk, Iowa, newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915, is about a trial that took place in Burlington in 1850. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had fled from Missouri and had worked for him as slaves. More information may be found here.
“The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry ‘Box’ Brown” Article, June 23, 1849
It was published in the Keokuk, Iowa newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915 and is about a trial that took place in Burlington, Iowa, in 1850 and was published in The Daily Gate City. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had escaped from Missouri and had been working for him. More information may be found at.
Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, 1850
This story, which appeared in The Daily Gate Citynewspaper of Keokuk, Iowa, in 1915, was about a trial that took place in Burlington, Iowa, in the year 1850. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had fled from Missouri. Read on for more information.
“The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” Illustration, 1850
Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped from Richmond, Virginia, in a box measuring three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two and a half feet broad, is depicted in a somewhat comical but sympathetic manner in this artwork. In the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s administrative offices. More information may be found here.
Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” June 14, 1862
The escape of Robert Smalls and other members of his family and friends from slavery was chronicled in detail in an article published in Harper’s Weekly. Smalls was an enslaved African American who acquired freedom during and after the American Civil War and went on to work as a ship’s pilot on the high seas. More information may be found here.
“A Bold Stroke for Freedom” Illustration, 1872
The image from 1872 depicts African Americans, most likely fleeing slaves, standing in front of a wagon and brandishing firearms towards slave-catchers.
A group of young enslaved persons who had escaped from Loudon by wagon are said to be shown in the cartoon on Christmas Eve in 1855, when patrollers caught up with them. More information may be found here.
- Harriet Tubman Day is observed annually on March 31. The statement issued by the State of Delaware on the observance of Harriet Ross Tubman Day on March 10, 2017 may be seen on the website. Governor John Carney and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long both signed the statement. Harriet Tubman – A Guide to Online Resources A wide range of material linked with Harriet Tubman may be found in these digital collections from the Library of Congress, which include manuscripts, pictures, and publications. It is the goal of this guide to consolidate connections to digital materials about Harriet Tubman that are available throughout the Library of Congress website. Scenes from Harriet Tubman’s Life and Times The website, which is accessible through the Digital Public Library of America, contains portions from the novel Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, written by Sarah Bradford in 1869 and published by the American Library Association.
This day honors Harriet Tubman. Harriet Ross Tubman Day will be observed on March 10, 2017, according to a statement released by the State of Delaware on the occasion. Governor John Carney and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long both signed the statement. A Guide to Resources on Harriet Tubman’s Life and Times Collections from the Library of Congress’s digital collections contain a diverse range of materials linked with Harriet Tubman, including manuscripts as well as images and publications. It is the goal of this guide to assemble links to digital materials on Harriet Tubman that are available on the Library of Congress website.
Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (8th Grade)
Harriet Ross Tubman Day is observed on March 31. The statement issued by the State of Delaware on the observance of Harriet Ross Tubman Day on March 10, 2017, may be seen on the website. Governor John Carney and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long both signed the statement; Harriet Tubman – A Guide to Resources on the Internet Manuscripts, pictures, and publications linked with Harriet Tubman can all be found in these digitized resources from the Library of Congress. Links to digital materials on Harriet Tubman that are available on the Library of Congress website have been included in this guide.
- S.8.13.Explain the rights and obligations of people, political parties, and the media in the context of a range of governmental and nonprofit organizations and institutions. (Skills for the twenty-first century)
- SS.8.19.Explain how immigration and migration were influenced by push and pull influences in early American history. SS.8.21.Examine the relationships and linkages between early American historical events and developments in the context of wider historical settings
- In your explanation of how and why prevalent social, cultural, and political viewpoints altered over early American history, please include the following information: SS.8.23.Explain the numerous causes, impacts, and changes that occurred in early American history
- And The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, Washington’s Farewell Address, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty with France, the Monroe Doctrine, the Indian Removal Act, the Missouri Compromise, Dred Scott v. Sanford, and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo are examples of primary and secondary sources of information that should be critiqued with consideration for the source of the document, its context, accuracy, and usefulness.