How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans? It provided a network of escape routes toward the North. In his pamphlet Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, on what did David Walker base his arguments against slavery? They feared that the abolition of slavery would destroy their economy.
What impact did the Underground Railroad have on slavery?
The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North.
What role did the Underground Railroad play in the resistance to slavery?
It was used by enslaved African Americans primarily to escape into free states and Canada. The network was assisted by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escapees. The enslaved who risked escape and those who aided them are also collectively referred to as the “Underground Railroad”.
Why was the Underground Railroad important to American history?
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.
Was the Underground Railroad a success?
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 to the Civil War?
The Underground Railroad physically resisted the repressive laws that held slaves in bondage. 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.
How did Harriet Tubman help slaves?
Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom in the North along the route of the Underground Railroad.
What was the purpose of the Underground Railroad quizlet?
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to-mid 19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.
How did the Underground Railroad help promote justice?
The Underground Railroad became a catalyst for propaganda as both the abolitionists and slave owners used tales of escape to gain popular support for their cause. The abolitionists used the stories of successful escapes to rally to action those who supported the causes of equality and freedom.
What did you learn about the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad occurred during one of the most challenging eras in the history of the United States of America. It provided an opportunity for sympathetic Americans to assist in the abolition of slavery. It demonstrates the creativity and innovation of communication systems and planned escapes.
What was the significance of Harriet Beecher Stowe?
Abolitionist author, Harriet Beecher Stowe rose to fame in 1851 with the publication of her best-selling book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which highlighted the evils of slavery, angered the slaveholding South, and inspired pro-slavery copy-cat works in defense of the institution of slavery.
Do you think the Underground Railroad was a success why or why not?
Do you think the Underground Railroad was a success? Why or why not? Yes. It freed many slaves and gave them a new chance at life.
What happened after the Underground Railroad?
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. Suddenly their job became more difficult and riskier.
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
- Image of the engraving on the box that Henry “Box” Brown built and used to send himself to freedom in Virginia. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. There is a label on the box that says “Right side up with care.” During his first appearance out of the box in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the attached song, Henry “Box” Brown sang a song that is included here. More information may be found here.
“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. According to popular belief, the cartoon depicts the Christmas Eve of 1855, when patrollers apprehended a group of adolescent enslaved individuals who had fled by wagon from Loudon.
- Several African Americans, perhaps fleeing slaves, are seen with firearms pointed at slave hunters in an image from 1872. The cartoon is said to portray the Christmas Eve of 1855, when patrollers apprehended a group of young enslaved individuals who had fled by wagon from Loudon.Read more
- Maryland’s Pathways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the State of Maryland On this page, you can find primary materials pertaining to Maryland and the Underground Railroad. Information from three former slaves, Samuel Green, Phoebe Myers, and others is included in this collection. “The Underground Railroad: A Secret History” by Eric Foner is a book on the history of the Underground Railroad. The author of this piece from The Atlantic discusses the “secret history” of the Underground Railroad, which he believes reveals that the network was not nearly as secretive as many people believe. Emancipation of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery According to “Documenting the American South,” this webpage focuses on how slaves William and Ellen Craft escaped from Georgia and sought asylum and freedom in the United States’ northern states.
Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (8th Grade)
The content anchor requirements for Iowa Core Social Studies that are most accurately reflected in this source collection are listed below. The subject requirements that have been implemented to this set are appropriate for middle school pupils and cover the major areas that make up social studies for eighth grade students in the United States.
- 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.
SS.8.13.Explain the powers and duties of individuals, political parties, and the media in a range of governmental and nonprofit organizations, including the United Nations. 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; and In larger historical settings, examine the relationships and linkages between early American historical events and developments. Explain how and why the dominant social, cultural, and political attitudes evolved during the early history of the United States.
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 evaluated for their source, context, accuracy, and usefulness.
The so-called “Underground Railroad” was neither an actual railroad nor an underground network. During the American Civil War, a sophisticated network of Americans, both black and white, assisted enslaved Africans who were striving to earn their freedom by providing them with food, shelter, and other necessities. African Americans who attempted to flee slavery had the risk of being apprehended and punished, while anybody who assisted fleeing slaves ran the chance of being apprehended and fined.
The fact that Indiana was located just over the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky made it a favorite destination for fugitive slaves fleeing to freedom.
Students, instructors, and historians can learn about some of the Underground Railroad’s operations today by reading accounts that were written by the people who took part in the activities themselves.
It is possible to read about Henry Bibb’s exploits in his book, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, which was published after his escape into Indiana and which may be foundhere.
Underground Railroad Publications
- “Journey to the Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana”, by Pamela R. Peters
- “With Bodily Force and Violence: The Escape of Peter”, by Jeannie Regan-Dinius
- “Bury Me in a Free Land: The Abolitionist Movement in Indiana”, by Gwen Crenshaw
- The Underground Railroad in Indiana – Books for sale in the IHB Book Shop
- “Journey to the Underground Railroad in Floyd County, Indiana”, by Pamela R. Peter
Underground Railroad Historical Markers
- Map of Indiana Underground Railroad and Context Markers
- Underground Railroad and Context Markers that have recently been installed
- Possible 2017 Marker in Ohio County
- And Other Resources.
Researching the UGRR in Indiana
- In Indiana, there is Underground Railroad research
- The Underground Railroad Initiative – Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
- Underground Railroad bibliographies
- And more. The Underground Railroad Trails to Freedom in Southeast Indiana
- Underground Railroad Sites in the Midwest
Network to Freedom
- In Indiana, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program is administered by the Indiana Department of Health and Human Services and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. In addition, the Indiana Freedom Trails program is administered by the Indiana Department of Health and Human Services and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
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.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
- The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.
- As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.
- Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
- These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.
- Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
- They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
- They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
- After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.
American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.
He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.
Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.
Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.
Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.
- They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
- Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
- He went on to write a novel.
- John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.
Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.
The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.
The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.
His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.
Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.
For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.
- I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
- On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
- It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
- Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
- I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
- Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
- The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
- This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.
For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.
Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.
Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.
Franklin County, PA
He was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner named Henry Bibb. 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 multiple times. It was only through his determination that he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then to Canada with the help of the Underground Railroad, a feat that had been highly anticipated.
- For my own personal liberty, I made a decision somewhere during the autumn or winter of 1837 that I would try to flee to Canada if at all feasible.” Immediately after, I began preparing for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the chains that kept me a prisoner in my own home.
- I also purchased a suit that I had never worn or been seen in before, in order to escape discovery.
- It was the twenty-fifth of December, 1837.
- My moral bravery was tested to the limit when I left my small family and tried to keep my emotions under wraps at all times.
- No matter how many opportunities were presented to me to flee if I wanted to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free!
- A thousand barriers had formed around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded spirit, which was still imprisoned in the dark dungeon of mental degradation.
- It was difficult to break free from my deep bonds to friends and relatives, as well as the love of home and birthplace that is so natural among the human family, which were entwined around my heart and made it difficult to go forward.
- But I’d calculated the cost and was completely prepared to make the sacrifice before I started the process.
If I don’t want to be a slave, I’ll have to abandon friends and neighbors, along with my wife and child.” I was given something to eat by these gracious folks, who then set me on my way to Canada on the advise of a buddy who had met me along the road.” This marked the beginning of the construction of what was referred to be the underground rail track from the United States to the Canadian continent.
In the morning, I walked with bold courage, trusting in the arm of Omnipotence; by night, I was guided by the unchangeable North Star, and inspired by the elevated thought that I was fleeing from a land of slavery and oppression, waving goodbye to handcuffs, whips, thumb-screws, and chains, and that I was on my way to freedom.
I continued my journey vigorously for nearly forty-eight hours 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, being pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not being able to find a house in which to take shelter from the storm.” Among the countless accounts recorded by escaped slaves is this one, which is only one example.
Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became well-known for her efforts to bring slavery to an end, was another person who came from a slave background.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal journeys.
The writing down of one’s experiences by so many escaped slaves may have been done in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or it may have been done in order to help individuals learn from their mistakes in the aim of building a brighter future.
Franklin County’s geographic position close north of the Mason-Dixon line has long been recognized as one of its most distinguishing features. It is a border region of a border state that is firmly a part of the North but has significant cultural, physical, and economic links to the South. It is also a border region of a border state. Many African American communities, including those made up of liberated former slaves and their descendants as well as fugitive slaves who decided to remain in Pennsylvania, flourished in Franklin County during the decades preceding the Civil War.
A significant free black population could be found in several towns around the county, but the community in and around Mercersburg, which is just a few miles from Maryland on the hilly western end of the county, is particularly noteworthy in terms of its historical significance.
Slavery in Pennsylvania and Franklin County
slavery existed in Pennsylvania from the time of the state’s founding in the 1640s, and it was practiced even among Quakers, who later became its most vocal opponents. William Penn himself was a slave owner, and it is reported that he preferred owning black slaves over employing white indentured servants throughout the course of his career. Even as additional slaves were brought into the area, however, significant religious and moral opposition to slavery arose within a few decades of its introduction.
During the Pennsylvania legislative session of 1780, the Pennsylvania legislature passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, which sought to make the process of abolition less disruptive to the state’s economy than immediate emancipation, while also respecting the property rights of slaveholders.
Children, on the other hand, were legally obligated to work as indentured slaves until they reached the age of 28, while adults were enslaved for the rest of their lives.
Inevitably, the abolition of slavery didn’t herald the abolition of racism or prejudice, and these close-knit communities provided them with some kind of protection.
Pennsylvania enacted its own personal liberty legislation, both at the state and regional levels, that was in contradiction with the new federal statute, but the danger remained in place.
So Franklin County was an especially hazardous battlefield, pitting anti-slavery campaigners against slave hunters and their spies in a series of bloody battles.
The Underground Railroad in Franklin County
When I was going through Orangetown, Pennsylvania, I stopped in at a bakery to pick up a treat for myself. Two musket-wielding soldiers trailed behind me. A group of people had tracked me down from a village I had traveled through a short time ago. They kidnapped me and claimed they were going to transport me to Chambersburg, where I would appear before a magistrate. I had just finished a stroll. By and by, keeping an eye on my opportunity, I leapt the fence and ran. They were riding horses at the time.
- till dark.
- I continued my journey through the night, traveling until daylight, when I arrived at a colored man’s home in the highlands.
- The Underground Railroad was eventually located by me, after a long and arduous search.
- -adapted from a personal narrative by immigrant Sam Davis The concealment required by the Underground Railroad was critical to its success.
- Following the natural geography of the Appalachian Mountains, which carried them northward, some fugitive slaves were able to make their way to freedom with little assistance, allowing them to escape slavery.
- In fact, the Mason and Dixon line that divided freedom from slavery, and at times even life from death, was a man-made boundary that was not based on natural geographic characteristics in any way.
- In addition to being located in the center of Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, which reaches across the border into Maryland, Franklin County is also home to the Appalachian Mountain range.
- This was a major reason why so many freed slaves chose to remain in Franklin County rather than continue northward to New York or Canada.
- In our area, the paths used by runaway slaves changed regularly, but they typically followed the direction of these mountains.
These, in turn, corresponded to intuitive, well-worn pathways that Native Americans had used in the past to travel. These identical routes are still in use today, since they served as the foundation for Routes 75, 30, and 11 in the United States.
Mercersburg’s “Little Africa”
By 1850, the African American population in and around Mercersburg, which is located just eight miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, was by far the greatest in Franklin County, with around 400 persons living in and around the city. Mercersburg was also in the vanguard of Franklin County’s Underground Railroad, providing sanctuary for slaves shortly after they crossed the border into the United States. During the 1820s, there were two related communities in the area that began to settle and expand: one in Mercersburg itself along Fayette Street, and another to the west of town, which locals referred to as “Africa” or “Little Africa.” The two communities were related because they were both founded in the same year.
- Farm workers and house servants were the most common types of jobs available in the region, but there were also skilled tradespeople available, such as carpenters and blacksmiths.
- According to the same census, there were a total of 26 African American households, six of which were home owners.
- Among the persons listed in the tax documents was a barber named George Bizan or Bezan, who was participating in the Underground Railroad.
- On various “stops” along the Underground Railroad, free African Americans provided refugees with food, shelter, and support, and even assisted in the rescue of those who had been seized by slave-catchers.
- Because slave-catching was a profitable business, highly driven slave catchers were frequently the ones who discovered the well-traveled routes.
- The fact that much of the information about the Underground Railroad was passed orally and kept secret means that we don’t have many names of participants and supporters.
- McCulloh of the Mercersburg Historical Society that details the activities of three Underground Railroad “conductors” who operated in and around Mercersburg.
- Acheson Ritchey, who lived on a farm outside of Mercersburg and assisted many runaway slaves, according to legend, was one of the men who assisted many runaway slaves.
- The Ritchey family welcomed into their house an eleven-year-old African-American girl who had been assigned the responsibility of caring for the newborns and small children of the individuals passing through on the underground railroad system in their neighborhood.
- Ritchey was said to have dissuaded Brown from proceeding with the plot.
- Bezan was a short guy with a modest stature, while his son, George, was a tall man with a huge size.
When fugitives approached, Jacob kept a close eye out for them, while George defended the residence. When the father and son swapped roles on one occasion, the slaves seeking refuge were alarmed because they had expected to find a little guy in their midst.
The 54th and 55th Massachusetts and the Zion Union Cemetery
By 1850, the African American population in and around Mercersburg, which is located just eight miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, was by far the greatest in Franklin County, with around 400 persons living in the surrounding area. It was also in the vanguard of Franklin County’s Underground Railroad, providing sanctuary to fugitive slaves as soon as they crossed the border. During the 1820s, there were two related communities in the area that began to settle and expand: one in Mercersburg itself along Fayette Street, and another to the west of town, which locals referred to as “Africa” or “Little Africa.” The two communities were related because they were both founded by African immigrants.
They mostly worked as agricultural workers or house servants in the area, although there were also skilled laborers, such as carpenters and blacksmiths, who worked in the region.
A total of 26 African American households are listed on the same census form, with six of them being owners of their own residences.
The tax records also reveal men with a range of jobs, including a barber named George Bizan or Bezan, who was actively involved in the Underground Railroad: In Mercersburg and Little Africa, the tight-knit community—united in their dread of persecution, their love for one another and their shared religious beliefs—provided sanctuary for both its members and their fugitive relatives.
- Some of them even assisted in the rescue of slaves who had been seized by slave-catchers.
- Given the lucrative nature of the slave trade, highly motivated slave catchers were frequently the ones who discovered and exploited the well-traveled routes.
- Because the majority of information concerning the Underground Railroad was passed down orally and kept secret, we don’t have many names of participants and supporters to go on.
- McCulloh of the Mercersburg Historical Society that details the activities of three Underground Railroad “conductors” who operated in and around Mercersburg.
Several historians have said that Acheson Ritchey, who resided outside of Mercersburg and provided food to escaped slaves if he thought it would be good to keep them, or dispatched them to the next station if they felt they were in danger, was one of the persons who aided numerous runaway slaves.
Furthermore, it has been stated that when John Brown was in Chambersburg, he dispatched an agent to Acheson Ritchey in order to gain the latter’s opinion regarding a projected raid on the Harpers Ferry arsenal, but that Mr.
Jacob Bezan, an African-American who lived on West California Street, was another person who assisted slaves in their quest for freedom.
While Jacob kept an eye out for fugitives approaching the home, George maintained watch above it. When the father and son swapped roles on one occasion, the slaves seeking refuge were alarmed since they had expected to see a little guy in the distance.
Southern Invasion and Aftermath
In 1863, the Gettysburg Campaign and the subsequent invasion of Franklin County, which culminated in the Burning of Chambersburg, brought the relative stability of Franklin County’s free African American community to a crashing halt. Confederate forces unleashed a reign of brutality and terror, seizing free African Americans and transporting them back to the South, where they were put to work or sold for profit to the highest bidder. After the Civil War, white Pennsylvanians were keen to reestablish economic and social links with Maryland and the rest of the South.
- Relations between whites and African Americans deteriorated as a result of the lack of a shared moral purpose to unite them.
- Despite this, the history of African American Mercersburg is still very much alive and thriving today.
- Also still there are descendants of the original African-American population, including relatives of African-American Union troops, who reside in the neighborhood and pay honor to their rich cultural history.
- It was a simple matter of following the map and visiting the locations marked on this leaflet, which was developed by the Mercersburg Historical Architectural Review Board and distributed by the Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau.
- It is strongly recommended that you take the same guided tour that I did if you find this material as intriguing as I do.
Sources and Suggested Reading
“African Americans in Pennsylvania: Slavery and Resistance, 164401865,” according to the bibliography. Pennsylvania has a rich history of African-Americans. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is a state agency. Edward L. Ayers’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 is a history of the American Civil War. The W. W. Norton Company published a book in 2003 titled “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” an electronic archive (Barnes, Roscoe III.
“The Mercersburg family remembers the United States Colored Troops.” Public Opinion, published on November 11, 2010.
The Franklin County Visitors Bureau is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tourism in the county.
McCulloh is the author of this work.
The Mercersburg Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Mercersburg.
A Living Legacy: African American Historic Sites in Mercersburg, Mercer County, Pennsylvania Smith, David G., et al.
Switala, William J., “Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania,” in Switala, William J.
“The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment,” the caption reads. History.com. A E Television Networks is a television network owned by AEG. The Woman’s Club of Mercersburg is a non-profit organization. Mercersburg’s historic district. Grit Publishing Company, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1949.