Underground Railroad conductors were free individuals who helped fugitive slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Conductors helped runaway slaves by providing them with safe passage to and from stations. If a conductor was caught helping free slaves they would be fined, imprisoned, branded, or even hanged.
How was the Underground Railroad like a real railroad?
- Nope! Despite its name, the Underground Railroad wasn’t a railroad in the way Amtrak or commuter rail is. It wasn’t even a real railroad. It was a metaphoric one, where “conductors,” that is basically escaped slaves and intrepid abolitionists, would lead runaway slaves from one “station,” or save house to the next.
How many slaves were caught on the Underground Railroad?
Estimates vary widely, but at least 30,000 slaves, and potentially more than 100,000, escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad.
What was the Underground Railroad run by?
In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped enslaved people on the run. At the same time, Quakers in North Carolina established abolitionist groups that laid the groundwork for routes and shelters for escapees.
How did people usually travel on the Underground Railroad?
Traveling on the Underground Railroad was difficult and dangerous. Slaves would often travel by foot at night. They would sneak from one station to the next, hoping not to get caught. Stations were usually around 10 to 20 miles apart.
Does the Underground Railroad still exist?
It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. Ashtabula County had over thirty known Underground Railroad stations, or safehouses, and many more conductors. Nearly two-thirds of those sites still stand today.
Were there tunnels in the Underground Railroad?
Contrary to popular belief, the Underground Railroad was not a series of underground tunnels. While some people did have secret rooms in their houses or carriages, the vast majority of the Underground Railroad involved people secretly helping people running away from slavery however they could.
What did slaves do after they escaped?
Most large plantations in the South, however, had slaves who escaped. Slaves’ resistance to captivity took many forms, such as performing careless work, destroying property, or faking illness. Many enslaved persons who were able chose escape, however. Some tried to rejoin family members living on a nearby properties.
How does Underground Railroad end?
In the end, Royal is killed and a grief-stricken Cora is caught again by Ridgeway. Ridgeway forces Cora to take him to an Underground Railroad station, but as they climb down the entrance’s rope ladder she pulls Ridgeway off and they fall to the ground.
How long did the Underground Railroad take to travel?
The journey would take him 800 miles and six weeks, on a route winding through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, tracing the byways that fugitive slaves took to Canada and freedom.
How far did the Underground Railroad go?
Because it was dangerous to be in free states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, or even Massachusetts after 1850, most people hoping to escape traveled all the way to Canada. So, you could say that the Underground Railroad went from the American south to Canada.
How did slaves know where to go in the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. The safe houses used as hiding places along the lines of the Underground Railroad were called stations. A lit lantern hung outside would identify these stations.
How many slaves did Levi Coffin help escape?
In 1826, he moved to Indiana and over the next 20 years he assisted more than 2,000 enslaved persons escape bondage, so many that his home was known as the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.”
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the South by providing them with refuge and assistance. A number of separate covert operations came together to form the organization. Although the exact dates of its creation are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Union was defeated.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
She was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, and her name is Harriet Tubman. In 1849, she and two of her brothers managed to escape from a farm in Maryland, where they were born into slavery under the name Araminta Ross. Harriet Tubman was her married name at the time. While they did return a few of weeks later, Tubman set out on her own shortly after, making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other people.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other runaway slaves to the Maryland state capital of Fredericksburg. In order to avoid being captured by the United States, Tubman would transport parties of escapees to Canada.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Ordinary individuals, farmers and business owners, as well as pastors, were the majority of those who operated the Underground Railroad. Several millionaires, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who campaigned for president twice, were involved. For the first time in his life, Smith purchased and freed a whole family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, was one of the earliest recorded individuals to assist fleeing enslaved persons. Beginning in 1813, when he was 15 years old, he began his career.
They eventually began to make their way closer to him and eventually reached him.
End of the Line
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were everyday individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, such as Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired and freed an entire family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first persons to assist escaped enslaved people.
Coffin stated that he had learnt their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitives from slavery everywhere he went.
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as pastors. Some affluent individuals were involved, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who has run for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a whole family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first known persons to assist escaped enslaved people. He began about 1813, when he was 15 years old.
Coffin said that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward. They eventually began to make their way to him. Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved persons everywhere he went.
The Underground Railroad
|The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals – many whites but predominently black – who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year – according to one estimate,the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850. An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a “conductor,” posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.The fugitives would also travel by train and boat – conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for. Money was also needed to improve the appearance of the runaways – a black man, woman, or child in tattered clothes would invariably attract suspicious eyes. This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.|
See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to freedom. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this historical period. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that publishes encyclopedias. View all of the videos related to this topic. When escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada, this was referred to as the Underground Railroad in the United States.
Even though it was neither underground nor a railroad, it was given this name because its actions had to be carried out in secret, either via the use of darkness or disguise, and because railroad words were employed in relation to the system’s operation.
In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down or capture them.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, obtained firsthand experience of escaped slaves via her association with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived for a time during the Civil War.
The existence of the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that it was only a small minority of Northerners who took part in it, did much to arouse Northern sympathy for the plight of slaves during the antebellum period, while also convincing many Southerners that the North as a whole would never peacefully allow the institution of slavery to remain unchallenged.
When was the first time a sitting president of the United States appeared on television?
Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
The Underground Railroad
See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to independence. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this campaign. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that specializes in encyclopedias. This page contains a number of videos. It is a term used to refer to the Underground Railroad, which was a system that existed in the Northern states prior to the Civil War by which escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada.
It was known as lines, halting sites were known as stations, people who assisted along the way were called conductors, and their charges known as packages or freight were known as packages or freight were known as freight In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down and capture them.
Members of the free black community (including former slaves such as Harriet Tubman), Northern abolitionists, benefactors, and church leaders such as Quaker Thomas Garrett were among those who most actively enabled slaves to escape by use of the “railroad.” During her time working with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novelUncle Tom’s Cabin, got firsthand experience of escaped slaves.
From 40,000 to 100,000 black individuals, according to various estimates, were released during the American Civil War.
Test your knowledge of the Britannica.
The first time a president of the United States appeared on television was in the year 1960. The all-American responses may be found by going back in time. In the most recent revision and update, Amy Tikkanen provided further information.
Home of Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist. This was a station on the Underground Railroad, a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in escaping to the North during the Civil War. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography. “> During the age of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in escaping to the North, according to the Underground Railroad Museum.
Although it was not a real railroad, it fulfilled the same function as one: it carried passengers across large distances.
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad were driven by a passion for justice and a desire to see slavery abolished—a drive that was so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom in order to assist enslaved people in escaping from bondage and staying safe while traveling the Underground Railroad.
- As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
- In recent years, academic research has revealed that the vast majority of persons who engaged in the Underground Railroad did it on their own, rather than as part of a larger organization.
- According to historical tales of the railroad, conductors frequently pretended to be enslaved persons in order to smuggle runaways out of plantation prisons and train stations.
- Often, the conductors and passengers traveled 16–19 kilometers (10–20 miles) between each safehouse stop, which was a long distance in this day and age.
- Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
- Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
- Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
- Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
- Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
- Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
- Person who is owned by another person or group of people is referred to as an enslaved person.
Slavery is a noun that refers to the act of owning another human being or being owned by another human being (also known as servitude). Abolitionists utilized this nounsystem between 1800 and 1865 to aid enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee to free states.
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According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
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The Secret History of the Underground Railroad
Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race was the title of a series published by De Bow’s Review, a leading Southern periodical, a decade before the Civil War. The series was deemed necessary by the editors because it had “direct and practical bearing” on 3 million people whose worth as property totaled approximately $2 billion. When it comes to African Americans’ supposed laziness (“deficiency of red blood in the pulmonary and arterial systems”), love of dancing (“profuse distribution of nervous matter to the stomach, liver, and genital organs”), and extreme aversion to being whipped (“skin.
- However, it was Cartwright’s discovery of a previously undiscovered medical illness, which he coined “Drapetomania, or the sickness that causes Negroes to flee,” that grabbed the most attention from readers.
- Despite the fact that only a few thousand individuals, at most, fled slavery each year—nearly all of them from states bordering the free North—their migration was seen by many Southern whites as a portent of a greater calamity.
- How long do you think it will take until the entire cloth begins to unravel?
- Rather, it was intentionally supported and helped by a well-organized network that was both large and diabolical in scope.
- The word “Underground Railroad” brings up pictures of trapdoors, flickering lamps, and moonlit routes through the woods in the minds of most people today, just as it did in the minds of most Americans in the 1840s and 1850s.
- At least until recently, scholars paid relatively little attention to the story, which is remarkable considering how prominent it is in the national consciousness.
- The Underground Railroad was widely believed to be a statewide conspiracy with “conductors,” “agents,” and “depots,” but was it really a fiction of popular imagination conjured up from a succession of isolated, unconnected escapes?
- Which historians you trust in will determine the solutions.
One historian (white) questioned surviving abolitionists (most of whom were also white) a decade after the Civil War and documented a “great and complicated network” of agents, 3,211 of whom he identified by name, as well as a “great and intricate network” of agents (nearly all of them white).
- “I escaped without the assistance.
- “I have freed myself in the manner of a man.” In many cases, the Underground Railroad was not concealed at all.
- The journal of a white New Yorker who assisted hundreds of runaway slaves in the 1850s was found by an undergraduate student in Foner’s department at Columbia University while working on her final thesis some years ago, and this discovery served as the inspiration for his current book.
- One of the book’s most surprising revelations is that, according to the book’s subtitle, the Underground Railroad was not always secret at all.
- The New York State Vigilance Committee, established in 1850, the year of the infamous Fugitive Slave Act, officially declared its objective to “welcome, with open arms, the panting fugitive.” Local newspapers published stories about Jermain W.
Bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” provided donated luxury items and handcrafted knickknacks just before the winter holidays, and bake sales in support of the Underground Railroad, no matter how unlikely it may seem, became popular fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities.
- Political leaders, especially those who had taken vows to protect the Constitution — including the section ordering the return of runaways to their proper masters — blatantly failed to carry out their obligations.
- Judge William Jay, a son of the first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, made the decision to disregard fugitive slave laws and contributed money to aid runaway slaves who managed to flee.
- One overlooked historical irony is that, up until the eve of Southern secession in 1860, states’ rights were cited as frequently by Northern abolitionists as they were by Southern slaveholders, a fact that is worth noting.
- It was not recognized for its abolitionist passion, in contrast to places like as Boston and Philadelphia, which had deep-rooted reformer traditions—as well as communities in upstate New York such as Buffalo and Syracuse.
Even before the city’s final bondsmen were released, in 1827, its economy had become deeply intertwined with that of the South, as evidenced by a gloating editorial in the De Bow newspaper, published shortly before the Civil War, claiming the city was “nearly as reliant on Southern slavery as Charleston.” New York banks lent money to plantation owners to acquire slaves, while New York merchants made their fortunes off the sale of slave-grown cotton and sugar.
- Besides properly recapturing escapees, slave catchers prowled the streets of Manhattan, and they frequently illegally kidnapped free blacks—particularly children—in order to sell them into Southern bondage.
- The story begins in 1846, when a man called George Kirk slipped away aboard a ship sailing from Savannah to New York, only to be discovered by the captain and shackled while awaiting return to his owner.
- The successful fugitive was escorted out of court by a phalanx of local African Americans who were on the lookout for him.
- In this case, the same court found other legal grounds on which to free Kirk, who rolled out triumphantly in a carriage and made his way to the safety of Boston in short order this time.
- In addition to being descended from prominent Puritans, Sydney Howard Gay married a wealthy (and radical) Quaker heiress.
- Co-conspirator Louis Napoleon, who is thought to be the freeborn son of a Jewish New Yorker and an African American slave, was employed as an office porter in Gay’s office.
- Gay was the one who, between 1855 and 1856, maintained the “Record of Fugitives,” which the undergraduate discovered in the Columbia University archives and which chronicled more than 200 escapes.
One first-person narrative starts, “I ate one meal a day for eight years.” “It has been sold three times, and it is expected to be sold a fourth time.
Undoubtedly, a countrywide network existed, with its actions sometimes shrouded in secrecy.
Its routes and timetables were continually changing as well.
As with Gay and Napoleon’s collaboration, its operations frequently brought together people from all walks of life, including the affluent and the poor, black and white.
Among others who decamped to Savannah were a light-skinned guy who set himself up in a first-class hotel, went around town in a magnificent new suit of clothes, and insouciantly purchased a steamship ticket to New York from Savannah.
At the height of the Civil War, the number of such fugitives was still a small proportion of the overall population.
It not only played a role in precipitating the political crisis of the 1850s, but it also galvanized millions of sympathetic white Northerners to join a noble fight against Southern slaveholders, whether they had personally assisted fugitive slaves, shopped at abolitionist bake sales, or simply enjoyed reading about slave escapes in books and newspapers.
- More than anything else, it trained millions of enslaved Americans to gain their freedom at a moment’s notice if necessary.
- Within a few months, a large number of Union soldiers and sailors successfully transformed themselves into Underground Railroad operatives in the heart of the South, sheltering fugitives who rushed in large numbers to the Yankees’ encampments to escape capture.
- Cartwright’s most horrific nightmares.
- On one of the Union’s railway lines, an abolitionist discovered that the volume of wartime traffic was at an all-time high—except on one of them.
- The number of solo travelers is quite limited.” And it’s possible that New Yorkers were surprised to open their eyes in early 1864.
The accompanying essay, on the other hand, soon put their worries at ease. It proposed a plan to construct Manhattan’s first subway line, which would travel northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park. It was never built.
Introduction-Aboard the Underground Railroad
|The Underground Railroad refers to the effort -sometimes spontaneous, sometimes highly organized – to assist persons held in bondage in North America to escape from slavery.While most runaways began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, each decade in which slavery was legal in the United States saw an increase in the public perception of an underground network and in the number of persons willing to give aid to the runaway. Although divided, the abolitionist movement was successful in expanding the informal network known as the underground railroad and in publicizing it.The term “underground railroad” had no meaning to the generations before the first rails and engines of the 1820s, but the retrospective use of the term in is made so as to include incidents which have all the characteristics of underground railroad activity, but which occurred earlier.These activities foreshadowed and helped to shape the underground railroad.The origin of the term “underground railroad” cannot be precisely determined.What is known is that both those who aided escapees from slavery and those who were outraged by loss of slave property began to refer to runaways as part of an “underground railroad” by 1840.The “underground railroad” described an activity that was locally organized, but with no real center.It existed rather openly in the North and just beneath the surface of daily life in the upper South and certain Southern cities.The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another.Farther along, others would take the passenger into their transportation system until the final destination had been reached. The rapidity with which the term became commonly used did not mean that incidents of resistance to slavery increased significantly around 1830 or that more attempts were made to escape from bondage. It did mean that more white northerners were prepared to aid runaways and to give some assistance to the northern blacks who had always made it their business to help escapees from slavery. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ampleevidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to AfricanAmerican philosophy. Perhaps the most important factor or aspect tokeep in mind concerning the underground railroad is that its importanceis not measured by the number of attempted or successful escapes fromAmerican slavery, but by the manner in which it consistently exposedthe grim realities of slavery and -more important- refuted the claimthat African Americans could not act or organize on their own. The secondaryimportance of the underground railroad was that it provided an opportunityfor sympathetic white Americans to play a role in resisting slavery.It also brought together, however uneasily at times, men and women ofboth races to begin to set aside assumptions about the other race andto work together on issues of mutual concern. At the most dramatic level,the underground railroad provided stories of guided escapes from theSouth, rescues of arrested fugitives in the North, complex communicationsystems, and individual acts of bravery and suffering. While most ofthe accounts of secret passageways, sliding wall panels, and hiddenrooms will not be verified by historic evidence, there were indeed sufficientdramas to be interpreted and verified.Visitors may be interested inHistoricHotels of America, a program of the National Trust for HistoricPreservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.List of Sites|HomeComments or Questions Last Modified:EST|
When describing a network of meeting spots, hidden routes, passages, and safehouses used by slaves in the United States to escape slave-holding states and seek refuge in northern states and Canada, the Underground Railroad was referred to as the Underground Railroad (UR). The underground railroad, which was established in the early 1800s and sponsored by persons active in the Abolitionist Movement, assisted thousands of slaves in their attempts to escape bondage. Between 1810 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the southern United States.
Facts, information and articles about the Underground Railroad
Aproximate year of birth: 1780
The beginnings of the American Civil War occurred around the year 1862.
Estimates range between 6,000 and 10,000.
Harriet Tubman is a historical figure. William Still is a well-known author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by author Levi Coffin. John Fairfield is a well-known author.
Harriet Tubman is a historical figure who lived during the American Civil War. She was a pioneer in the fight against slavery. William Still is an American author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by the author Levi Coffin in the fictional world of the novel Levi Coffin John Fairfield is a well-known author and illustrator.
The Beginnings Of the Underground Railroad
Even before the nineteenth century, it appears that a mechanism to assist runaways existed. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance provided to one of his escaped slaves by “a organization of Quakers, founded for such purposes.” The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more officially known, were among the first abolitionist organizations to emerge. Their influence may have played a role in Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery, which was home to a large number of Quakers.
In recognition of his contributions, Levi is often referred to as the “president of the Underground Railroad.” In Fountain City, Ohio, on Ohio’s western border, the eight-room Indiana home they bought and used as a “station” before they came to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Underground Railroad Gets Its Name
Owen Brown, the father of radical abolitionist John Brown, was a member of the Underground Railroad in the state of New York during the Civil War. An unconfirmed narrative suggests that “Mammy Sally” designated the house where Abraham Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up and served as a safe house where fugitives could receive food, but the account is doubtful. Routes of the Underground Railroad It was not until the early 1830s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was first used.
Fugitives going by water or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t give themselves away by wearing their worn-out job attire.
Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their rightful owners.
The slave or slaves were forced to flee from their masters, which was frequently done at night. It was imperative that the runaways maintain their eyes on the North Star at all times; only by keeping that star in front of them could they be certain that they were on their trip north.
Conductors On The Railroad
A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to lead them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten death to any captives who lost heart and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of risks as well. If someone living in the North was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad was openly operated, and no one was arrested.
His position as the most significant commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went on.
However, in previous times of American history, the phrase “vigilance committee” generally refers to citizen organizations that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and hanging those suspected of crimes when there was no local government or when they considered the local authority was corrupt or weak.
White males who were found assisting slaves in their escape were subjected to heavier punishments than white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.
The Civil War On The Horizon
A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to direct them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten the lives of those who lost hope and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of perils while they worked. In the North, if someone was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad operated in full view of the general public.
His position as the most prominent commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went along.
However, in other eras of American history, the term “vigilance committee” was frequently used to refer to citizen groups that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and lynching people accused of crimes when no local authority existed or when they believed that authority was corrupt or insufficient.
Stricter punishments were meted out to white males who assisted slaves in escaping than to white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.
The most severe punishments, such as hundreds of lashing with a whip, burning, or hanging, were reserved for any blacks who were discovered in the process of assisting fugitive fugitives on the run.
The Reverse Underground Railroad
A “reverse Underground Railroad” arose in the northern states surrounding the Ohio River during the Civil War. The black men and women of those states, whether or not they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves.
How the Underground Railroad Worked
There has sprung up a “reverse Underground Railroad” in northern states that border the Ohio River. The black men and women of those states, whether or whether they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves there.
A Ride on the Underground Railroad
Because of the Underground Railroad’s secrecy, it is difficult to determine its exact roots and where it came from. There are several hypotheses as to how it began, but no definitive answers. Its organizers were unable to place “open for business” advertisements in their respective local newspapers. When it comes to chronology, the fact that the real train system wasn’t established until the 1820s provides some clues: if there was an escape mechanism in place before then, it was almost certainly not known as the Underground Railroad.
- During the 1820s, anti-slavery organizations were beginning to take shape, and by the 1840s, there was a well-organized network of people who helped escaped slaves.
- Each voyage was unique, but we’ll concentrate on the period between the mid-1800s and the early 1900s, which was the height of the Underground Railroad.
- Field agents – frequently a traveling clergyman or doctor dressed as salespeople or census takers – were sometimes dispatched by free blacks to establish contact with a slave who want to emancipate himself.
- When the slave first escaped from the plantation, the agent arranged for him to be transferred to a conductor who would take him on his first leg of the voyage.
- Stations were normally spaced separated by a day’s ride on the railroad.
- These dwellings were frequently equipped with secret corridors and compartments for concealing a large number of fugitives.
- Running away in plain clothes (so that the escaped may appear as a traveling worker) was usual, but it wasn’t uncommon for a fugitive to dress as a member of the opposing sexual orientation.
- Siebert’s seminal work, “The Underground Railroad,” as being loaned a white infant as part of her disguise.
- Runaways were seldom on their own when traveling; instead, conductors directed them to the appropriate stops.
- That meant moving at night, following the North Star, and concealing himself in plain sight during the day.
- There are countless accounts of runaways becoming disoriented and traveling for weeks out of their path or accidentally traveling further south.
Furthermore, while clear nights were the greatest for traveling, wet days were also beneficial because less people were out on the streets. So, what happened when a runaway slave eventually made it to the United States’ northernmost territory? Continue reading to find out.
The Fugitive Slave Act
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 provided local authorities in both slave and free states the authority to issue warrants to “remove” any black person whom they suspected of being an escaped slave, according to the federal government. It also made it a federal criminal to assist a slave who had escaped. Despite the fact that the legislation was rarely implemented in non-slave states, it was reinforced in 1850 with increased penalties and harsher sentences. To make matters worse, the slave hunters could legally declare that every black person they saw was an escaped slave, which not only scared free blacks but also infuriated a large number of whites.
- Northerners were appalled.
- As a result, punishment in the North for white people and free blacks who participated in escapes was not as severe at first – often a fee for the loss of “property” and a brief jail sentence that was not always enforced.
- Whites who armed slaves, which was often required during the treacherous path, faced the possibility of execution if caught.
- The state of Pennsylvania contemplated repealing the Fugitive Slave Act in its original form (much like South Carolina would nullify part of the Constitution when seceding from the Union).
- Southern slave holders were not pleased with this and requested that the measure be put into effect immediately.
- In the 1857Dred Scottcase, the Supreme Court declared that blacks, whether free or slave, were not citizens and so did not have any rights to the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
- Although the Underground Railroad is frequently discussed in isolation from the Civil War, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that its operations had a significant role in precipitating the conflict.
- These anti-slavery organizations went on to become political parties such as the Free Soil Party and the Republican Party, which would be responsible for introducing Abraham Lincoln to the United States.
And, as they say, the rest, as they say, was history. So, what happened when a runaway slave eventually made it to the United States’ northernmost territory? Continue reading to discover out.
Life After Escape
In other cases, depending on where the runaway was coming from, the trek to freedom may be completed in as little as 24 hours (on a train from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, for instance). It might take several years as well (escaping on foot from the Deep South). But, more importantly, where did the fugitives wind up? The majority of people believe that the Underground Railroad ran from slavery-torn southern states to free states in the north. That is correct, however the vast majority of fugitives fled to Canada, where they would be protected from prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act.
- Slaves were also able to flee to Spanish-controlled Mexico and Florida from the Deep South, where the voyage north was all the more perilous because of the terrain.
- There, he would frequently have to wait until someone could obtain safe passage for him on a northern boat or train – a situation in which bribes were frequently used to achieve safe passage.
- However, they were more likely to carry on to Canada.
- However, the act also strengthened Northern abolitionists, who could now argue that the South was forcing slavery on the North as a result of the act.
- Once runaways arrived at their location, interracial organizations called asvigilance committees would aid them in creating a new life in their new environment.
- Successful runaways would occasionally attempt to repurchase enslaved family members, which was a risky strategy because it may potentially reveal their current whereabouts.
- Who were they, and how did they manage to collaborate in such a well guarded network?
How did people get involved with the Underground Railroad?
The fugitive’s trip to freedom may take as short as 24 hours, depending on where he or she was traveling from (on a train from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, for instance). Moreover, it might take years to complete (escaping on foot from the Deep South). How did the fugitives manage to get away? The majority of people believe that the Underground Railroad ran from slavery-torn southern states to free states in the northern United States and Canada. The bulk of fugitives made their way to Canada, where they would be protected from prosecution under the Fugitive Slave Act.
- Slaves were also able to flee to Spanish-controlled Mexico and Florida from the Deep South, where the voyage north was far more perilous.
- When he arrived, he would frequently be required to wait until someone could obtain safe passage for him on a northern boat or train – this was frequently accomplished via the use of bribes.
- However, they were more likely to travel on to Canada.
- Abolitionists in the North, however, were empowered by the legislation, since they could now argue that the South was forcing slavery on them.
- Once runaways arrived at their location, they would be assisted in building a new life by interracial organizations called asvigilance committees.
- It was common for successful runaways to attempt to purchase the freedom of enslaved family members, which was risky because it may potentially reveal their exact location.
A large number of individuals were required to labour to keep the Underground Railroad running. What were their identities, and how did they collaborate in such a well guarded network?
Underground Railroad Workers
It is estimated that there were around 3,200 “underground employees,” over half of whom were located in the state of Ohio. However, because to the importance placed on secrecy, there was no official or written organization in place. Individual performance and overall reputation were used to select who would be the next leader. The majority of the people who were participating in the Underground Railroad have been lost to history, and their experiences have gone unsung for many generations. And, as a result of the scarcity of written records, the anecdotes that have survived are primarily found as footnotes in history textbooks.
- Harriet Tubman was the most well-known Underground Railroad conductor, and she was dubbed “the Moses of her people” because of her achievements.
- When she went to the South for the first time to assist family members in escaping, she learned that her liberated husband had chosen a new wife and was hesitant to accompany them.
- Bordewich, this tragedy hardened her, which may explain why Tubman would not accept runaways who were terrified or distressed.
- While making the perilous voyage 13 more times and personally guiding at least 70 slaves to freedom in New York and Canada, Tubman’s lack of emotion helped keep her alive.
How many slaves escaped using the Underground Railroad?
It’s difficult to estimate how many slaves were able to escape through the Underground Railroad system in total. According to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s Web site in Cincinnati, Ohio, “it is believed that more than 100,000 enslaved persons sought freedom through the Underground Railroad throughout the nineteenth century.” During the mid-1800s, according to author James M. McPherson’s book “Battle Cry of Freedom,” several hundred slaves escaped per year. However, according to the National Park Service’s Web site, between 1820 and 1860, “the most frequent calculation is that around one thousand per year actually escaped.” Similarly, according to an article in the Journal of Black Studies, only approximately 2,000 people managed to escape slavery between 1830 and 1860 through the use of the Underground Railroad.
For a variety of reasons, only a small number of people made it out of the Deep South, where conditions were frequently the worst.
Second, once the government outlawed the African slave trade in 1808, slaves became far more valuable than they had previously been (due to a lack of supply).
Take a look at the links on the next page if you want to learn more about the Underground Railroad.
Lots More Information
- Lori Aratani, Adventure Cycling Association
- Adventure Cycling Association. In Maryland’s backyard, visitors may retrace their steps to freedom at Sandy Spring Underground Railroad State Park. Bordewich, Fergus M., The Washington Post, October 19, 2006
- Bordewich, Fergus M. “We’re on our way to Canaan.” HarperCollins Publishing Company, 2005
- Clark, Jayne. According to the article, “New cycling paths trace the Underground Railroad.” The Emancipation Network
- Harris, Patricia, and David Lyon
- The Emancipation Network, USA Today, March 9, 2007. “Houses served as important stopping points for the Underground Railroad.” The Boston Globe, April 4, 2007
- Steven Howell, “The Boston Globe,” April 4, 2007. “The Exporail exhibit delves into the mysteries of the Underground Railroad.” James M. McPherson and the International Justice Mission were featured in The Gazette (Montreal) on February 9, 2007. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” is a book on the American Civil War. The Milton House Museum
- National Geographic: The Underground Railroad
- National Park Service guide to the Underground Railroad
- National Park Service online history book
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
- Okur, Nilgun Anadolu
- Ballantine Books, 1988
- The Milton House Museum
- Okur, Nilgun Anadolu “Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad, 1830 – 1860,” a book published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Polaris Project
- Preston, E. Delorus, Jr.
- Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 25, No. 5 (May 1995)
- Preston, E. Delorus, Jr. “The Underground Railroad in Northwest Ohio,” according to the author. The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 17, No. 4 (October, 1932)
- “railroad” is a reference to the railroad. The Encyclopedia Britannica published in 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 28 January 2008
- Siebert, Wilbur H. Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 28 January 2008
- Slavery to Freedom on the Underground Railroad” is the title of this article. “The Underground Railroad and the Secret Codes of Antebellum Slave Quilts,” published by the Macmillan Company in 1898, is a fascinating read. Underground Railroad Living Museum:
- The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, Vol. 46, No. 1, Winter 2004-2005
- The Underground Railroad Living Museum: