How Many Blacks Used The Underground Railroad During The Civil War?

The total number of runaways who used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom is not known, but some estimates exceed 100,000 freed slaves during the antebellum period. Those involved in the Underground Railroad used code words to maintain anonymity.

How many African Americans were saved by the Underground Railroad?

The Underground Railroad and freed slaves [ estimated 100,000 escaped ] Not literally a railroad, but secret tunnels of routes and safe houses for southern slaves to escape to Canda for their freedom before the Civil War ended in 1865.

Did the Underground Railroad affect 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 the Underground Railroad impact 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.

How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans?

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.

How many slaves got away from Underground Railroad?

The total number of runaways who used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom is not known, but some estimates exceed 100,000 freed slaves during the antebellum period.

How many slaves did Harriet Tubman save?

Fact: According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people —family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.

What made slavery illegal in all of the United States?

Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or

How far north 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 many slaves did Harriet Tubman help free via the Underground Railroad?

Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad’s “conductors.” During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she “never lost a single passenger.”

How did Harriet Tubman use the Underground Railroad?

Harriet Tubman was an escaped enslaved woman who became a “ conductor ” on the Underground Railroad, leading enslaved people to freedom before the Civil War, all while carrying a bounty on her head.

Why was the Underground Railroad illegal?

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. The Act made it illegal for a person to help a run away, and citizens were obliged under the law to help slave catchers arrest fugitive slaves.

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.

Who was Harriet Tubman and Harriet Stowe?

They were called abolitionists because they wanted to abolish (get rid of) slavery. Two of the best-known abolitionists were both named Harriet: Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman. Harriet Beecher Stowe was the sixth of 11 children born to a minister and his wife.

Who built the Underground Railroad?

In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped enslaved people on the run.

How long did the Underground Railroad run for?

system used by abolitionists between 1800-1865 to help enslaved African Americans escape to free states.

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.

Quaker Abolitionists

The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.

What Was the Underground Railroad?

The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.

MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:

How the Underground Railroad Worked

The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.

The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.

While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.

Fugitive Slave Acts

The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.

The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.

Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.

Harriet Tubman

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.

Frederick Douglass

In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.

Agent,” according to the document.

John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.

William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.

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.

John Brown

Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was at this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting fleeing enslaved individuals in their journey to Canada. Abolitionist John Brown would go on to play a variety of roles during his life. His most well-known duty was conducting an assault on Harper’s Ferry in order to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Ultimately, Brown’s forces were beaten, and he was executed for treason in 1859.

  1. The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved lady and her young daughter.
  2. Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
  3. After being apprehended in 1844 while transporting a boatload of freed slaves from the Caribbean to the United States, Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was sentenced to prison for life.
  4. John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to assist in the rescue of enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their families as they made their way north.
  5. He managed to elude capture twice.
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End of the Line

Abolitionist He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was during this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, an organization dedicated to aiding fleeing slaves in their journey to Canada. With the abolitionist movement, Brown would play a variety of roles, most notably leading an assault on Harper’s Ferry to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people under threat of death. Eventually, Brown’s forces were defeated, and he was executed for treason in 1859.

  1. The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two of them were jailed for aiding an escaped enslaved woman and her child escape.
  2. When Charles Torrey assisted an enslaved family fleeing through Virginia, he was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland.
  3. was his base of operations; earlier, he had served as an abolitionist newspaper editor in Albany, New York.
  4. In addition to being fined and imprisoned for a year, Walker had the letters “SS” for Slave Stealer tattooed on his right hand.

As a slave trader, Fairfield’s strategy was to travel across the southern states. Twice he managed to escape from prison. Tennessee’s arebellion claimed his life in 1860, and he was buried there.

Sources

Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was during this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting runaway enslaved persons in their escape to Canada. With the abolitionist movement, Brown would play a variety of roles, most notably leading an assault on Harper’s Ferry to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Brown’s soldiers were beaten, and Brown was executed for treason in 1859.

  • In 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved woman and her child in their escape.
  • Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their escape across Virginia.
  • Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was jailed in 1844 when he was apprehended with a boatload of freed slaves who were on their way to the United States from the Caribbean.
  • John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to rescue the enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their relatives as they made their way north.
  • He managed to break out of jail twice.

Myths About the Underground Railroad

When it comes to teaching African-American Studies today, one of the great delights is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery enabled those events to take place, never to be lost again. Among our ancestors’ long and dreadful history of human bondage is the Underground Railroad, which has garnered more recent attention from teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry than any other institution from the black past.

  1. Nevertheless, in the effort to convey the narrative of this magnificent institution, fiction and lore have occasionally taken precedence over historical truth.
  2. The sacrifices and valor of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, are made all the more noble, heroic, and striking as a result.
  3. I think this is a common misconception among students.
  4. As described by Wilbur H.

Running slaves, frequently in groups of up to several families, were said to have been directed at night on their desperate journey to freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ secret name for the North Star.

The Railroad in Lore

Following is a brief list of some of the most frequent myths regarding the Underground Railroad, which includes the following examples: 1. It was administered by well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers. 2. The Underground Railroad was active throughout the southern United States. Most runaway slaves who managed to make their way north took refuge in secret quarters hidden in attics or cellars, while many more managed to escape through tunnels. Fourteenth, slaves made so-called “freedom quilts,” which they displayed outside their homes’ windows to signal fugitives to the whereabouts of safe houses and safe ways north to freedom.

6.

When slaves heard the spiritual “Steal Away,” they knew Harriet Tubman was on her way to town, or that an ideal opportunity to run was approaching.

scholars like Larry Gara, who wrote The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad and Blight, among other works, have worked tirelessly to address all of these problems, and I’ll outline the proper answers based on their work, and the work of others, at the conclusion of this piece.

A Meme Is Born

As Blight correctly points out, the railroad has proven to be one of the most “enduring and popular strands in the fabric of America’s national historical memory.” Since the end of the nineteenth century, many Americans, particularly in New England and the Midwest, have either made up legends about the deeds of their ancestors or simply repeated stories that they have heard about their forebears.

It’s worth taking a look at the history of the phrase “Underground Railroad” before diving into those tales, though.

Tice Davids was a Kentucky slave who managed to escape to Ohio in 1831, and it is possible that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was invented as a result of his successful escape.

According to Blight, he is believed to have said that Davids had vanished as though “the nigger must have gone off on an underground railroad.” This is a fantastic narrative — one that would be worthy of Richard Pryor — but it is improbable, given that train lines were non-existent at the time.

The fleeing slave from Washington, D.C., who was tortured and forced to testify that he had been taken north, where “the railroad extended underground all the way to Boston,” according to one report from 1839, was captured.

constructed from Mason and Dixon’s to the Canada line, upon which fugitives from slavery might come pouring into this province” is the first time the term appears.

14, 1842, in the Liberator, a date that may be supported by others who claim that abolitionist Charles T. Torrey invented the phrase in 1842, according to abolitionist Charles T. Torrey. As David Blight points out, the phrase did not become widely used until the mid-1840s, when it was first heard.

Myth Battles Counter-Myth

Historically, the appeal of romance and fantasy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over what the Civil War was all about — burying Lost Cause mythology deep in the national psyche and eventually propelling the racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a handy weapon in the stories of the Underground Railroad to accomplish this goal.

Immediately following the fall of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to purportedly uneducated or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for independence was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a poor and nameless “inferior” race.

Siebert questioned practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even flew to Canada to interview former slaves who had traced their own pathways from the South to freedom as part of his investigation.

In the words of David Blight, Siebert “crafted a popular tale of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey to freedom.”

Truth Reveals Unheralded Heroism

Historically, the appeal of romance and fantasy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over what the Civil War was all about — burying Lost Cause mythology deep in the national psyche and eventually propelling the racist Woodrow Wilson to the presidency. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a valuable weapon in the stories of the Underground Railroad to do this.

Immediately following the collapse of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to supposedly ignorant or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for freedom was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a downtrodden and faceless, nameless race of “inferiors.” Wilbur Siebert’s 1898 essay on the Underground Railroad is credited with a great deal of modern ignorance and myth-making regarding the railroad.

Siebert interviewed practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even flew to Canada to interview former slaves who had traced their own pathways from slavery to freedom in the United States.

He also placed far too much emphasis on the work of so-called white conductors. In the words of David Blight, Siebert “crafted a popular tale of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey toward freedom.”

The Underground Railroad

The appeal of romance and fancy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over the meaning of the Civil War — sending Lost Cause mythology deep into the national psyche and eventually helping to propel the Virginia-born racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a handy weapon in the traditions of the Underground Railroad.

Immediately following the collapse of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to supposedly ignorant or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for freedom was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a downtrodden and faceless, nameless, “inferior” race.

Siebert interviewed practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even journeyed to Canada to meet former slaves who had followed their own pathways from the South to freedom.

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In the words of David Blight, Siebert “fashioned a popular myth of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey to freedom.”

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.

  1. As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
  6. Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
  7. Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
  8. Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
  9. Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
  10. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
  11. 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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The Underground Railroad (1820-1861) •

The smuggling of fugitives during the winter season Charles T. Webber’s novel The Underground Railroad was published in 1893. Images that are in the public domain Underground Railroad was developed to assist oppressed persons in their journey from slavery to liberty. The railroad network was made up of dozens of hidden routes and safe houses that began in slaveholding states and extended all the way to the Canadian border, which was the only place where fugitives could be certain of their freedom.

  • As part of the Underground Railroad, slaves were smuggled onto ships that transported them to ports in the northern United States or to countries outside of the United States.
  • Though the number of persons who fled through the Underground Railroad between 1820 and 1861 varies greatly depending on who you ask, the most commonly accepted figure is roughly 100,000.
  • The railroad employed conductors, among them William Still of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was likely the most well-known of the group.
  • Slave-hiding spots were called stations, and stationmasters were individuals who hid slaves in their houses.
  • The Underground Railroad functioned as a number of interconnected networks.
  • Those responsible for leading the fugitive slaves north did so in stages.
  • The “freight” would be transferred on to the next conductor once it reached another stop, and so on until the full journey had been completed.

When the Underground Railroad was successful, it engendered a great deal of hostility among slaveholders and their friends.

The law was misused to a tremendous extent.

Due to the fact that African Americans were not permitted to testify or have a jury present during a trial, they were frequently unable to defend themselves.

However, the Fugitive Slave Act had the opposite effect, increasing Northern opposition to slavery and hastening the Civil War.

A large number of those who escaped became human witnesses to the slave system, with many of them traveling on the lecture circuit to explain to Northerners what life was like as a slave in the slave system.

It was the success of the Underground Railroad in both situations that contributed to the abolition of slavery.

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Harvey Lindsley captured a shot of Harriet Tubman. THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY

I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I neverran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.

When we talk about the Underground Railroad, we’re talking about the attempts of enslaved African Americans to obtain their freedom by escaping bondage. The Underground Railroad was a method of resisting slavery by escape and flight from 1850 until the end of the Civil War. Escape attempts were made in every location where slavery was practiced. In the beginning, to maroon villages in distant or rough terrain on the outside of inhabited regions, and later, across state and international borders.

  • The majority of freedom seekers began their journey unaided and the majority of them completed their self-emancipation without assistance.
  • It’s possible that the choice to aid a freedom seeking was taken on the spur of the moment.
  • People of various ethnicities, social classes, and genders took part in this massive act of civil disobedience, despite the fact that what they were doing was unlawful.
  • A map of the United States depicting the many paths that freedom seekers might follow in order to attain freedom.
  • All thirteen original colonies, as well as Spanish California, Louisiana and Florida; Central and South America; and all of the Caribbean islands were slave states until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and British abolition of slavery brought an end to the practice in 1804.
  • The Underground Railroad had its beginnings at the site of enslavement in the United States.
  • The proximity to ports, free territories, and international borders caused a large number of escape attempts.
  • Freedom seekers used their inventiveness to devise disguises, forgeries, and other techniques, drawing on their courage and brains in the process.
  • The assistance came from a varied range of groups, including enslaved and free blacks, American Indians, and people from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds.
  • Because of their links to the whaling business, the Pacific West Coast and potentially Alaska became popular tourist destinations.

During the American Civil War, many freedom seekers sought refuge and liberty by fleeing to the Union army’s lines of communication.

Underground Railroad American Civil War History

Participants in the Underground Railroad included both white and black abolitionists, enslaved African Americans, American Indians, and members of religious groups such as the Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists. Because the Underground Railroad operated without a formal organization, it was difficult to track down participants. The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, with the help of federal marshals, allowed for the apprehension and extradition of fugitive slaves who had fled.

The spectacle of African Americans being re-enslaved on the flimsiest of pretexts forced the reality of slavery into everyday life in the northern United States.

Runaways were compelled to flee to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and even Europe as a result of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Methods of Escape

By word of mouth, tales, and songs, slaves were able to share knowledge about escape routes with one another. Although there were no actual trains on the Underground Railroad, guides were referred to as conductors, and the hiding locations where they concealed were referred to as depots or stations. Running away to the north was made possible by a loosely linked network of roads that snaked their way across the southern border states. Most runaways traveled north on foot at night, guided by the stars and occasionally singing traditional songs such as “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” and took advantage of the natural safeguards provided by swamps, bayous, woodlands, and rivers.

Some runaways sought safety in places like as Baltimore and New Orleans, where they mixed in with the local free black population to avoid capture.

Adjusting to Freedom

By word of mouth, in stories, and in songs, slaves were able to pass on knowledge about escape strategies. On the Underground Railroad, there were no real trains; instead, guides were referred to as conductors, and the hiding locations where they sought refuge were referred to as depots or stations. Runaways made their way to the North over a patchwork of routes that snaked across the southern border states and into Canada. Most runaways traveled north on foot at night, guided by the stars and occasionally singing traditional songs such as “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” and took use of the natural defenses provided by swamps, bayous, woodlands, and rivers to avoid capture and execution.

Others who had fled the South made their way to the western territories, Mexico, and the Caribbean, where they were welcomed. Others sought safety in places such as Baltimore and New Orleans, where they were accepted into the free black community.

Free Blacks

In 1860, free African Americans accounted for six percent of the population of the Southern states. Blacks who were free typically settled in cities such as Charleston, South Carolina; Natchez, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington, DC; or Baltimore, Maryland because they had greater work prospects and felt more independent from whites there than in other places. Despite the restrictions placed on them by the racist society in which they lived, these free African Americans went on to build their own churches, schools, and philanthropic institutions.

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Dred Scott

When the census was taken in 1860, free African Americans accounted for six percent of the population of the Southern states. Blacks who were free often settled in cities such as Charleston, South Carolina; Natchez, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; Washington, DC; and Baltimore, Maryland because they had greater economic prospects and felt more independent from whites there than in their home states. Despite the restrictions placed on them by the racist society in which they lived, these free African Americans went on to build their own churches, schools, and philanthropic institutions.

John Brown

John Brown was a fiery abolitionist who committed his life to the eradication of slavery. Brown, who Frederick Douglass adored, was the subject of a letter sent by Douglass “His zeal for the cause of liberation was an order of magnitude greater than mine. Mine was like the waning light, while his was like the blazing sun. I could give my life for the slave, and John Brown could give his life for him.” Brown and 18 other men attempted an abortive attack on the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859, with the hopes of serving as a spark for a broad slave insurrection (now West Virginia).

Underground Railroad: A Chronology

  • During the winter of 1817-1818, Andrew Jackson commands federal forces engaged in a merciless campaign against Seminoles and runaways in Florida. When the Missouri Compromise is signed in 1820-21, Missouri and Maine are admitted as free states, preserving the balance between slave and free states. It also defines a border between free and slave territory. The Liberator, an abolitionist journal founded by William Lloyd Garrison, first appears in print in 1831. New York City’s General Vigilance Committee, which is tasked with assisting runaways, is headed by black abolitionist Robert Purvis, who is elected as chairman in 1838. The North Star, an abolitionist journal founded by Frederick Douglass, first appears in print in 1847. abolitionists Lucia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass all attend the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848
  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a black abolitionist, was engaged by the Maine Anti-Slavery Society to speak around New England and Lower Canada in 1854. 1863 The Emancipation Proclamation is signed on January 1, 1863, and takes effect on that day. With President Abraham Lincoln’s move, the elimination of slavery became an equally vital aim in the prosecution of the Civil War as preserving the Federal Union. The Civil War officially comes to an end on April 15, 1865. On December 18, the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolishes slavery, is approved by the three-fourths majority of the states necessary to do so.
I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad The Blackburn case was the first serious legal dispute between Canada and the United States regarding the Underground Railroad. The impassioned defense of the Blackburns by Canada’s lieutenant governor set precedents for all future fugitive-slave casesKindle AvailableHarriet Tubman: Imagining a Life: A Biography Travel with Tubman along the treacherous route of the Underground Railroad. Hear of her friendships with Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and other abolitionists.Kindle AvailableEscape from SlaveryThis shortened version brings the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to middle-grade readers.
Kindle AvailableThe Civil War Introduces young readers to the harrowing true story of the American Civil Warand its immediate aftermath. A surprisingly detailed battle-by-battle account ofAmerica’s deadliest conflict ensues, culminating in the restoration of the Unionfollowed by the tragic assassination of President Lincoln Kindle AvailableI Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865 Not only is 12-year-old Patsy a slave, but she’s also one of the least important slaves, since she stutters and walks with a limp. So when the war ends and she’s given her freedom, Patsy is naturally curious and afraid of what her future will hold. Kindle AvailableMany Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America The evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early seventeenth century through the Revolution Kindle AvailableA Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter Tale of a girl and her family from Boston living in Charleston, SC during the months leading up to the beginning of the Civil War by the attack on Fort Sumter. The reader senses the inhunanity of slavery through Sylvia’s experiences.
The Journal of James Edmond Pease: A Civil War Union Soldier, Virginia, 1863 James was only 15 when he joined, but he was able to get in. Nobody really liked him cause he was unlucky. One day in the confusion he charged ahead of his company and scared off all the Confederates single handed. After that, he became well liked by most people and soon rose Corporal. He showed his bravery when he spent a week in enemy territory. By the end of the war he rose up to Second Lieutenant. Night Boat To Freedom Night Boat to Freedom is a wonderful story about the Underground Railroad, as told from the point of view of two “ordinary” people who made it possible. Beyond that, it is a story about dignity and courage, and a devotion to the ideal of freedom. Behind the Blue and GrayThe Soldier’s Life in the Civil War Civil War reading can be very dry, but not this book. Delia Ray takes us on a soldiers journey beginning with enlistment and ending with a soldiers life after the war, using quotes from actual letters and diaries strategically placed throughout the book. Grace’s Letter to Lincoln Many important details of the time period help to make the reader understand what life was like then. It also includes photos of the actual letters written between Grace and Mr. Lincoln
Turn Homeward, Hannalee During the closing days of the Civil War, plucky 12-year-old Hannalee Reed, sent north to work in a Yankee mill, struggles to return to the family she left behind in war-torn Georgia. “A fast-moving novel based upon an actual historical incident with a spunky heroine and fine historical detail.”-School Library Journal. My Brothers Keeper Virginia Dickens is angry. Her father and brother Jed have left her behind while they go off to Uncle Jack’s farm to help him hide his horses from Confederate raiders. It’s the summer of 1863 and Pa and Jed believe 9-year-old Virginia will be out of harm’s way in the sleepy little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Kindle AvailableI Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865 Not only is 12-year-old Patsy a slave, but she’s also one of the least important slaves, since she stutters and walks with a limp. So when the war ends and she’s given her freedom, Patsy is naturally curious and afraid of what her future will hold. Numbering The Bones The Civil War is at an end, but for thirteen-year-old Eulinda, it is no time to rejoice. Her younger brother Zeke was sold away, her older brother Neddy joined the Northern war effort,. With the help of Clara Barton, the eventual founder of the Red Cross, Eulinda must find a way to let go of the skeletons from her past.

Underground Railroad, The (1820-1861)

Smuggled fugitives through the Underground Railroad during the winter seasonThe Underground Railroad was constructed to help enslaved persons in their escape to freedom. The railroad network was made up of dozens of hidden routes and safe houses that began in slaveholding states and extended all the way to the Canadian border, which was the only place where fugitives could be certain of their freedom. From Florida to Cuba, or from Texas to Mexico, there were shorter routes that took you south.

The Underground Railroad’s success was dependent on the collaboration of previous runaway slaves, free-born blacks, Native Americans, and white and black abolitionists who assisted in guiding runaway slaves along the routes and providing their houses as safe havens for the fugitive slave population.

The Underground Railroad in the Nineteenth Century New York Public Library’s Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, part of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, provided this photograph.

The railroad employed conductors, among them William Still of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was likely the most well-known of the group.

Slave-hiding spots were called stations, and stationmasters were individuals who hid slaves in their houses.

The Underground Railroad functioned as a number of interconnected networks.

Those responsible for leading the fugitive slaves north did so in stages.

The “freight” would be transferred on to the next conductor once it reached another stop, and so on until the full journey had been completed.

When the Underground Railroad was successful, it engendered a great deal of hostility among slaveholders and their friends.

The law was misused to a tremendous extent.

Due to the fact that African Americans were not permitted to testify or have a jury present during a trial, they were frequently unable to defend themselves.

Ironically, the Fugitive Slave Act fueled Northern opposition to slavery and contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

A large number of those who escaped became human witnesses to the slave system, with many of them traveling on the lecture circuit to explain to Northerners what life was like as a slave in the slave system.

It was the success of the Underground Railroad in both situations that contributed to the abolition of slavery.

Blaine Hudson, Encyclopedia of the Underground Railroad (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2006); David W.

Instructions for Citing This Article (in APA Format): Waggoner, C., and Waggoner, C. (n.d.). The Underground Railroad was in operation from 1820 until 1861). Project on the History of Social Welfare. It was retrieved from

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