Estimates vary widely, but at least 30,000 slaves, and potentially more than 100,000, escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad. The largest group settled in Upper Canada (Ontario), called Canada West from 1841.
Who helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman, perhaps the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, helped hundreds of runaway slaves escape to freedom. She never lost one of them along the way.
How many slaves did she help to escape?
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 many slaves did the Underground Railroad ultimately help to free?
Established in the early 1800s and aided by people involved in the Abolitionist Movement, the underground railroad helped thousands of slaves escape bondage. By one estimate, 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the South between 1810 and 1850.
Who helped the most in the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman is perhaps the best-known figure related to the underground railroad. She made by some accounts 19 or more rescue trips to the south and helped more than 300 people escape slavery.
Who are some people who helped with the Underground Railroad?
These eight abolitionists helped enslaved people escape to freedom.
- Isaac Hopper. Abolitionist Isaac Hopper.
- John Brown. Abolitionist John Brown, c.
- Harriet Tubman.
- Thomas Garrett.
- 5 Myths About Slavery.
- William Still.
- Levi Coffin.
- Elijah Anderson.
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.
How old would Harriet Tubman be today?
Harriet Tubman’s exact age would be 201 years 10 months 28 days old if alive. Total 73,747 days. Harriet Tubman was a social life and political activist known for her difficult life and plenty of work directed on promoting the ideas of slavery abolishment.
Why did Harriet Tubman help slaves escape?
The Underground Railroad and Siblings Following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. She feared that her family would be further severed and was concerned for her own fate as a sickly slave of low economic value.
Did Harriet Tubman really jump off a bridge?
Cornered by armed slave catchers on a bridge over a raging river, Harriet Tubman knew she had two choices – give herself up, or choose freedom and risk her life by jumping into the rapids. “I’m going to be free or die!” she shouted as she leapt over the side.
Why did Harriet Tubman wear a bandana?
As was the custom on all plantations, when she turned eleven, she started wearing a bright cotton bandana around her head indicating she was no longer a child. She was also no longer known by her “basket name”, Araminta. Now she would be called Harriet, after her mother.
How were runaway slaves caught?
Other slaves seeking freedom relied upon canoes. Some runaways pretended to be free blacks, Native Americans, or whites. Runaway slaves who were caught typically were whipped and sometimes shackled. Some masters sold recovered runaway slaves who repeatedly defied their efforts at control.
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.
What group helped free the slaves?
The Quakers are considered the first organized group to actively help escaped enslaved people. George Washington complained in 1786 that Quakers had attempted to “liberate” one of his enslaved workers.
How did Fairfield help slaves escape?
Posing as a slaveholder, a slave trader, and sometimes a peddler, Fairfield was able to gain the confidence of whites, which made it easier for him to lead runaway slaves to freedom. One of his most impressive feats was freeing 28 slaves by staging a funeral procession.
Dr. Bryan Walls’s contribution My family’s “Griot” (grandfather) told me stories of his ancestors who were slaves on the Underground Railroad, and I grew up interested by what he had to say. It was my Aunt Stella who was known as the “Griot,” which is an African name that means “keeper of the oral history,” since she was the family storyteller. Despite the fact that she died in 1986 at the age of 102, her mind remained keen till the very end of her existence. Aunt Stella told me that John Freeman Walls was born in 1813 in Rockingham County, North Carolina, and that he moved to Maidstone, Ontario, Canada, in 1846, via the Underground Railroad.
People of all races and faiths came together in harmony to fight for freedom and justice along the Underground Railroad, which is widely regarded as the first great freedom movement in the Americas and the first instance in which people of different races and faiths came together to fight for freedom and justice.
People who helped escaped slaves needed to be nimble with their thoughts and possess a lot of insight and information.
The Underground Railroad Freedom Movement reached its zenith between 1820 and 1865, when it had its greatest popularity.
Tice managed to evade capture after they crossed the border near the town of Ripley, Ohio (which was a busy “stop” on the Underground Railroad).
“Abolitionists” were those who supported freedom and opposed slavery.
Secrets were essential since slaves and anybody who assisted them in their escape from slavery faced heavy consequences.
The following code words were frequently used on the Underground Railroad: “tracks” (routes fixed by abolitionist sympathizers); “stations” or “depots” (hiding places); “conductors” (guides on the Underground Railroad); “agents” (sympathizers who assisted slaves in connecting to the Railroad); “station masters” (those who hid slaves in their homes); “passengers,” “cargo,” “fleece,” Even though the constellations sometimes fluctuate, the North Star stays constant in the night sky, according to millennia of African wisdom passed down through generations.
- This led to the escapees running through the woods at night and hiding during the day.
- In order to fulfill their thirst for freedom and proceed along the treacherous Underground Railroad to the heaven they sung about in their songs—namely, the northern United States and Canada—they took this risky route through the forest.
- They were brilliant folks, despite the fact that they were not permitted to receive an education while under slavery.
- Maps created by former slaves, White abolitionists, and free Blacks would aid the freedom seekers with instructions and geographical markers when traveling was possible during the day.
- The paths were not always in straight lines; they frequently zigzagged across wide regions in order to change their smell and confuse the bloodhounds tracking them.
- In order to keep their speed as high as possible, the captives could not carry a large amount of supplies.
- Slaves relied on local plant life for sustenance and medical treatment while traveling the Underground Railroad route.
- The enslaved discovered that Echinacea strengthens the immune system, mint relieves indigestion, roots can be used to make tea, and plants can be used to make poultices even in the winter when they are dormant, all of which were previously unknown.
- They would discover that, contrary to what their owners may have told them, the Detroit River was not 5,000 miles wide and that the crows in Canada would not peck their eyes out.
- It is hoped that these lyrics would give birth to lyrics from the “Song of the Fugitive: The Freedom Seeker,” which would be beneficial to him.
- The auctioneer will no longer be a source of dread, and the Master’s frowns will no longer make me shudder at the sound of hounds barking.
All of the brave individuals who were participating in the Underground Railroad Freedom Movement had to acquire new jargon and ciphers in order to communicate. To get to the Promised Land, it took a tremendous deal of talent and expertise.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, they were able to make their way closer to him. Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
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.
- 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.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
- 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.
- 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.
- He managed to elude capture twice.
End of the Line
Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed. MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad is a book about the Underground Railroad. Fergus Bordewich is a Scottish actor. A Biography of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Catherine Clinton is the first lady of the United States. Who Exactly Was in Charge of the Underground Railroad?
‘Henry Louis Gates’ is a pseudonym for Henry Louis Gates. The Underground Railroad’s History in New York is a little known fact. The Smithsonian Institution’s magazine. The Underground Railroad’s Dangerous Allure is well documented. The New Yorker is a publication dedicated to journalism.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
- The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.
- As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.
- Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
- These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.
- Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
- They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
- They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
- After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.
American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.
He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.
Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.
Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.
Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.
- They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
- Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
- He went on to write a novel.
- John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.
Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.
The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.
The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.
His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.
Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.
For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free people who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. By providing safe access to and from stations, conductors assisted fugitive slaves in their escape. Under the cover of night, with slave hunters on their tails, they were able to complete their mission. It’s not uncommon for them to have these stations set up in their own residences or enterprises. However, despite the fact that they were placing themselves in severe risk, these conductors continued to work for a cause larger than themselves: the liberation of thousands of enslaved human beings from their chains.
- They represented a diverse range of racial, occupational, and socioeconomic backgrounds and backgrounds.
- Slaves were regarded as property, and the freeing of slaves was interpreted as a theft of the personal property of slave owners.
- Boat captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while transporting fugitive slaves from the United States to safety in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his poems, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s bravery: “Take a step forward with that muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- One of them was never separated from the others.
- Following that, he began to compose Underground Railroad:A Record of Facts, True Narratives, and Letters.
- One such escaped slave who has returned to slave states to assist in the liberation of others is John Parker.
Reverend John Rankin, his next-door neighbor and fellow conductor, labored with him on the Underground Railroad.
In their opposition to slavery, the Underground Railroad’s conductors were likely joined by others.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1848, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement in the United States.
Poems, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist content were published in an annual almanac published by the association.
It was via a journal he ran known as the North Star that he expressed his desire to see slavery abolished.
Known for her oratory and writing, Susan B.
“Make the slave’s cause our own,” she exhorted her listeners. With the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, author Harriet Beecher Stowe gave the world with a vivid portrait of the tribulations that slaves endured. The adventures of fleeing slave Josiah Henson served as the basis for most of her novel.
Fact check: Harriet Tubman helped free slaves for the Underground Railroad, but not 300
A statement made by musician Kanye West about renowned abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman has caused widespread discussion on social media about the historical figure. In his first political campaign event, held at the Exquis Event Center in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday, West, who declared his presidential run on July 4 through Twitter, received a standing ovation. In his lengthy address, West touched on a wide range of themes ranging from abortion to religion to international commerce and licensing deals, but he inexplicably deviated from the topic by going on a diatribe about Tubman.
- She just sent the slaves to work for other white people, and that was that “Westsaid, et al.
- One post portrays a meme that glorifies Tubman’s anti-slavery achievements and implies that the former slave was the subject of a substantial bounty on her head, according to the post.
- A $40,000 ($1.2 million in 2020) reward was placed on her head at one point.
- The Instagram user who posted the meme has not yet responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Tubman freed slaves just not that many
Dorchester County, Maryland, was the setting for the birth of Harriet Tubman, whose given name was Raminta “Minty” Ross, who was born in the early 1820s. She was raised as a house slave from an early age, and at the age of thirteen, she began working in the field collecting flax. Tubman sustained a traumatic brain injury early in his life when an overseer hurled a large weight at him, intending to hit another slave, but instead injuring Tubman. She did not receive adequate medical treatment, and she would go on to have “sleeping fits,” which were most likely seizures, for the rest of her life.
Existing documents, as well as Tubman’s own remarks, indicate that she would travel to Maryland roughly 13 times, rather than the 19 times claimed by the meme.
This was before her very final trip, which took place in December 1860 and saw her transporting seven individuals.” Abolitionist Harriet Tubman was a contemporary of Sarah Hopkins Bradford, a writer and historian who is well known for her herbiographies of the abolitionist.
“Bradford never said that Tubman provided her with such figures, but rather that Bradford calculated the inflated figure that Tubman provided.
In agreement with this was Kate Clifford Larson, author of “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.” As she wrote in a 2016 opinion article for the Washington Post, “My investigation has validated that estimate, showing that she took away around 70 individuals in approximately 13 trips and supplied instructions to another approximately 70 people who found their way to freedom on their own.” Checking the facts: Nancy Green, the Aunt Jemima model, did not invent the brand.
A bounty too steep
The sole recorded bounty for Tubman was an advertisement placed on Oct. 3, 1849, by Tubman’s childhood mistress, Eliza Brodess, in which she offered a reward for Tubman’s capture. The $100 reward (equivalent to little more than $3,300 today) did not go primarily to Tubman; it also went to her brothers “Ben” and “Harry.” As explained by the National Park Service, “the $40,000 reward number was concocted by Sallie Holley, a former anti-slavery activist in New York who penned a letter to a newspaper in 1867 pleading for support for Tubman in her quest of back pay and pension from the Union Army.” Most historians think that an extravagant reward was unlikely to be offered.
Tubman did, in fact, carry a revolver during her rescue missions, which is one grain of truth in the story.
The photograph used in the meme is an authentic photograph of Tubman taken in her final years.
Our ruling: Partly false
An advertising for a bounty on Tubman issued on October 3, 1849, by Tubman’s childhood mistress, Eliza Brodess, was the first and only recorded bounty for him. Her brothers “Ben” and “Harry” were also included in the $100 prize (equivalent to little more than $3,300 in today’s money). As explained by the National Park Service, “the $40,000 reward number was concocted by Sallie Holley, a former anti-slavery activist in New York who penned a letter to a newspaper in 1867 pleading for support for Tubman in her pursuit of back pay and pension benefits from the Union Army.” Most historians think that a large reward was unlikely to be offered.
Tubman carried a handgun, according to Clifford in her book, in order to prevent slaves who were being led to freedom from losing heart and going back — “because a dead fleeing slave could tell no stories,” as she puts it.
Fact check: Although the quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln is fictional, Lincoln did once express concern about internal dangers in his administration.
Our fact-check sources:
- The Washington Post published an article titled “5 Myths About Harriet Tubman” in which Kanye West claims that Tubman never “freed the slaves,” and the Los Angeles Times published an article titled “Rapper Kanye West criticizes Harriet Tubman at a South Carolina rally.” Other articles include Smithsonian Magazine’s “The True Story Behind the Harriet Tubman Movie”
- Journal of Neurosurgery’s “Head Injury in Heroes of the Civil
- Thank you for your interest in and support of our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app, or electronic version of the newspaper by visiting this link. Our fact-checking efforts are made possible in part by a grant from Facebook.
The Underground Railroad
Thank you for your interest in and support of our news coverage. If you would like to get our print edition, ad-free app, or electronic newspaper replica, you can subscribe here. Several grants from organizations such as Facebook have helped to fund our fact-checking efforts.
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.
The Underground Railroad – Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
When we talk about the Underground Railroad, we’re talking about the attempts of enslaved African Americans to earn their freedom by escaping bondage, which took place from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of the war. In every country where slavery existed, there was a concerted attempt to flee, first to maroon communities in remote locations far from settlements, then across state and international borders. Runaways were considered “fugitives” under the rules of the period because of their acts of self-emancipation, albeit in retrospect, the term “freedom seeker” appears to be a more fair description.
It’s possible that the choice to aid a freedom seeking was taken on the spur of the moment.
Freedom seekers traveled in a variety of directions, including Canada, Mexico, the United States West, the Caribbean islands, and Europe.
The Fugitive Slave Acts
Until the end of the Civil War, enslavement in the United States was considered lawful and acceptable. In contrast to the rhetoric of the Revolutionary War era about freedom, the new United States constitution safeguarded the rights of individuals to possess and enslave other people, including women. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 further reinforced these slaveholding rights, allowing for the return to captivity of any African American who was accused or simply suspected of being a freedom seeker under certain circumstances.
It was a $500 punishment for anybody who supported a liberator or just interfered with an arrest, a clear recognition of the significance and lasting influence on American society of the Underground Railroad phenomenon decades before it was given its official name.
Individuals in the North were brought face to face with the immoral issue by the spectacle of African Americans being reenslaved at the least provocation and the selling of abducted free African Americans to the South for slavery.
Those who aided freedom seekers in their attempts to flee were considered members of the Underground Railroad. “Buy us too,” says H.L. Stephens in his parting words. The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information.
Motivation of Freedom Seekers
Time period, geographic location, kind of agriculture or industry, size of the slaveholding unit, urban vs rural environment, and even the temperament and financial stability of the enslaver all influenced the degree to which people were enslaved. All of these experiences have one thing in common: the dehumanization of both the victim and the oppressor as a result of the demands of a system that treats human beings as property rather than as individuals. This element, probably more than any other, helps to explain why some people opted to escape and why their owners were frequently taken aback by their actions.
Many people were able to flee because they had access to knowledge and abilities, including reading, which gave them an advantage.
The slaves rebelled despite the fact that the slavery system was intended to train them to accept it.
Geography of the Underground Railroad
Wherever there were enslaved African Americans, there were those who were desperate to get away. Slavery existed in all of the original thirteen colonies, as well as in Spanish California, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as in all of the Caribbean islands, until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the British abolition of slavery brought an end to slavery in the United States (1834). The Underground Railroad had its beginnings at the site of enslavement in the United States. The routes followed natural and man-made forms of movement, including rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, as well as roads and trails and other infrastructure.
Freedom seekers used their inventiveness to devise disguises, forgeries, and other techniques, drawing on their courage and brains in the process.
Commemoration of Underground Railroad History
Commemoration may only take place if local Underground Railroad figures and events have been discovered and documented. Primary materials, such as letters from the time period, court testimony, or newspaper articles, are used to verify the historical record. Education and preservation of the public are the following steps, which will be accomplished through the preservation of major locations, the use of authentic history in heritage tourism and educational programs, museum and touring exhibits, and commemorative sculpture.
Whenever a site has been paved over, changed, or reconstructed, a pamphlet, walking tour, school curriculum, road marker, or plaque might be used to educate the public about the significance of the location.
A local festival might be organized to bring the history of the area to the attention of the general public.
Uncovering Underground Railroad History
Despite years of assertions that the Underground Railroad’s history was shrouded in secrecy, local historians, genealogists, oral historians, and other researchers have discovered that primary sources describing the flight to freedom of many enslaved African Americans have survived to the present day. It is becoming clearer that the slaves were determined to pursue their own and their families’ freedom, as evidenced by court documents, memoirs of conductors and freedom seekers, letters, runaway advertisements in newspapers, and military records.
A lot of the time, no one has been able to piece together the parts of freedom seekers’ narrative by looking at their starting and ending locations, let alone the moments in between.
Anthony Burns is a writer who lives in New York City.
Unknown Underground Railroad Heroes
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known as the “Moses of her people,” and Frederick Douglass, a freedom seeker who rose to become the greatest African American leader of his time, are two of the most well-known figures linked with the Underground Railroad. Both were from the state of Maryland. Those seeking freedom, on the other hand, came from every part of the world where slavery was legalized, even the northern colonies. Harriet Jacobs arrived from North Carolina, where she had spent the previous seven years hidden in her grandmother’s attic.
Louis and journeyed 700 miles until she reached Canada, where she sought sanctuary.
Lewis Hayden, his wife, and their kid were able to flee from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Ohio thanks to the assistance of Delia Webster and Calvin Fairbanks.
Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black businesswoman from San Francisco, took in a fugitive named Archy Lee and hosted him in her house, setting the stage for an important state court case.
Coffin and Rankin are two white clergymen from the Midwest who aided freedom seekers in their efforts to gain their independence.
Residents of Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, both black and white, stood up to slave hunters and refused to allow them to return John Price to his servitude in the state of Kentucky.
Charles Torrey, Leonard Grimes, and Jacob Bigelow were among the members of a multiracial network in Washington, D.C., who worked for years to assist individuals like as Ann Marie Weems, the Edmondson sisters, and Garland White in their quest for freedom.
William and Ellen Craft managed to flee over one thousand miles from Georgia to Boston by putting on a convincing disguise.
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
In addition to coordinating preservation and education efforts across the country, the National Park Service Underground Railroad program integrates local historical sites, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. The Network also seeks to foster contact and collaboration between scholars and other interested parties, as well as to help in the formation of statewide organizations dedicated to the preservation and investigation of Underground Railroad locations.