If they were caught, any number of terrible things could happen to them. Many captured fugitive slaves were flogged, branded, jailed, sold back into slavery, or even killed. Not only did fugitive slaves have the fear of starvation and capture, but there were also threats presented by their surroundings.
What happened to slaves if they got caught?
If escaped slaves were captured, owners had to pay fees to free them from jail. Owners also typically offered a reward for the capture of an escaped slave, with the amount varying depending on the individual’s personal skills.
What was the punishment for runaway slaves?
Many escaped slaves upon return were to face harsh punishments such as amputation of limbs, whippings, branding, hobbling, and many other horrible acts. Individuals who aided fugitive slaves were charged and punished under this law.
What was the punishment for the Underground Railroad?
A severe beating was the most common form of discipline, usually administered with a bull whip or a wooden paddle. The offender would be hung by the hands or staked to the ground and every slave on the plantation would be forced to watch the whipping to deter them from running away.
What happened to the Underground Railroad after the fugitive?
End of the Line The Underground Railroad ceased operations about 1863, during the Civil War. In reality, its work moved aboveground as part of the Union effort against the Confederacy.
How did slaves get punished?
Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding, rape, and imprisonment. Punishment was often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was performed to re-assert the dominance of the master (or overseer) over the slave.
How were slaves kidnapped in Africa?
Most of the Africans who were enslaved were captured in battles or were kidnapped, though some were sold into slavery for debt or as punishment. The captives were marched to the coast, often enduring long journeys of weeks or even months, shackled to one another.
How did slaves get caught?
Most slaves in Africa were captured in wars or in surprise raids on villages. Adults were bound and gagged and infants were sometimes thrown into sacks.
What would happen if slaves tried to escape?
If an enslaved person was caught trying to escape, the punishment could be very severe. Often runaways would be sold “south.” That means that they were sold to someone who lived much further south than Maryland, where it would be harder to run away because the distance to the North was so much greater.
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.
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.
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 happened at the end of the Underground Railroad?
On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation liberating slaves in Confederate states. After the war ended, the 13th amendment to the Constitution was approved in 1865 which abolished slavery in the entire United States and therefore was the end of the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad
At the time of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to flee to freedom in the northern states. Subjects History of the United States, Social StudiesImage
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.
With the exception of promotional graphics, which normally link to another page that carries the media credit, all audio, artwork, photos, and videos are attributed beneath the media asset they are associated with. In the case of media, the Rights Holder is the individual or group that gets credited.
With the exception of promotional graphics, which normally link to another page that carries the media credit, all audio, artwork, photos, and videos are acknowledged beneath the media asset in question. It is the person or entity who is attributed with being the Rights Holder for media.
The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration of the world’s natural wonders.
Gina Borgia is a member of the National Geographic Society. Jeanna Sullivan is a member of the National Geographic Society.
According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
- User Permissions are set to expire on June 21, 2019. Users’ permissions are detailed in our Terms of Service, which you can see by clicking here. Alternatively, if you have any issues regarding how to reference something from our website in your project or classroom presentation, please speak with your instructor. They will be the most knowledgeable about the selected format. When you contact them, you will need to provide them with the page title, URL, and the date on which you visited the item.
If a media asset is available for download, a download button will show in the lower right corner of the media viewer window. If no download or save button displays, you will be unable to download or save the material.
The text on this page is printable and may be used in accordance with our Terms of Service agreement.
- Any interactives on this page can only be accessed and used while you are currently browsing our site. You will not be able to download interactives.
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.
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.
By the 1840s, the phrase “Underground Railroad” had become part of the common lexicon in the United States. 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.
Tubman transported groups of fugitives to Canada on a regular basis, believing that the United States would not treat them favorably.
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?
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives and assisted 400 escapees in their journey to Canada. In addition to helping 1,500 escapees make their way north, former fugitive Reverend Jermain Loguen, who lived near Syracuse, was instrumental in facilitating their escape. The Vigilance Committee was founded in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a businessman. 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 labor skills to support themselves.
Agent,” according to the document.
A free Black man in Ohio, John Parker was a foundry owner who used his rowboat to transport fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born to runaway enslaved parents in New Jersey and raised as a free man in the city of Philadelphia.
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.
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 term “fugitive slave” refers to any individual who managed to flee slavery in the time leading up to and including the American Civil War. In general, they sought sanctuary in Canada or in free states in the North, while Florida (which had been under Spanish authority for a time) was also a popular destination. (See also the Black Seminoles.) Enslaved persons in America have wished to escape from their masters and seek refuge in other countries since the beginning of the slave trade. “An insatiable thirst for freedom,” said S.J.
- The majority of slaves were uneducated and had little or no money, as well as few, if any, goods.
- In order to reach safety in a free state or in Canada, many runaways had to traverse considerable miles on foot, which they did in many cases.
- The majority of those who were returned to their owners were subjected to severe punishment in an effort to discourage others from attempting to flee.
- Because of the tremendous physical difficulty of the voyage to freedom, the majority of slaves who managed to escape were young males, rather than women.
- After the development of the Underground Railroad, a network of persons and safe houses that had developed over many years to assist runaway slaves on their treks north, fugitive slaves’ escape became simpler for a period of time.
- According to some estimates, the “railroad” assisted as many as 70,000 people (but estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000) in their efforts to emancipate themselves from slavery between 1800 and 1865.
- The runaways would travel in small groups during the night, sometimes covering a distance of 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km) between train stations, constantly running the danger of being apprehended.
- The majority of the time, their new lives in the so-called free states were not significantly better than their previous ones on the plantation.
The passage of the Fugitive Slave Actof 1850, which allowed for heavy fines to be levied against anyone who interfered with a slaveowner in the process of recapturing fugitive slaves and forced law-enforcement officials to assist in the recapture of runaways, exacerbated the situation in the North even further.
- Some of those who managed to flee penned memoirs on their ordeals and the obstacles they encountered on their trip to safety in the north.
- An further work, Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky; or, Fifty Years of Slavery in the Southern States of America(1863), relates the story of a slave called Francis Fedric (sometimes spelt Fredric or Frederick), who was subjected to horrific violence at the hands of his master.
- The Resurrection of Henry “Box” Brown at the Pennsylvania Convention Center It is depicted in an undated broadside issued in Boston as the Resurrection of Henry “Box” Brown, which took place in Philadelphia.
- The Library of Congress is located in Washington, D.C.
- He is first filled with excitement at the realization that he has landed at a free condition.
- Bowie’s Frederick Douglass is a biography.
- Bowie’s portrait of Frederick Douglass as a fugitive slave was published as the cover artwork for a piece of sheet music, The Fugitive’s Song, that was written for and dedicated to Douglass in 1845.
This alone was enough to dampen the ardor of my enthusiasm.
However, I was overcome with loneliness.
Runaway slaves’ experiences are represented in a number of famous works of American literature, including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Scarlet Letter.
Eliza Harris is a fugitive slave who In a similar vein, Jim in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(1884) is an escaped slave who befriends and defends Huck.
In Toni Morrison’s powerfulPulitzer Prize-winning novelBeloved, a third, more modern depiction of the experiences of a fugitive is told from the perspective of an African American woman (1987).
It is based on true events and portrays the narrative of Sethe, a fugitive who chooses to kill her young kid rather than allow herself to be captured and imprisoned by her captors. Naomi Blumberg was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.
Fugitive Slaves, Runaways, Enslavement, African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865, Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature, Toolbox Library, National Humanities Center
|–||Virginia runaway ads, 1745-1775(PDF)|
|–||A runaway’s explanation, William Chase letter, 1827(PDF)|
|–||Escape to Canada, Littles’ narratives, 1856, excerpts(PDF)|
|–||Escape to Canada, W. W. Brown narrative, 1847, excerpts(PDF)|
|–||On running away, selections from WPA narratives, 1930s(PDF)|
“The hour has arrived,” James Pennington recounts of his emancipation from slavery, “and the man must act and be free, or he will stay a slave for the rest of his life. if I did not confront the crisis that day, I would be damned to perdition.” Despite the fact that many slaves were fully aware that an unsuccessful escape would spell doom, they persisted in their efforts. In the words of Martin Jackson’s father, “There’s no use in moving from bad to worse,” adding that “the War wasn’t going to go foreverour forever would be spent living among the Southerners, once they were licked.” The choice to flee was a difficult one to make because there were so many considerations to consider.
The organized features of escape, such as the Underground Railroad and fugitive-aid groups, will be discussed in greater depth in the following Theme, COMMUNITY.
- In his account of his emancipation from slavery, James Pennington says, “the hour has come, and the man must act and be free, or he will stay a slave for the rest of his life. if I did not confront the crisis that day, I would be doomed for all time.” Even while many slaves were fully aware that an unsuccessful escape would result in their death, they were nonetheless unable to prevent it from happening. There was no use in moving from bad to worse, Martin Jackson’s father suggested, adding that “the War wouldn’t go foreverour eternity would be spent living among the Southerners, after they had been licked.” Decision to flee was a difficult one to make because there were so many variables to take into consideration. We’ll look at whether or not a person makes the decision to run away (and the implications of not doing so) in this section. Following that, we will look at the organized parts of escape, such as the Underground Railroad and fugitive-assistance groups, in the following Theme, COMMUNITY.
In Theme III: COMMUNITY,7: Fugitives, compare the accounts of two Underground Railroad “conductors” with the letters written by fugitives to their former slaveholders in Theme IV: IDENTITY,2, Slave to Free. (There are 31 pages total.) Questions for further discussion
- Why did someone choose to leave slavery in the first place
- What reasons influenced their decision
- In what circumstances and in what manner did they bring family members with them
- Why did some fugitives choose to return to their farms voluntarily
- List the instances of bravery, quick thinking, assistance, and good fortune that played a role in the successful escapes. What circumstances contributed to unsuccessful escape attempts
- Describe the reasons why some enslaved people decided not to try an escape (or a second escape). When it comes to successful runaway slaves’ life in freedom (before to 1865), how do they characterize them? What problems remained to be overcome
- Describe the types of slave resistance behaviors (and attitudes) that are shown in the fugitive advertising. Which aspects of their advertisements show that they have a hidden regard for their runaway slaves
- What opinions against slavery in general emerge from the advertisements for runaways placed by slaveholders
- Is it for this reason that Anthony Chase takes the uncommon step of sending a letter to explain his escape
- Is it for this reason that he insists his wife is not involved in his escape
- Describe why you believe Jeremiah Hoffman sent money to the owner of Chase’s land to compensate her for the loss of property. Compare and contrast the accounts of John Little and his wife, paying particular attention to the specifics of their escape and their subsequent life as farmers in Canada. What does each one place an emphasis on? Why
- Compare and contrast the Littles’ accounts with those of William Wells Brown, both of which were published before to the Civil War. Identify and compare the parallels and contrasts in their escapes, the audience for their written recollections, and the attitude they have about their newfound freedom. What is it about William Wells Brown’s choice of a new name that is so crucial to him after he has escaped? What makes him pick the name “Wells Brown”? Why did he retain the name “William”? Compare and contrast the accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Remember to take into account their audience as well as the period elapsed between enslavement and the tale, their attitude toward their former slaveholders, and their assessment of their own life as former slaves and subsequently freemen. Determine the spectrum of sentiments regarding fleeing expressed by African Americans who were questioned in the 1930s, and then compare them. What may be the source of this wide spectrum of sentiments, which does not exist in the nineteenth-century accounts
- And Create a fictional chat between the pair of fugitive slaves shown below by picking one of them at random. Identify a central subject for the debate (goals for escape, backup plan if caught, message to the twenty-first century, etc.). Include the following quotations:
- When a person makes the option to leave slavery, there are several elements that influence their decision. In what circumstances and in what manner did they bring family members along? Why did some fugitives choose to return to their farms despite their imprisonment? List the instances of bravery, quick thinking, assistance, and good fortune that had a role in the successful evasions Why did people fail to make it out of their homes? Describe the reasons why some enslaved individuals chose not to try an escape (or a second escape). When it comes to successful runaway slaves’ life in freedom (before to 1865), what do they say about their experiences? Identify the remaining challenges. Describe the types of slave resistance behaviors (and attitudes) that are shown in the fugitive advertising
- Is it possible to discern a hidden admiration for their fugitive slaves in the advertisements
- And When slaveholders advertise for runaways, what opinions regarding slavery and enslavement in general do they elicit? Is it for this reason that Anthony Chase takes the uncommon step of sending a letter to explain his escape
- Is it for this reason that he insists his wife is not involved in his escape
- Or both? Describe why you believe Jeremiah Hoffman sent money to Chase’s owner in order to compensate her for property loss. Compare and contrast the accounts of John Little and his wife, paying particular attention to the specifics of their flight and their subsequent lives as farmers in Canada, respectively. Each one emphasizes a different aspect of the text. Why
- The Littles’ stories are comparable to those of William Wells Brown, who wrote around the same time period. Identify and compare the parallels and contrasts in their escapes, the audience for their recorded recollections, and the attitude they have toward living as free people. Why is it so vital to William Wells Brown after his escape that he chooses a new name? “Wells Brown” is the name he choose. “William” is still in his possession, but why? Examine the accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Remember to take into account their audience as well as the period elapsed between enslavement and the tale, their attitude toward their former slaveholders, and their evaluation of their own life as former slaves and subsequently freemen. Investigate the diversity of opinions regarding fleeing expressed by African Americans who were questioned in the 1930s. What may be the source of this wide spectrum of sentiments, which does not exist in nineteenth-century accounts
- And Create a hypothetical chat between the pair of fugitive slaves shown below by choosing one of them. Determine the topic of discussion (goals for escape, backup plan if caught, message to the twenty-first century, etc.). Incorporate the following quotations into your document:
|W. W. Brown narrative:||7|
|Supplemental SitesRunaway Journeys, in In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience, from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public LibraryThe Geography of Slavery in Virginia: 4,000 advertisements for runaway slaves and servants, from Tom Costa and the University of VirginiaFollow the Trail to Freedom in the 1850s, interactive map, from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American HistoryBeneath the Underground: The Flight to Freedom and Communities in Antebellum Maryland, from the Maryland State ArchivesWilliam Still,Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc., 1872, full text in digital images, from Maryland State ArchivesNorth American Slave Narratives(18th-19th century), Introduction, Dr. William A. Andrews, UNC-Chapel HillSlave narratives, 19th-century, full text in Documenting the American South (UNC-Chapel Hill Library)|
- “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
- “Brown narrative,” 1st edition (1847)
- And “Brown narrative,” 2nd edition (1849)
- “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
- -A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee, 1856, by Benjamin Drew
- Interviews with fugitive slaves in Canada, including John Little and his wife
- -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of
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.|
To Canada and Back Again: Immigration from the United States on the Underground Railroad (1840-1860)
The MA Public History Program at Western University students created this video.
Fugitive or Free?
Prior to 1850, runaway slaves who managed to make their way from the southern United States to the northern states were regarded to have gained their freedom. However, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the northern states were no longer considered a safe haven for fugitive slaves. Slavecatchers may be able to apprehend and return escaped slaves to their respective masters. In addition, anyone who had escaped slavery by emigrating to a free state years previously may be deported back to servitude under certain circumstances.
The same threat existed for all free blacks, regardless of race.
Once they had crossed into Upper Canada, all men, women, and children were free to go wherever they wanted.
LC-USZC4-4550 is the Library of Congress’s catalog number for this item.
The Underground Railroad
In the United States, the Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses operated by abolitionists in both free and slave states, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom. Slavery was abolished because of the efforts of those who assisted slaves on their way to freedom – free blacks, Quakers, and other campaigners – who risked their lives fighting against it.
Despite the fact that there was never a true railroad, safehouses were referred to as stations, and those who lived in them were referred to as stationmasters. Those who guided fleeing slaves on their way to freedom were referred to as conductors.
New Land, New Life
In Canada West (previously Upper Canada), black males were granted the ability to own property and vote if they satisfied certain qualifications regarding ownership of property. It was possible for all black people to make a living, get married, and establish a family. Building a new life in Canada was made possible thanks to the help of the Canadian government and abolitionist organisations in both Canada and the United States of America. Refugees were permitted to purchase land at a discounted cost, and educational subsidies were made available to them.
Did You Know?
The province of Upper Canada was renamed Canada West in 1841, and now it is a component of the modern-day Canadian province of Ontario.
When escaped slaves first arrived in Canada West, the vast majority of them chose to live near the United States border. Because of this, they were able to remain closer to family relatives who were distributed around the United States. During this time period, white folks acted in a largely neutral manner toward them. When fugitive slaves began to arrive in greater numbers in the United States around 1840, white residents began to feel threatened. Some people were concerned that these escaped slaves would be unable to work and would be forced to rely on government help instead.
The petition was eventually signed by over 100,000 people.
Black immigrants settled in a variety of towns and communities, including Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Windsor, and Toronto, as well as other locations. The Chatham-Kent region of Canada West has the highest population of black immigrants and refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. In the 1820s, a handful of all-black towns were formed in the United States. William Wilberforce, a former slave who created Wilberforce, was the world’s first community of this type. The Dawn Settlement was established in 1834 by escaped slave Josiah Henson.
- Later, the towns of Wilberforce and the Dawn Settlement were either abandoned or incorporated into other cities.
- The Buxton Mission is still in operation today in the town of North Buxton, Ontario.
- Some claimed it was the most effective means of protecting oneself, while others were concerned that it was contributing to the continuation of inequality.
- Elgin Settlement, located in what is now Chatham, Ontario, was established in 1849.
The Elgin Settlement as seen on a map from 1860. William King collection/e000755345, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.
Josiah Henson was born a slave in Maryland in 1789, and he and his family finally escaped to Canada in 1830, where they settled. Dawn Township, which later became known as the Dawn Colony, was built by him as an all-Black settlement. Henson made a name for himself as a Methodist preacher in the area, and he believed strongly in the significance of providing work and educational opportunities for black immigrants. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was first published in 1852, was based on the life of Uncle Tom.
A neighborhood leader and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, Josiah Henson was well-respected in his day.
Making Their Mark
Wherever they landed across Canada, black immigrants who arrived to the country via the Underground Railroad made significant contributions to the well-being of their respective communities. Many of them went on to become farmers, raising crops such as wheat, peas, tobacco, and hemp. Others were experienced tradespeople who worked as blacksmiths, shoemakers, and wagon makers, among other things. The majority of black women, like their white counterparts, did not have jobs outside the house. They cared for their children or earned a living as seamstresses and washerwomen in the factories.
Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893), the daughter of an Underground Railroad “station master,” was an abolitionist pioneer and advocate for black refugees who came to Canada during the American Civil War. C-029977 is the number assigned by Library and Archives Canada. A number of publications were established in order to raise awareness of the opportunities available to black people in Canada, to disseminate news, and to advocate for the abolition of slavery. One of the early black newspapers in Canada, The Voice of the Fugitive was established in Sandwich, Canada West, in 1851 and was one of the country’s first black publications.
Following that, Mary Ann Shadd Cary started another newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, which she published until her death.
Shadd Cary was the first black woman to be elected to political office in the United States.
The Voice of the Fugitive was one of the first periodicals in Canada West to be published in order to raise awareness of the possibilities and services available to African-Americans. Amistad Research Center/American Missionary Association Archives ama0015 (Voice of the Fugitive, 1851).
Did You Know?
After meeting certain requirements, black men were granted the right to vote upon their arrival in Canada. Women in Canada were not granted the right to vote in federal elections until 1919, and Aboriginal people were not granted the right to vote until 1960.
While on the surface, life looked to be far better in Canada, this newfound independence had its limitations. Despite the fact that slaves were granted freedom in Canada, they were nevertheless subjected to racism, persecution, and discrimination. Blacks were pushed away from Canada as a result of these beliefs, while other circumstances drew them back towards the United States over time. The passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which ended slavery, resulted in a significant improvement in the conditions of black people in the United States.
Those who remained in Canada continued to make contributions to their communities, and over time, they were successful in breaking down many racial barriers.
Upper Canada’s John Graves Simcoe signs the Act Against Slavery into law in the year 1793. The British Emancipation Act of 1834 formally abolishes the system of slavery across the British Empire, with the exception of the colonies. The Dawn Settlement is established near Dresden, Canada West, in the year 1842. The Elgin Settlement, Canada West, is established in 1849. The Fugitive Slave Act is passed in the United States of America in 1850. Sandwich, Canada West, is the site of the inaugural publication of The Voice of the Fugitive newspaper in 1851.
The American Civil War began in 1861.
The American Civil War comes to a conclusion in 1865.
– In Washington, D.C., Mary Ann Shadd Cary succumbs to her injuries.