8 Key Contributors to the Underground Railroad
- Isaac Hopper. Abolitionist Isaac Hopper.
- John Brown. Abolitionist John Brown, c.
- Harriet Tubman.
- Thomas Garrett.
- William Still.
- Levi Coffin.
- Elijah Anderson.
- Thaddeus Stevens.
Who is the most famous person in the Underground Railroad?
HARRIET TUBMAN – The Best-Known Figure in UGR History 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 is famously known for her work on the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman is credited with conducting upward of 300 enslaved people along the Underground Railroad from the American South to Canada. She showed extraordinary courage, ingenuity, persistence, and iron discipline.
Was Frederick Douglass part of the Underground Railroad?
The famous abolitionist, writer, lecturer, statesman, and Underground Railroad conductor Frederick Douglass (1817–1895) resided in this house from 1877 until his death. He was a leader of Rochester’s Underground Railroad movement and became the editor and publisher of the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper.
Who used the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was the network used by enslaved black Americans to obtain their freedom in the 30 years before the Civil War (1860-1865).
Who is the leader of the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), a renowned leader in the Underground Railroad movement, established the Home for the Aged in 1908. Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman gained her freedom in 1849 when she escaped to Philadelphia.
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.
Is Gertie Davis died?
Reaction in the South to the growing number of slaves who escaped ranged from anger to political retribution. Large rewards were offered for runaways, and many people eager to make money or avoid offending powerful slave owners turned in runaway slaves. The U.S. Government also got involved.
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 was Frederick Douglass famous quote?
“ Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”
Was there ever a real underground railroad?
Nope! Despite its name, the Underground Railroad wasn’t a railroad in the way Amtrak or commuter rail is. It wasn’t even a real railroad. The Underground Railroad of history was simply a loose network of safe houses and top secret routes to states where slavery was banned.
What role did the Underground Railroad play?
The Underground Railroad provided hiding places, food, and often transportation for the fugitives who were trying to escape slavery. Along the way, people also provided directions for the safest way to get further north on the dangerous journey to freedom.
Who ended slavery?
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves… shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free,” effective January 1, 1863. It was not until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, in 1865, that slavery was formally abolished ( here ).
8 Key Contributors to the Underground Railroad
Isaac Hopper, an abolitionist, is shown in this image from the Kean Collection/Getty Images. As early as 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons,” which had sought to free a neighbor’s slave. Quakers were instrumental in the establishment of the Underground Railroad. Slavery was opposed in especially in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been described as “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground.” Hopper not only protected escaped slave hunters in his own house, but he also constructed a network of safe havens and recruited a web of spies in order to get insight into their plans.
Hopper, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled brother of the former French emperor, went to New York City in 1829 and established himself as a successful businessman.
READ MORE: The Underground Railroad and Its Operation
2. John Brown
John Brown, an abolitionist, about 1846 GraphicaArtis/Getty Images courtesy of Similar to his father, John Brown actively participated in the Underground Railroad by hosting runaways at his home and warehouse and organizing an anti-slave catcher militia following the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which he inherited from his father. The next year, he joined several of his sons in the so-called “Bleeding Kansas” war, leading one attack that resulted in the deaths of five pro-slavery settlers in 1856.
Brown’s radicalization continued to grow, and his ultimate act occurred in October 1859, when he and 21 supporters seized the government arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an effort to incite a large-scale slave uprising.
3. Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she experienced repeated violent beatings, one of which involving a two-pound lead weight, which left her with seizures and migraines for the rest of her life. Tubman fled bondage in 1849, following the North Star on a 100-mile walk into Pennsylvania, fearing she would be sold and separated from her family. She died in the process. She went on to become the most well-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, participating in around 13 rescue missions back into Maryland and rescuing at least 70 enslaved individuals, including several of her siblings.
As a scout, spy, and healer for the Union Army, Tubman maintained her anti-slavery activities during the Civil War, and is believed to have been the first woman in the United States to lead troops into battle. Tubman died in 1865. When Harriet Tubman Led a Civil War Raid, You Should Pay Attention
4. Thomas Garrett
‘Thomas Garrett’ is a fictional character created by author Thomas Garrett. The New York Public Library is a public library in New York City. The Quaker “stationmaster” Thomas Garrett, who claimed to have assisted over 2,750 escaped slaves before the commencement of the Civil War, lived in Wilmington, Delaware, and Tubman frequently stopped there on her route up north. Garret not only gave his guests with a place to stay but also with money, clothing & food. He even personally led them to a more secure area on occasion, arm in arm.
Despite this, he persisted in his efforts.
He also stated that “if any of you know of any poor slave who needs assistance, please send him to me, as I now publicly pledge myself to double my diligence and never miss an opportunity to assist a slave to obtain freedom.”
5. William Still
William Still is a well-known author and poet. Photograph courtesy of the Hulton Archive/Getty Images Many runaways traveled from Wilmington, the final Underground Railroad station in the slave state of Delaware, to the office of William Still in adjacent Philadelphia, which was the last stop on their journey. The Vigilance Committee of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which provided food and clothing, coordinated escapes, raised funds, and otherwise served as a one-stop social services shop for hundreds of fugitive slaves each year, was chaired by Still, who was a free-born African American.
Still ultimately produced a book in which he chronicled the personal histories of his guests, which offered valuable insight into the operation of the Underground Railroad as a whole.
His assistance to Osborne Anderson, the only African-American member of John Brown’s company to survive the Harpers Ferry raid, was another occasion when he was called upon.
6. Levi Coffin
Charles T. Webber’s painting The Underground Railroad depicts fleeing slaves Levi Coffin, his wife Catherine, and Hannah Haydock providing assistance to the group of fugitive slaves. Getty Images/Bettina Archive/Getty Images Levi Coffin, often known as the “president of the Underground Railroad,” is said to have been an abolitionist when he was seven years old after witnessing a column of chained slaves people being taken to an auction house. Following a humble beginning delivering food to fugitives holed up on his family’s North Carolina plantation, he rose through the ranks to become a successful trader and prolific “stationmaster,” first in Newport (now Fountain City), Indiana, and subsequently in Cincinnati, Kentucky.
In addition to hosting anti-slavery lectures and abolitionist sewing club meetings, Coffin, like his fellow Quaker Thomas Garrett, stood steadfast when hauled before a court of law.
His writings state that “the dictates of humanity came in direct conflict with the law of the land,” and that “we rejected the law.”
7. Elijah Anderson
The Ohio River, which formed the border between slave and free states, was referred to as the River Jordan in abolitionist circles because it represented the border between slave and free states. Madison, Indiana, was an especially appealing crossing point for enslaved persons on the run, because to an Underground Railroad cell established there by blacksmith Elijah Anderson and several other members of the town’s Black middle class in the 1850s. With his fair skin, Anderson might have passed for a white slave owner on his repeated travels into Kentucky, where would purportedly pick up 20 to 30 enslaved persons at a time and whisk them away to freedom, sometimes accompanying them as far as the Coffins’ mansion in Newport.
An anti-slavery mob devastated Madison in 1846, almost drowning an agent of the Underground Railroad, prompting Anderson to flee upriver to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he eventually settled.
8. Thaddeus Stevens
Mr. Thaddeus Stevens is an American lawyer and senator. Bettmann Archive courtesy of Getty Images; Matthew Brady/Bettmann Archive Thaddeus Stevens, a representative from Pennsylvania, was outspoken in his opposition to slavery. The 14th and 15th amendments, which guaranteed African-American citizens equal protection under the law and the right to vote, respectively, were among his many accomplishments, and he also advocated for a radical reconstruction of the South, which included the redistribution of land from white plantation owners to former enslaved people.
Despite this, it wasn’t until 2002 that his Underground Railroad activities were brought to light, when archeologists uncovered a hidden hiding hole in the courtyard of his Lancaster house.
Seward, also served as Underground Railroad “stationmasters” during the era.
See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to freedom. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this historical period. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that publishes encyclopedias. View all of the videos related to this topic. When escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada, this was referred to as the Underground Railroad in the United States.
Even though it was neither underground nor a railroad, it was given this name because its actions had to be carried out in secret, either via the use of darkness or disguise, and because railroad words were employed in relation to the system’s operation.
In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down or capture them.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, obtained firsthand experience of escaped slaves via her association with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived for a time during the Civil War.
The existence of the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that it was only a small minority of Northerners who took part in it, did much to arouse Northern sympathy for the plight of slaves during the antebellum period, while also convincing many Southerners that the North as a whole would never peacefully allow the institution of slavery to remain unchallenged.
When was the first time a sitting president of the United States appeared on television? Return to the past for the really American responses. Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
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
A network of routes, locations, and individuals existed during the time of slavery in the United States to assist enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to go north. Subjects Social Studies, History of the United States of America
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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.|
“The Underground Railroad,” directed by Barry Jenkins, explores two historical legacies. One is unsightly and horrifying, a ringing echo of an organization that stripped human people of their culture and identity and enslaved them for the sake of profiting from their labor. The other is beautiful and thrilling, and it is defined by strength and determination. Even while these two legacies have been entwined for 400 years, there have been few few films that have examined their unsettling intersection as carefully and cohesively as Jenkins’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
- Following Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and a protecting fellow slave named Caesar (Aaron Pierre) as they flee from a Georgia farm under the threat of a vengeful slave catcher, the narrative is told in flashback.
- The Amazon Prime series, which premieres on Friday and will be available for streaming thereafter, comes at a time when there is rising discussion over shows and films that concentrate on Black agony.
- I used the stop button a lot, both to collect my thoughts and to brace myself for what was about to happen.
- Cora suffers a series of setbacks as she makes her way to freedom, and her anguish is exacerbated by the death of her mother, Mabel (Sheila Atim), who emigrated from the plantation when Cora was a youngster and died there.
- Unlike any other drama on television, this one is unique in how it displays the resilience and tenacity of Black people who have withstood years of maltreatment in a society established on contradictory concepts of freedom.
- There, she becomes a part of the growing Black society there.
- In this community, however, there is also conflict between some of the once enslaved Black people who built the agricultural community and Cora, who is deemed to be a fugitive by the authorities.
The series takes on a nostalgically patriotic tone since it is set against the backdrop of the American heartland.
This is when Jenkins’s hallmark shot, in which actors maintain a lingering focus on the camera, is at its most impactful.
The urgent and scary horn of a train is skillfully incorporated into composerNicholas Britell’s eerie and at times comical soundtrack.
Even after finding safety in the West, Cora is still wary of Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), the slave hunter who is determined to track her down.
Despite the fact that “The Underground Railroad” delves into Ridgeway’s fears and personal shortcomings that drove him to his murderous vocation, it does not offer any excuses for his heinous behavior.
Dillon, who plays an outstanding part), a little Black child who is officially free but who acts as the slave catcher’s constant companion while being formally in his possession.
For a few precious minutes, the youngster pretends to be the child he once was by holding the weapon and playing with it.
After Amazon commissioned a focus group in which they questioned Black Atlanta residents if they thought Whitehead’s novel should be adapted for the screen, the director informed the press that he made the decision to proceed.
It was like, ‘Tell it, but you have to demonstrate everything,'” says the author.
‘It has to be nasty,’ says the author “Jenkins spoke with the New York Times.
Over the course of the week that I spent viewing “The Underground Railroad,” I found myself becoming increasingly interested in the amateur genealogical research I’d done on my own family, which is descended in part from African American slaves.
However, some of my ancestors’ stories have made their way to me, including those of my great-great-great-grandmother, who returned to her family in Virginia after years of being sold to a plantation owner in Mississippi; and the male relatives in her line who defiantly changed their surnames so that their children wouldn’t bear the name of a man who owned people for profit.
Pain is abundant, and the series invites us to express our sorrow.
Wait, but don’t take your eyes off the prize. There’s a lot more to Cora’s tale than meets the eye. The Underground Railroad (ten episodes) will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime starting Friday. (Full disclosure: The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)
Underground Railroad in New York
Travel down New York’s Underground Railroad to commemorate the history and valor that carried America to freedom during the American Civil War era. Note: Please join I LOVE NY for a panel discussion with top experts from Underground Railroad tourist destinations. You can see it here. Why did New York play such a significant part in the Underground Railroad, which helped approximately 100,000 enslaved people escape to freedom in the northern United States and Canada during the American Civil War?
Visiting New York’s Underground Railroad system, which stretches from Brooklyn to Buffalo and everywhere in between, and learning the stories of America’s most courageous abolitionists along the route, is a popular tourist attraction.
For further information, please see the Underground Railroad page on the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation’s website.
The Little-Known History of the Underground Railroad in New York
Cyrus Gates House, located in Broome County, New York, was formerly a major station on the Underground Railroad’s route through the country. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons There was a time when New York City wasn’t the liberal Yankee bastion that it is now. When it came to abolitionists and abolitionist politics in the decades preceding up to the Civil War, the city was everything but an epicenter of abolitionism. Banking and shipping interests in the city were tightly related to the cotton and sugar businesses, both of which relied on slave labor to produce their products.
However, even at that time, the Underground Railroad, a network of hidden safe houses and escape routes used by fugitive slaves seeking freedom in the North, passed through the city and into the surrounding countryside.
In New York, however, the full extent of the Underground Railroad’s reach has remained largely unknown, owing to the city’s anti-abolitionist passion.
“This was a community that was strongly pro-Southern, and the Underground Railroad was working in much greater secrecy here than in many other parts of the North, so it was much more difficult to track down the Underground Railroad.”
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
runaway slaves and antislavery campaigners who disobeyed the law to aid them in their quest for freedom are the subjects of this gripping documentary. Eric Foner, more than any other researcher, has had a significant impact on our knowledge of American history. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian has reconfigured the national tale of American slavery and liberation once more, this time with the help of astounding material that has come to light through his research. Foner’s latest book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, describes how New York was a vital way station on the Underground Railroad’s journey from the Upper South to Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York, the New England states and Canada.
- Their narrative represents a phase in the history of resistance to slavery that has gotten only sporadic attention from historians up to this point.
- The existence of the Record of Fugitives, which was collected by abolitionist newspaperman Sydney Howard Gay in New York City, was unknown to researchers until a student informed Foner of its existence.
- A runaway long forgotten, James Jones of Alexandria, according to Gay’s account, “had not been treated cruelly but was bored of being a slave,” according to the records.
- Foner reports that many fugitives ran away because they were being physically abused as much as they did out of a yearning for freedom, using terms such as “huge violence,” “badly treated,” “rough times,” and “hard master” to describe their experiences.
- During the late 1840s, he had risen to the position of the city’s foremost lawyer in runaway slave cases, frequently donating his services without charge, “at tremendous peril to his social and professional status,” according to Gay.
- Agent,” a title that would become synonymous with the Underground Railroad.
- He was an illiterate African-American.
- A number of letters and writs of habeas corpus bearing his name appear later on, as well as some of the most important court cases emerging from the disputed Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
- “He was the important person on the streets of New York, bringing in fugitives, combing the docks, looking for individuals at the train station,” Foner said.
that he had ever been the liberator of 3,000 individuals from bondage.” The author, who used theRecordas a jumping off point to delve deeper into New York’s fugitive slave network, also traces the origins of the New York Vigilance Committee, a small group of white abolitionists and free blacks who formed in 1835 and would go on to form the core of the city’s underground network until the eve of the Civil War.
The New York Vigilance Committee was a small group of white abolitionists and For the duration of its existence, Foner writes, “it drove runaway slaves to the forefront of abolitionist awareness in New York and earned sympathy from many people beyond the movement’s ranks.” It brought the intertwined concerns of kidnapping and fugitive slaves into the wider public consciousness.” The publication of Gateway to Freedom takes the total number of volumes authored by Foner on antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction America to two dozen.
- His previous book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was published in 2012.
- What was the inspiration for this book?
- Everything started with one document, the Record of Fugitives, which was accidentally pointed up to me by a Columbia University student who was writing a senior thesis on Sydney Howard Gay and his journalistic career and happened to mention it to me.
- She was in the manuscript library at Columbia when she mentioned it.
- It was essentially unknown due to the fact that it had not been catalogued in any manner.
- What was the atmosphere like in New York at the time?
- As a result of their tight relationships with cotton plantation owners, this city’s merchants effectively controlled the cotton trade in the region.
The shipbuilding industry, insurance firms, and banks all had a role in the financialization of slavery.
They came to conduct business, but they also came to enjoy themselves.
The free black community and the very tiny band of abolitionists did exist, but it was a challenging setting in which to do their important job.
Routes were available in Ohio and Kentucky.
It was part of a larger network that provided assistance to a large number of fugitives.
It is incorrect to think of the Underground Railroad as a fixed collection of paths.
It wasn’t as if there were a succession of stations and people could just go from one to the next.
It was even more unorganized – or at least less organized – than before.
And after they moved farther north, to Albany and Syracuse, they were in the heart of anti-slavery area, and the terrain became much more amenable to their way of life.
People advertised in the newspaper about assisting escaped slaves, which was a radically different milieu from that of New York City at the time.
The phrase “Underground Railroad” should be interpreted relatively literally, at least toward the conclusion of the book.
Frederick Douglas had just recently boarded a train in Baltimore and traveled to New York.
Ship captains demanded money from slaves in exchange for hiding them and transporting them to the North.
The book also looks at the broader influence that escaped slaves had on national politics in the nineteenth century.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a particularly severe piece of legislation that drew a great deal of controversy in the northern states.
So that’s something else I wanted to emphasize: not only the story of these individuals, but also the way in which their acts had a significant impact on national politics and the outbreak of the Civil War. Activism History of African Americans Videos about American History that are recommended
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.
Underground Railroad in Iowa
A decade before the Civil War, the leading Southern periodical De Bow’s Reviewpublished a series titled Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race—a much-needed study, the editors opined, because it had “direct and practical bearing” on 3 million people whose worth as property totaled approximately $2 billion at the time of the publication. 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.
- (“Fleeing slave,” he said, was an old Greek phrase for a fugitive slave).
- “Treating one’s slaves lovingly but sternly,” he said, was the first option.
- 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 exodus was seen by many Southern whites as a portent of a greater disaster.
- Was it a matter of time until the entire fabric came undone?
- Rather, it was intentionally supported and helped by a well-organized network that was both huge and ominous in scale.
- The term underground railroad brings to mind pictures of trapdoors, flickering torches, and dark passageways winding through the woods, much as it did for most of the population in the 1840s and 1850s.
- At least until recently, researchers paid relatively little attention to the story, which is remarkable considering how prominent it is in the public 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 concocted from a succession of isolated and unconnected escapes?
- Depending on whose historians you trust, the answers will be different.
One historian (white) questioned surviving abolitionists (most of whom were also white) a decade after the Civil War and documented a “big and complicated network” of agents, 3,211 of whom he recognized by name, who he characterized as “a large and intricate network” (nearly all of them white).
- Activist clergyman James W.
- Pennington claimed in 1855 that he had escaped “without the help.
- As a result of his work on Abraham Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner, one of the nation’s most recognized practitioners of history (his earlier book on the subject was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), has joined an expanding number of researchers who are illuminating the night sky.
- (Since the student, as he makes clear in his acknowledgments, chose to become a lawyer, no scholarly careers were jeopardized in the course of the publication of this book.) Readers will be surprised by the narrative told in Gateway to Freedom: The Secret History of the Underground Railroad.
- Assisting runaways was nothing new for abolitionist organisations, who made a point of publicizing it in pamphlets, publications, and yearly reports.
- Local newspapers published stories about Jermain W.
Bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” offered donated luxury goods and handcrafted knickknacks just before the winter holidays, and bake sales in support of the Underground Railroad became common fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities, despite the fact that this may seem unlikely.
- Many women were enthralled by these incidents, which transformed everyday, “feminine” tasks like baking, grocery shopping, and sewing into exhilarating acts of moral commitment and political rebellion for thousands of them.
- While governor of New York, William Seward publicly sponsored Underground Railroad operations, and while serving as a senator in the United States Senate, he (not so openly) provided refuge to runaways in his basement.
- When Northern states implemented “personal liberty” acts in the 1850s, they were able to exclude state and municipal authorities from federal fugitive-slave statutes, this act of defiance acquired legal recognition.
- Yet another surprise in Foner’s gripping story is that it takes place in New York City.
- Even as recently as the 1790s, enslaved laborers tended Brooklyn’s outlying fields, constituting a quarter of the city’s total population (40 percent).
- 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 bond slavery.
- George Kirk snuck away on board a ship bound for New York in 1846, only to be apprehended by the captain and kept in chains while waiting to be returned to his master’s possession.
- Following his triumphant exit from court, the winning fugitive was met with applause from the courtroom’s African-American contingent.
- A second legal basis was discovered by the same court to free Kirk, who this time rolled out triumphantly in a carriage and arrived in the safety of Boston in no time.
- In addition to being descended from prominent Puritans, Sydney Howard Gay married a wealthy (and radical) Quaker heiress, who became the editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard.
- Whilst Gay was busy publishing abolitionist manifestos and raising funds, Napoleon was patrolling the New York harbor in search of black stowaways and traveling the length and breadth of the Mason-Dixon Line in pursuit of those who had managed to escape slavery.
It’s “the most complete description in existence of how the underground railroad worked in New York City,” according to Foner, and it contains “a treasure trove of compelling anecdotes and a storehouse of insights about both slavery and the underground railroad.” One of the most moving passages was when Gay documented the slaves’ accounts of their reasons for fleeing in a matter-of-fact tone.
- Cartwright’s theory, it appears that none of them addressed Drapetomania.
- I was beaten with a hatchet and bled for three days after being struck with 400 lashes by an overseer.” As a result of his research, Foner concludes that the phrase “Underground Railroad” has been used to describe something that is restrictive, if not deceptive.
- Though it had tunnels, it also had straightaways and bright straightaways where its traces might be found.
- It is true that the Underground Railroad had conductors and stationmasters in a sense, but the great majority of its people contributed in ways that were far too diverse to be compared in such a straightforward manner.
- Its passengers and their experiences were almost as different.
- During this time, a Virginia mother and her little daughter had spent five months crouched in a small hiding hole beneath a house near Norfolk before being transported out of the country.
- Although the Underground Railroad operated on a small scale, its effect considerably beyond the size of its activities.
It fostered the suspicions of Southern leaders while driving Northern leaders to choose sides with either the slaves or the slavecatchers.
Escapees were reported to be flooding northward at an unusual rate just a few days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861.
There had been a Drapetomania on a magnitude that was worse beyond Dr.
The Reverend Samuel Cartwright passed away in 1863, just a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially established Drapetomania as a national policy.
As he put it, the Underground Railroad “has hardly no business at all these days.
New Yorkers may have been astonished to open their eyes in the early 1864 season as well.
The accompanying piece, on the other hand, soon put their concerns to rest. According to the plan, Manhattan’s first subway line would travel northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park, beginning at 42nd Street.
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Researching Underground Railroad Activity
Since 2002, volunteers at the State Historical Society of Iowa have been doing research into the Underground Railroad’s presence in the state. The research and biographical form instructions can be found here. If you are interested in researching Underground Railroad activity in Iowa and have access to historical documents and primary sources, please review the instructions for submitting a research and biographical form to learn how you can contribute to the project.
- Instructions for the Research and Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
- Sample Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
Iowa and the Underground Railroad
Beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Underground Railroad was a network of people who assisted runaway slaves in their attempts to escape slavery. It included both northern and southern states, spanning from Texas all the way up to Maine. The vast majority of runaway slaves fled to Canada from the Deep South, although a minor number journeyed further south to Mexico and the Caribbean. Due to the fact that slaves were considered property in the United States at the time, helping runaway slaves was deemed larceny under American law at the time.
Prior to the American Revolution, slavery was lawful across the British Empire, including the United States.
These principles would transform the lives of black people, and many of them fought in the American Revolution in the hope that these rights would be given to them as well.
Vermont became the first state in the new United States of America to pass anti-slavery legislation after the British were defeated in the Revolutionary War in 1777.
Apart from that, there were no laws in the newly created United States that forced civilians to return fugitive slaves to their owners.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution both stated similar views on the subject at the time.
Taking it a step further, the Fleeing Slave Act of 1850 declared aiding and abetting fugitive slaves a federal felony punishable by penalties or jail.
As the Underground Railroad network began to take shape, people began to fill a number of positions inside it.
Fugitive slaves were often referred to as passengers, cargo, fleece, or freight when they were on the run.
Others choose to play a more passive role.
The modes of transportation used varied from one region to the next, and were mostly determined by concealment and closeness to slave hunters.
In contrast to this, the majority of fleeing slaves travelled at night, particularly in towns with ambivalent sentiments regarding slavery.
In the middle of the night, conductors would walk or ride horses to the next station to transport them.
Because of its physical proximity between Missouri, a slave state to the south, and Illinois, a free state to the east, Iowa saw a substantial amount of Underground Railroad activity during this period.
That meant that when Iowa became a state in the Union in 1846, it would be a free state.
Most fugitive slaves crossed through Iowa on their route to other free states farther north or to Canada, where Britain would protect them from being arrested and returned to slavery.
Southeastern Iowa was also home to a large number of fugitive slaves from northern Missouri who were making their way to the Mississippi River and Illinois.
Numerous Iowans also became involved in the growing political opposition to the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which culminated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and granted Kansas and Nebraska the authority to determine their own slave-holding status.
You may get further information about the history of the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movements in Iowa and other states by clicking here. Take a look at the resources listed below.
- The John Brown Freedom Trail (1859)
- Abolitionist Movement Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Sites in the Iowa Culture mobile app