During the era of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, places, and people that helped enslaved people in the American South escape to the North.
Was the Underground Railroad Real? How Enslaved People Used Network to Escape From the South
- The actual Underground Railroad was a network of people offering shelter and aid to enslaved people escaping from the South. Members included escapees as well as abolitionists who helped slaves get to the North. According to History.com, the movement “developed as a convergence of several different clandestine efforts.”
Where did the Underground Railroad help slaves escape to?
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans primarily to escape into free states and Canada.
What did the Underground Railroad accomplish?
Ironically the Fugitive Slave Act increased Northern opposition to slavery and helped hasten the Civil War. The Underground Railroad gave freedom to thousands of enslaved women and men and hope to tens of thousands more.
What was the impact of the Underground Railroad how many slaves escaped?
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.
Where were the underground railroads located?
There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa. Others headed north through Pennsylvania and into New England or through Detroit on their way to Canada.
Where is the Underground Railroad?
The site is located on 26 acres of land in Auburn, New York, and is owned and operated by the AME Zion Church. 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.
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.
What happened in the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad— the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape.
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans?
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans? It provided a network of escape routes toward the North. In his pamphlet Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, on what did David Walker base his arguments against slavery? They feared that the abolition of slavery would destroy their economy.
How did the Underground Railroad affect the civil war?
The Underground Railroad physically resisted the repressive laws that held slaves in bondage. By provoking fear and anger in the South, and prompting the enactment of harsh legislation that eroded the rights of white Americans, the Underground Railroad was a direct contributing cause of the Civil War.
Where did slaves escape from Texas?
Turns out her great-great-grandparents, who are buried there, were agents in the little-known underground railroad that led through South Texas to Mexico during the 1800s. Thousands of enslaved people fled plantations to make their way to the Rio Grande, which became a river of deliverance.
What were the tracks of the Underground Railroad?
There were four main routes that the enslaved could follow: North along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to the northern United States and Canada; South to Florida and refuge with the Seminole Indians and to the Bahamas; West along the Gulf of Mexico and into Mexico; and East along the seaboard into Canada.
What cities played a major role in the Underground Railroad?
The cities of Buffalo, Rochester and their surrounding areas helped to play a leading role in the Underground Railroad movement.
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.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.
Agent,” according to the document.
John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
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 Underground Railroad
WGBHA For a number of reasons, African-Americans fled slavery in the South to the north. Many slaves were driven to risk their lives in order to escape plantation life because of brutal physical punishment, psychological torture, and countless hours of hard labor without remuneration. When a master passed away, it was customary for slaves to be sold as part of the estate and for familial links to be severed. However, while some slaves journeyed with families or friends, the vast majority traveled alone, relying on the charity of fellow African Americans or abolitionist whites they met along the road for help.
- African American men and women of all ages escaped from the plantation and travelled north in search of liberty and opportunity.
- Escape from the deep South and make it north to New York, Massachusetts, or Canada required a trek of hundreds of miles, much of which was done on foot, to get there.
- Runaway slave advertising in local newspapers were routinely issued by plantation owners whose slaves had gotten away.
- Not all fugitive slaves made their way to the North.
- Some runaways created freedmen’s encampments in harsh rural places where they could remain concealed from slave catchers and local law enforcement agencies, while others chose urban settings.
- The trip to freedom for slaves who resided in border states such as Maryland, Kentucky, and Virginia may be short and less terrifying if they lived in one of these states.
- Slaves who resided in areas where they had access to freshwater and saltwater ports were frequently stowed away or employed as crew members on Northbound boats.
After the enactment of the second Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, escaping from bondage became more difficult than it had ever been.
Federal marshals who failed to enforce the law against fugitive slaves, as well as anybody who assisted them, were subjected to harsh punishment.
Hicksite Quakers and other abolitionists in the North were among those who supplied some of the most organized assistance for the Underground Railroad.
The vast majority of the thousands of slaves who attempted to flee the farms each year were unsuccessful.
Others were escorted back to their homes in chains after being apprehended by law enforcement or professional slave catchers.
In 1791, a statute was established in Upper Canada, which is now Ontario, to progressively phase out slavery over a period of time.
The Underground Railroad thrived in communities such as Rochester and Buffalo, which were close to the boundaries of Upper Canada and were hotbeds of activity. Canada represented the Promised Land for those who had braved the long voyage and all of its difficulties.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.
- The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.
- As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.
- Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.
- These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.
- Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
- They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
- The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
- They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
- Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
- He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
- After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.
American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.
He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.
Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.
Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.
Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.
He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.
- They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
- Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
- He went on to write a novel.
- John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.
Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.
The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.
The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.
His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.
Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.
For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free people who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. By providing safe access to and from stations, conductors assisted fugitive slaves in their escape. Under the cover of night, with slave hunters on their tails, they were able to complete their mission. It’s not uncommon for them to have these stations set up in their own residences or enterprises. However, despite the fact that they were placing themselves in severe risk, these conductors continued to work for a cause larger than themselves: the liberation of thousands of enslaved human beings from their chains.
- They represented a diverse range of racial, occupational, and socioeconomic backgrounds and backgrounds.
- Slaves were regarded as property, and the freeing of slaves was interpreted as a theft of the personal property of slave owners.
- Boat captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while transporting fugitive slaves from the United States to safety in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his poems, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s bravery: “Take a step forward with that muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- One of them was never separated from the others.
- Following that, he began to compose Underground Railroad:A Record of Facts, True Narratives, and Letters.
- One such escaped slave who has returned to slave states to assist in the liberation of others is John Parker.
Reverend John Rankin, his next-door neighbor and fellow conductor, labored with him on the Underground Railroad.
In their opposition to slavery, the Underground Railroad’s conductors were likely joined by others.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1848, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement in the United States.
Poems, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist content were published in an annual almanac published by the association.
It was via a journal he ran known as the North Star that he expressed his desire to see slavery abolished.
Known for her oratory and writing, Susan B.
“Make the slave’s cause our own,” she exhorted her listeners. With the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, author Harriet Beecher Stowe gave the world with a vivid portrait of the tribulations that slaves endured. The adventures of fleeing slave Josiah Henson served as the basis for most of her novel.
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.
Fact check: Harriet Tubman helped free slaves for the Underground Railroad, but not 300
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.
Tubman freed slaves just not that many
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, given its “direct and practical bearing” on 3 million people whose worth as property totaled approximately $2 billion. The author of the essays, the eminent New Orleans physician Samuel Adolphus Cartwright, described in precise anatomical terms the reasons for 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.
- But 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 wider calamity.
- How long do you think it will take until the entire cloth begins to fall apart?
- Rather, it was intentionally promoted and aided by a well-organized network that was both large and diabolical in scope.
- The name “Underground Railroad” brings up thoughts of trapdoors, flickering torches, and dark passageways through the woods for most people today, just as it did for most Americans in the 1840s and 1850s.
- At least until recently, historians paid relatively little attention to this story, which is remarkable considering how prominent it is in the national consciousness.
- Was the Underground Railroad genuinely a countrywide conspiracy with “conductors,” “agents,” and “depots,” or was it merely a fabrication of popular imagination conjured up from a succession of ad hoc, unconnected fugitives’ escapes?
Depending on whose historians you trust, the answers will differ.
One historian (white) questioned surviving abolitionists (most of whom were white) a generation after the Civil War and documented a “vast and complicated network” of agents, 3,211 of whom he recognized by name (nearly all of them white).
In 1855, the radical preacher James W.
Pennington wrote, “I escaped without the assistance.
As a result of his work on Abraham Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner, one of the nation’s most recognized practitioners of history (his last book on the subject was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), has joined an expanding number of researchers who are illuminating the darkness.
(Since the student, as he makes clear in his acknowledgments, chose to become a lawyer, no scholarly careers were jeopardized by the publication of this volume.) Readers will be surprised by the narrative told in Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.
Abolitionist organizations made no secret of their willingness to aid runaways; in fact, they publicized their efforts in pamphlets, publications, and yearly reports.
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 were frequent fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities, despite the fact that they seemed unlikely.
- Even legislators who had sworn vows to preserve the Constitution — including its provision demanding the return of runaways to their lawful lords – disobeyed their oaths and failed to fulfill their responsibilities.
- Escaped slave laws were disregarded by Judge William Jay, a son of the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who provided money to aid fugitive slaves.
- 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 has been overlooked.
- When compared to places like Boston and Philadelphia, which had deep-rooted reformer traditions—as well as upstate cities like Buffalo and Syracuse—the city was not recognized for its anti-slavery fervor.
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’s newspaper soon before the Civil War that the city was “nearly as reliant on Southern slavery as Charleston.” Planters’ slave purchases were financed by New York banks, while New York merchants made their fortunes on slave-grown cotton and sugar.
- Slave catchers prowled the streets of Manhattan, and in addition to officially apprehending escapees, they frequently illegally kidnapped free blacks—particularly children—to sell them into Southern bondage.
- George Kirk snuck away on board a ship bound for New York in 1846, only to be apprehended by the captain and kept in shackles while waiting to be returned to his owner.
- The winning fugitive was escorted out of court by a watchful phalanx of African Americans from the surrounding community.
- In this case, the same court found new legal grounds on which to free Kirk, who rolled out triumphantly in a carriage and made his way to the safety of Boston in no time at all.
- Founder and editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Sydney Howard Gay, was descended from Puritan luminaries and had married a wealthy (and radical) Quaker heiress.
- Napoleon, on the other hand, prowled the New York docks in search of black stowaways and traveled the length and breadth of the Mason-Dixon Line, escorting fugitives to freedom.
- This paper, according to Foner, “is the most complete description in existence of how the underground railroad worked in New York City.
One first-person narrative opens with the words “one meal a day for eight years.” “It’s been sold three times and is expected to be sold a fourth time.
There was undoubtedly a countrywide network in existence, with its operations sometimes shrouded in secrecy.
Its routes and schedules were continuously changing.
Akin to the cooperation between Gay and Napoleon, its efforts frequently brought together rich and poor, black and white, for a shared purpose.
Among others who decamped to Savannah were a light-skinned guy who set himself up in a first-class hotel, strutted around town in a magnificent new suit of clothes, and insolently purchased a steamship ticket to New York.
At the height of the Civil War, the number of such fugitives was still a small proportion of the total population.
In addition to contributing to the political crisis of the 1850s, it galvanized millions of sympathetic white Northerners to join a noble fight against Southern slaveholders, whether they had personally aided fugitives, shopped at abolitionist bake sales, or were simply entertained by the colorful accounts of slave escapes in books and newspapers.
- Above all, it trained millions of enslaved Americans to gain their freedom at a moment’s notice.
- 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.
- Cartwright could have imagined.
- In the same year, an abolitionist reported that all of the Union’s railway lines were seeing record wartime traffic, with the exception of one.
- A solitary wanderer is hard to come by.” In addition, New Yorkers may have been surprised to open their eyes in early 1864.
However, the accompanying article instantly put their concerns at ease. In it, the author presented a plan to construct Manhattan’s first subway line, which would travel northward along Broadway from the Battery to Central Park.
A bounty too steep
The sole recorded bounty for Tubman was an advertisement placed on Oct. 3, 1849, by Tubman’s childhood mistress, Eliza Brodess, in which she offered a reward for Tubman’s capture. The $100 reward (equivalent to little more than $3,300 today) did not go primarily to Tubman; it also went to her brothers “Ben” and “Harry.” As explained by the National Park Service, “the $40,000 reward number was concocted by Sallie Holley, a former anti-slavery activist in New York who penned a letter to a newspaper in 1867 pleading for support for Tubman in her quest of back pay and pension from the Union Army.” Most historians think that an extravagant reward was unlikely to be offered.
Tubman did, in fact, carry a revolver during her rescue missions, which is one grain of truth in the story.
The photograph used in the meme is an authentic photograph of Tubman taken in her final years.
Our ruling: Partly false
We assess the claim that Harriet Tubman conducted 19 journeys for the Underground Railroad during which she freed over 300 slaves as PARTLY FALSE because some of it is not supported by our research. She also claimed to have a $40,000 bounty on her head and to have carried a weapon throughout her excursions. While it is true that Tubman did free slaves – an estimated 70 throughout her 13 voyages — and that she carried a tiny handgun for her personal security and to deter anybody from coming back, historians and scholars say that the other historical claims contained in the meme are exaggerations.
Our fact-check sources:
- In part because some of her claims are not supported by our research, we rate Harriet Tubman’s claim that she made 19 trips for the Underground Railroad during which time she freed over 300 slaves as PARTLY FALSE. She also claimed to have a $40,000 bounty on her head and to have carried a pistol on her trips. Tubman did free slaves, an estimated 70 during her 13 trips, and she did carry a small pistol for her own protection and to discourage anyone from turning back, but the other historical claims contained in the meme, according to historians and experts, are exaggerated to the point of being ridiculous. Interestingly, the photograph included in the meme depicts an old Tubman in the period 1911 to 1914.
- Thank you for your interest in and support of our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app, or electronic version of the newspaper by visiting this link. Our fact-checking efforts are made possible in part by a grant from Facebook.
The Underground Railroad – Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
When we talk about the Underground Railroad, we’re talking about the attempts of enslaved African Americans to earn their freedom by escaping bondage, which took place from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of the war. In every country where slavery existed, there was a concerted attempt to flee, first to maroon communities in remote locations far from settlements, then across state and international borders. Runaways were considered “fugitives” under the rules of the period because of their acts of self-emancipation, albeit in retrospect, the term “freedom seeker” appears to be a more fair description.
It’s possible that the choice to aid a freedom seeking was taken on the spur of the moment.
Freedom seekers traveled in a variety of directions, including Canada, Mexico, the United States West, the Caribbean islands, and Europe. The Fugitive Slave Law was condemned in a print published in 1850, according to the Library of Congress.
The Fugitive Slave Acts
When we talk about the Underground Railroad, we’re talking about the attempts of enslaved African Americans to earn their freedom by escaping bondage, which took place from the beginning of the Civil War until the end. In every country where slavery existed, there was a concerted attempt to flee, first to maroon groups in remote places far from settlements, then across state and international lines. Runaways were labeled “fugitives” under the rules of the time because of their acts of self-emancipation, yet in retrospect, the term “freedom seeker” appears to be a more fair description of their situation.
Maybe it was a spur of the moment decision to support a freedom seeking.
Canada, Mexico, the United States West, the Caribbean islands and Europe were all destinations for freedom seekers.
Motivation of Freedom Seekers
Time period, geographic location, kind of agriculture or industry, size of the slaveholding unit, urban vs rural environment, and even the temperament and financial stability of the enslaver all influenced the degree to which people were enslaved. All of these experiences have one thing in common: the dehumanization of both the victim and the oppressor as a result of the demands of a system that treats human beings as property rather than as individuals. This element, probably more than any other, helps to explain why some people opted to escape and why their owners were frequently taken aback by their actions.
Many people were able to flee because they had access to knowledge and abilities, including reading, which gave them an advantage.
The slaves rebelled despite the fact that the slavery system was intended to train them to accept it.
Geography of the Underground Railroad
Conditions of enslavement varied in severity depending on the historical period, geographical location, kind of agriculture or industry, size of the slaveholding unit, urban and rural settings, and even the temperament and financial stability of the enslaver himself. All of these experiences have one thing in common: the dehumanization of both the victim and the oppressor as a result of the demands of a system that treats human beings as property rather than individuals. That some people opted to run and that their owners were often taken aback by their actions is explained, maybe more than any other cause.
Many people were able to flee because they had access to knowledge and abilities, including literacy.
Though the enslavement system was intended to train them to accept it, they rebelled. It was possible to go north via the Underground Railroad to the northern states and Canada, or south to Mexico or the Caribbean.
Commemoration of Underground Railroad History
Commemoration may only take place if local Underground Railroad figures and events have been discovered and documented. Primary materials, such as letters from the time period, court testimony, or newspaper articles, are used to verify the historical record. Education and preservation of the public are the following steps, which will be accomplished through the preservation of major locations, the use of authentic history in heritage tourism and educational programs, museum and touring exhibits, and commemorative sculpture.
Whenever a site has been paved over, changed, or reconstructed, a pamphlet, walking tour, school curriculum, road marker, or plaque might be used to educate the public about the significance of the location.
Uncovering Underground Railroad History
Despite years of assertions that the Underground Railroad’s history was shrouded in secrecy, local historians, genealogists, oral historians, and other researchers have discovered that primary sources describing the flight to freedom of many enslaved African Americans have survived to the present day. It is becoming clearer that the slaves were determined to pursue their own and their families’ freedom, as evidenced by court documents, memoirs of conductors and freedom seekers, letters, runaway advertisements in newspapers, and military records.
A lot of the time, no one has been able to piece together the parts of freedom seekers’ narrative by looking at their starting and ending locations, let alone the moments in between.
Anthony Burns is a writer who lives in New York City.
Unknown Underground Railroad Heroes
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known as the “Moses of her people,” and Frederick Douglass, a freedom seeker who rose to become the greatest African American leader of his time, are two of the most well-known figures linked with the Underground Railroad. Both were from the state of Maryland. Those seeking freedom, on the other hand, came from every part of the world where slavery was legalized, even the northern colonies. Harriet Jacobs arrived from North Carolina, where she had spent the previous seven years hidden in her grandmother’s attic.
Louis and journeyed 700 miles until she reached Canada, where she sought sanctuary.
Lewis Hayden, his wife, and their kid were able to flee from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Ohio thanks to the assistance of Delia Webster and Calvin Fairbanks.
Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black businesswoman from San Francisco, took in a fugitive named Archy Lee and hosted him in her house, setting the stage for an important state court case.
Coffin and Rankin are two white clergymen from the Midwest who aided freedom seekers in their efforts to gain their independence.
Residents of Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, both black and white, stood up to slave hunters and refused to allow them to return John Price to his servitude in the state of Kentucky.
Charles Torrey, Leonard Grimes, and Jacob Bigelow were among the members of a multiracial network in Washington, D.C., who worked for years to assist individuals like as Ann Marie Weems, the Edmondson sisters, and Garland White in their quest for freedom.
William and Ellen Craft managed to flee over one thousand miles from Georgia to Boston by putting on a convincing disguise.
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
In addition to coordinating preservation and education efforts across the country, the National Park Service Underground Railroad program integrates local historical sites, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. The Network also seeks to foster contact and collaboration between scholars and other interested parties, as well as to help in the formation of statewide organizations dedicated to the preservation and investigation of Underground Railroad locations.