Routes. Underground Railroad routes went north to free states and Canada, to the Caribbean, into United States western territories, and Indian territories. Some freedom seekers (escaped slaves) travelled South into Mexico for their freedom.
- The Underground Railroad started at the place of enslavement. The routes followed natural and man-made modes of transportation – rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, road and trails. Locations close to ports, free territories and international boundaries prompted many escapes.
What was the Underground Railroad path?
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). The “railroad” used many routes from states in the South, which supported slavery, to “free” states in the North and Canada.
What was the terminus of the Underground Railroad?
The Canadian Terminus An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 freedom seekers entered Canada during the last decades of enslavement in the US. Between 1850 and 1860 alone, 15,000 to 20,000 fugitives reached the Province of Canada. It became the main terminus of the Underground Railroad.
How long was the Underground Railroad journey?
The journey would take him 800 miles and six weeks, on a route winding through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, tracing the byways that fugitive slaves took to Canada and freedom.
How far did the Underground Railroad go?
Because it was dangerous to be in free states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, or even Massachusetts after 1850, most people hoping to escape traveled all the way to Canada. So, you could say that the Underground Railroad went from the American south to Canada.
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.
Were there tunnels in the Underground Railroad?
Contrary to popular belief, the Underground Railroad was not a series of underground tunnels. While some people did have secret rooms in their houses or carriages, the vast majority of the Underground Railroad involved people secretly helping people running away from slavery however they could.
What states were part of the Underground Railroad?
Most of the enslaved people helped by the Underground Railroad escaped border states such as Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. In the deep South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped enslaved people a lucrative business, and there were fewer hiding places for them.
Can you hike the Underground Railroad?
Come to where the nation’s best-known “agent” of the Underground Railroad was born and raised. Miles of hiking and water trails within Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge allow visitors to explore the landscape Tubman traversed.
How long did slaves travel on 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).
Was the Underground Railroad a real 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.
Where was the Underground Railroad filmed?
Underground Railroad was filmed in the Savannah region and around the state of Georgia, which is located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The series includes 10 episodes and the filming for this series began in 2019.
Places of the Underground Railroad (U.S. National Park Service)
A map of the United States depicting the many paths that freedom seekers might follow in order to attain freedom. NPS provided the image. When enslaved African Americans attempted to obtain their escape via the use of an underground railroad network of routes, safehouses, and resources distributed across the country, they were referred to as “fugitives from justice.” This attempt was frequently spontaneous, with enslaved persons setting off on their quest to liberation on their own initiative.
During the 1820s and 1830s, the United States experienced a surge in the number of people who sought independence from oppression.
In certain instances, the choice to aid a freedom seeking may have been a result of a spur of the moment decision.
Origins of the Underground Railroad
Enslaved people have long sought liberation, dating back to the earliest days of the institution of slavery. Colonial North America – which included Canada and the northern states of the United States – was heavily involved in the slave trade during the nineteenth century. Newly enslaved Africans frequently fled in groups with the intention of establishing new communities in isolated locations. Slavery was particularly widespread in the northern states, making escape extremely difficult. Before the mid-nineteenth century, Spanish Florida and Mexico were the most popular escape destinations for those fleeing bondage.
- The Clemens’ residence is owned by James and Sarah Clemens.
- Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 by Congress, Canada became a shelter for many people who were hoping to gain their freedom.
- Those living in free Black communities in the North were devastated by this.
- However, as a result of these seizures and kidnappings, a large number of individuals were persuaded to provide assistance as part of the Underground Railroad.
- Formerly enslaved men and women also played an important part in assisting freedom seekers, such as the Clemens family, in their quest for freedom.
- In addition to establishing a school and a cemetery, they served as a station on the Underground Railroad from their residence.
Several freedom seekers made their way to Greenville as their last destination. Bethel AME Church is a congregation of African-Americans. Photo by Smallbones, used under a Creative Commons license.
The Role of Women in the Underground Railroad
Since the beginning of slavery, enslaved people have been striving for their liberation. In the slave trade, colonial North America — which included Canada and northern states in the United States – played a major role. In order to create new settlements in isolated places, newly enslaved Africans frequently formed groups and fled. Also prevalent in the northern states, slavery made emigrating more difficult. Spanish Florida and Mexico were popular escape destinations for many bondage evaders until the mid-1800s.
- The Clemens’ residence is owned by James and Sarah.
- This measure made it easy and profitable to pay slave catchers to track out and apprehend political dissidents and political prisoners.
- In many cases, slave catchers abducted African Americans who were in fact legal citizens of the United States.
- Individuals, couples, and even families were among those who took part in the Underground Railroad network.
- The Greenville settlement in western Ohio was founded by James and Sophia Clemens.
- A handful of freedom seekers made their way to Greenville as a last destination.
- Smallbones’s photograph is in the public domain.
Legacy of the Underground Railroad
Even in the early days of slavery, enslaved individuals craved liberation. In the slave trade, colonial North America — which included Canada and northern states in the United States – played an important role. Recently enslaved Africans frequently fled in groups with the intention of establishing new communities in isolated places. Slavery was also prevalent in the northern states, making emigration difficult. Before the mid-nineteenth century, Spanish Florida and Mexico were the most popular escape destinations for those fleeing slavery.
- The residence of James and Sarah Clemens.
- Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 by Congress, Canada became a shelter for many fugitive slaves hoping to gain their freedom.
- Those living in free Black communities in the North were devastated as a result of this event.
- However, the seizures and kidnappings resulted in a significant increase in the number of persons who offered assistance as part of the Underground Railroad.
- Formerly enslaved men and women, such as the Clemens family, played an important role in assisting freedom seekers.
In addition to establishing a school and a cemetery, they served as a station on the Underground Railroad from their house. A handful of freedom seekers made their way to Greenville as a last resort. Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church The image is by Smallbones and is in the public domain.
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
Enslaved man Tice Davids escaped from Kentucky into Ohio in 1831, and his owner blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his freedom. This was the first time the Underground Railroad was mentioned in print. In 1839, a Washington newspaper stated that an escaped enslaved man called Jim had divulged, after being tortured, his intention to go north through a “underground railroad to Boston” in order to avoid capture. After being established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard fugitive enslaved individuals from bounty hunters, Vigilance Committees quickly expanded its duties to include guiding runaway slaves.
It was by the 1840s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” had become commonplace in the United States. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THESE STATEMENTS. Harriet Tubman and other Underground Railroad fugitives used the following strategies to get away.
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?
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives and assisted 400 escapees in their journey to Canada. In addition to helping 1,500 escapees make their way north, former fugitive Reverend Jermain Loguen, who lived near Syracuse, was instrumental in facilitating their escape. The Vigilance Committee was founded in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a businessman. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary labor skills to support themselves.
Agent,” according to the document.
A free Black man in Ohio, John Parker was a foundry owner who used his rowboat to transport fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born to runaway enslaved parents in New Jersey and raised as a free man in the city of Philadelphia.
Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person and renowned writer, hosted fugitives at his house in Rochester, New York, assisting 400 fugitives on their journey to Canada. Former fugitive Reverend Jermain Loguen, who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 fugitives in their escape to the north. In 1838, Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a Philadelphia merchant, founded the Vigilance Committee in the city. 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 necessary labor skills.
Agent” in New York City.
John Parker was a free Black man in Ohio, a foundry owner who used his rowboat to transport fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a famous Philadelphia citizen who was born to runaway slaves parents in New Jersey and raised by them as a free man.
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.
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.
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict, 1854-1865
Running away slaves from slave states to the North and Canada were assisted by white and African American abolitionists, who set up a network of hiding sites around the country where fugitives could conceal themselves during the day and move under cover of night. In spite of the fact that the majority of runaways preferred to travel on foot and trains were rarely used, the secret network was referred to as the “Underground Railroad” by all parties involved. The term first appeared in literature in 1852, when Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about a secret “underground” line in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Those working in the Underground Railroad utilized code terms to keep their identities hidden from others.
- While traveling on the Underground Railroad, both runaways and conductors had to endure terrible conditions, harsh weather, and acute starvation.
- Many were willing to put their lives on the line, especially after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act made it illegal to provide assistance to escaped slaves, even in free areas.
- At the time, an abolitionist came to the conclusion that “free colored people shared equal fate with the breathless and the slave.” Listen to a tape of filmmaker Gary Jenkins talking on the Underground Railroad in the West at the Kansas City Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Underground Railroad routes that extended into Kansas and branched out into northern states like as Iowa and Nebraska, as well as all the way into Canada, were often utilized by the fugitives.
When asked about his feelings on doing so much good for the oppressed while doing so much harm to the oppressors, one conductor from Wakarusa, Kansas, responded, “I feel pretty happy and thankfullthat I have been able to do so much good for the oppressed, so much harm to the oppressors.” It was not uncommon for well-known persons to be connected with the Underground Railroad, such as Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and then returned 19 times to the South to help emancipate over 300 slaves.
- Tubman was said to have carried a revolver in order to guarantee that she never lost track of a passenger.
- Individuals from Kansas also played significant roles, such as Enoch and Luther Platt, who managed railroad stations out of their house in Wabaunsee County, Kansas Territory, in the 1850s.
- It is possible for “shareholders” to make donations to such groups, which may be used to supply supplies or to construct additional lines.
- In addition to developing new routes, members of assistance organisations evaluated the routes to ensure that men, women, and children could travel in safety on them.
During an escape, engineers guided passengers and notified the remainder of the train to reroute if there was a threat to the train’s integrity. The Underground Railroad: A Deciphering Guide
- In an effort to aid runaway slaves in their attempts to flee from slave states to the North and Canada, white and African American abolitionists constructed a network of hiding spots around the country where fugitives could hide during the day and travel under the cover of night to safety. In spite of the fact that the majority of runaways preferred to travel on foot and trains were rarely used, the secret network was referred to as the “Underground Railroad” by all parties involved. The term first appeared in literature in 1852, when Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about a secret “underground” railroad in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There is no definitive estimate of the overall number of runaways who utilized the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom, although some estimates place the number at more than 100,000 liberated slaves throughout the antebellum period. Underground Railroad participants employed code phrases to retain their identity in order to avoid detection. Slaves on the run were referred to as “passengers” or “freight,” and the hiding spots were known as “stations” or “depots.” Anyone who directed runaways or offered assistance to them along the road was known as a “stationmaster,” “conductor,” or “engineer,” depending on the situation. In the course of their Underground Railroad journeys, both runaways and conductors endured inhumane conditions, freezing temperatures, and starvation. Numerous people put their lives in danger, particularly after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act made it illegal to provide assistance to escape slaves anywhere, even free states. It also made it increasingly difficult for free African Americans to preserve their independence, as they may be mistaken for runaways as a result of this federal statute. As one abolitionist put it, “free colored people suffered the same fate as the breathless and slaves” at that historical period. At the Kansas City Public Library, you may hear a recording of filmmaker Gary Jenkins talking about the Underground Railroad in the West. Conductors in Kansas felt impelled to assist slaves from adjacent Missouri, Arkansas, and Indian Territory, despite the fact that doing so would violate federal law (present-day Oklahoma). Underground Railroad routes that extended into Kansas and branched out into northern states such as Iowa and Nebraska, as well as all the way into Canada, were often utilized by these fugitives. Passengers on the “Most Miserable” routes, which abolitionists in Kansas dubbed “MM” for routes that came out of Mississippi and neighboring Missouri, were a particular focus of their efforts. “I feel very happy and thankfullthat I have been able to do so much good for the oppressed, and so much harm to the oppressors,” one conductor from Wakarusa, Kansas, said in 1859. Many well-known persons were connected with the Underground Railroad, notably Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and then returned to the South 19 times to assist over 300 slaves in their journey to freedom. To guarantee that she never lost track of a passenger, Tubman was said to carry a revolver. In addition to assisting more than 3,000 slaves, Levi Coffin, a Quaker, hosted many of them at his estates in Indiana and Ohio, which were well-traveled staging areas. A number of individuals from Kansas also played significant roles, such as Enoch and Luther Platt, who managed railroad stations out of their house in Wabaunsee County, Kansas Territory, throughout the 1850s. Other Kansans contributed to fugitive assistance organisations by donating money or volunteering their time and services. It is possible for “shareholders” to contribute gifts to such organizations, which may be used to supply supplies or to create new lines of business. If, for example, the “Lane Trail” and the “John Brown Road” were well-known to pro-slavery groups, an anti-slavery assistance association devised fresh plans to transport fugitives from Kansas to the north, with side branches branching off in cities throughout Iowa. Members of assistance groups not only devised new routes, but they also tested the routes to ensure that men, women, and children could travel in peace. During an escape, engineers guided passengers and warned the remainder of the train to reroute if there was a threat to the railway’s itinerary. The Underground Railroad: A Decoded History
Conductors from Kansas may easily cross the border into Missouri in order to establish contact with suspected runaway passengers. During the war, slaves residing in Missouri, which was so near to the free state of Kansas, were especially enticed to utilize the Underground Railroad to cross the border into the free state of Kansas to escape. Despite the fact that he did not know exact ways into Kansas, one African-American man expressed his confidence in his ability to reach Lawrence, a town around 40 miles from the state line and home to “the Yankees,” which means “the Yankees are waiting for you.” Conductors frequently provided fugitives with clothing and food for their excursions, and even did it at their own expense on occasion.
- Due to the possibility of being questioned by pursuers, several conductors preferred not to know specific information about the fugitives they assisted.
- In the aftermath of their successful escapes to other free states, a small number of passengers returned to Kansas, including William Dominick Matthews, a first lieutenant in the Independent Battery of the United States Colored Light Artillery in Fort Leavenworth.
- Matthews maintained a boarding house in Leavenworth, Kansas, with the assistance of Daniel R.
- Aside from that, as could be expected, very little is known about the specific individuals and families that aided or were assisted by the Underground Railroad.
The audio element cannot be played because your browser does not support it. As you read this chapter, pay attention to the audio! What routes did the Underground Railroad take across Maryland, and how did they differ from one another? The paths used by enslaved persons on their journey northward to freedom were numerous and varied. One of the routes out of Maryland that Harriet Tubman usually took was the Route of the Underground Railroad. She guided her groups along the Eastern Shore of Maryland and into Delaware, starting on foot and working their way up.
- They continued their journey from Delaware to Philadelphia or other locations in southeastern Pennsylvania.
- Some went to Massachusetts or New York, while others went to California.
- Escapees boarded boats that traveled up the Chesapeake Bay, where they hoped to find safety.
- Baltimore was the most populous of these cities.
- Many of the ship’s pilots were African Americans who assisted fugitives by concealing them and escorting them to safety.
- It was usual to see African American males aboard ships since so many black people, both free and enslaved, worked as sailors.
As a result, their presence on ships did not provoke too much suspicion. How were enslaved persons able to travel by rail or ship without being found by authorities? «return to the home page»
Myths About the Underground Railroad
When it comes to teaching African-American Studies today, one of the great delights is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery enabled those events to take place, never to be lost again. Among our ancestors’ long and dreadful history of human bondage is the Underground Railroad, which has garnered more recent attention from teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry than any other institution from the black past.
- Nevertheless, in the effort to convey the narrative of this magnificent institution, fiction and lore have occasionally taken precedence over historical truth.
- The sacrifices and heroism of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, are made all the more noble, heroic, and impressive as a result.
- I think this is a common misconception among students.
- As described by Wilbur H.
- Running slaves, frequently in groups of up to several families, were said to have been directed at night on their desperate journey to freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ secret name for the North Star.
The Railroad in Lore
When it comes to teaching African-American Studies today, one of the great delights is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery resulted in those events, which will never be lost again. In recent years, few institutions from our ancestors’ long and dreadful history in human bondage have garnered more attention than the Underground Railroad. It is one of our forefathers’ most venerable and philanthropic innovations, and it is also one of the most well-known and well-received by teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry.
In order to communicate the truth about the past as it truly happened, scholars have put in a great lot of work to distinguish between fact and fiction, which has always been an important component of telling it straight.
When I hear our students talk about the Underground Railroad, I get the impression that they are under the impression that it was something akin to a black, Southern Grand Central Station, with regularly scheduled routes that hundreds of thousands of slave “passengers” used to escape from Southern plantations, aided by that irrepressible, stealthy double agent, Harriet Tubman.
Many people also believe that thousands of benign, incognito white “conductors” routinely hid slaves in secret rooms hidden in attics or basements, or behind the staircases of numerous “safe houses,” the locations of which were coded in “freedom quilts” sewn by slaves and hung in their windows as guideposts for fugitives on the run.
Siebert in his massive pioneering (and often wildly romantic) study, The Underground Railroad(1898), the “railroad” itself was composed of “a chain of stations leading from the Southern states to Canada,” or “a series of hundreds of interlocking ‘lines,’ ” that ran from Alabama or Mississippi, throughout the South, all the way across the Ohio River and Mason-Dixon Line, as the historian David Blight summarizes in Passages: The Underground Railroad, 1838-19 Escaped slaves, many of whom were entire families, were said to be guided at night on their desperate journey to freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ code name for the Northern Star.
A Meme Is Born
One of the great delights of teaching African-American Studies today is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery resulted in those events, events that will never be lost again. Among our ancestors’ long and dreadful history of human bondage is the Underground Railroad, which has garnered more recent attention from teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry than any other institution from the black past.
However, in the enthusiasm to recount the narrative of this magnificent institution, fiction and lore have occasionally taken precedence over historical truth.
The sacrifices and valor of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, become even more noble, heroic, and striking as a result.
Many people also believe that thousands of benign, incognito white “conductors” routinely hid slaves in secret rooms concealed in attics or basements, or behind the staircases of numerous “safe houses,” the locations of which were coded in “freedom quilts” sewn by slaves and hung in their windows as guideposts for fugitives on the run.
Siebert in his massive pioneering (and often wildly romantic) study, The Underground Railroad(1898), the “railroad” itself was composed of “a chain of stations leading from the Southern states to Canada,” or “a series of hundreds of interlocking ‘lines,’ ” that ran from Alabama or Mississippi, throughout the South, all the way across the Ohio River and Mason-Dixon Line, as the historian David Blight summarizes in Passages: The Underground Railroad, 1838– Fleeing slaves, often entire families, were reputedly guided through the night in their frantic search for freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ secret name for the North Star.
Myth Battles Counter-Myth
Historically, the appeal of romance and fantasy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over what the Civil War was all about — burying Lost Cause mythology deep in the national psyche and eventually propelling the racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a handy weapon in the stories of the Underground Railroad to accomplish this goal.
Immediately following the fall of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to purportedly uneducated or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for independence was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a poor and nameless “inferior” race.
Siebert questioned practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even flew to Canada to interview former slaves who had traced their own pathways from the South to freedom as part of his investigation.
In the words of David Blight, Siebert “crafted a popular tale of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey to freedom.”
Truth Reveals Unheralded Heroism
That’s a little amount of history; what about those urban legends? The answers are as follows: It cannot be overstated that the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement itself were possibly the first examples in American history of a truly multiracial alliance, and the role played by the Quakers in its success cannot be overstated. Despite this, it was primarily controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, with the most notable exception being the famous Philadelphian William Still, who served as its president.
- The Underground Railroad was made possible by the efforts of white and black activists such as Levi Coffin, Thomas Garrett, Calvin Fairbank, Charles Torrey, Harriet Tubman and Still, all of whom were true heroes.
- Because of the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the railroad’s growth did not take place until after that year.
- After all, it was against the law to help slaves in their attempts to emancipate themselves.
- Being an abolitionist or a conductor on the Underground Railroad, according to the historian Donald Yacovone, “was about as popular and hazardous as being a member of the Communist Party in 1955,” he said in an email to me.
- The Underground Railroad was predominantly a phenomena of the Northern United States.
- For the most part, fugitive slaves were left on their own until they were able to cross the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon Line and thereby reach a Free State.
- For fugitives in the North, well-established routes and conductors existed, as did some informal networks that could transport fugitives from places such as the abolitionists’ office or houses in Philadelphia to other locations north and west.
(where slavery remained legal until 1862), as well as in a few locations throughout the Upper South, some organized support was available.
I’m afraid there aren’t many.
Furthermore, few dwellings in the North were equipped with secret corridors or hidden rooms where slaves might be hidden.
What about freedom quilts?
The only time a slave family had the resources to sew a quilt was to shelter themselves from the cold, not to relay information about alleged passages on the Underground Railroad that they had never visited.
As we will discover in a future column, the danger of treachery about individual escapes and collective rebellions was much too large for escape plans to be publicly shared.5.
No one has a definitive answer.
According to Elizabeth Pierce, an administrator at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the figure might be as high as 100,000, but that appears to be an overstatement.
We may put these numbers into context by noting that there were 3.9 million slaves and only 488,070 free Negroes in 1860 (with more than half of them still living in the South), whereas there were 434,495 free Negroes in 1850 (with more than half still living in the South).
The fact that only 101 fleeing slaves ever produced book-length “slave narratives” describing their servitude until the conclusion of the Civil War is also significant to keep in mind while thinking about this topic.
However, just a few of them made it to safety.
How did the fugitive get away?
John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, as summarized by Blight, “80 percent of these fugitives were young guys in their teens and twenties who absconded alone on the majority of occasions.
Because of their household and child-rearing duties, young slave women were significantly less likely to flee than older slave women.
Lyford in 1896 reported that he could not recall “any fugitives ever being transported by anyone, they always had to pilot their own canoe with the little help that they received,” suggesting that “the greatest number of fugitives were self-emancipating individuals who, upon reaching a point in their lives when they could no longer tolerate their captive status, finally just took off for what had been a long and difficult journey.” 7.
What is “Steal Away”?
They used them to communicate secretly with one another in double-voiced discussions that neither the master nor the overseer could comprehend.
However, for reasons of safety, privacy, security, and protection, the vast majority of slaves who escaped did so alone and covertly, rather than risking their own safety by notifying a large number of individuals outside of their families about their plans, for fear of betraying their masters’ trust.
Just consider the following for a moment: If escaping slavery had been this organized and maintained on a systematic basis, slavery would most likely have been abolished long before the American Civil War, don’t you think?
According to Blight, “Much of what we call the Underground Railroad was actually operated clandestinely by African Americans themselves through urban vigilance committees and rescue squads that were often led by free blacks.” The “Underground Railroad” was a marvelously improvised, metaphorical construct run by courageous heroes, the vast majority of whom were black.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrible and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the total numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in escaping, were “not huge.” There were thousands of heroic slaves who were helped by the organization, each of whom should be remembered as heroes of African-American history, but there were not nearly as many as we often believe, and certainly not nearly enough.
Approximately fifty-five of the 100 Amazing Facts will be published on the website African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. On The Root, you may find all 100 facts.
Hangout – The Underground Railroad
When describing a network of meeting spots, hidden routes, passages, and safehouses used by slaves in the United States to escape slave-holding states and seek refuge in northern states and Canada, the Underground Railroad was referred to as the Underground Railroad (UR). The underground railroad, which was established in the early 1800s and sponsored by persons active in the Abolitionist Movement, assisted thousands of slaves in their attempts to escape bondage. Between 1810 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the southern United States.
Facts, information and articles about the Underground Railroad
Aproximate year of birth: 1780
The beginnings of the American Civil War occurred around the year 1862.
Estimates range between 6,000 and 10,000.
Harriet Tubman is a historical figure. William Still is a well-known author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by author Levi Coffin. John Fairfield is a well-known author.
The Story of How Canada Became the Final Station on the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman’s Legacy as a Freedom Fighter and a Spion is well documented.
The Beginnings Of the Underground Railroad
Even before the nineteenth century, it appears that a mechanism to assist runaways existed. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance provided to one of his escaped slaves by “a organization of Quakers, founded for such purposes.” The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more officially known, were among the first abolitionist organizations to emerge. Their influence may have played a role in Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery, which was home to a large number of Quakers.
In recognition of his contributions, Levi is often referred to as the “president of the Underground Railroad.” In Fountain City, Ohio, on Ohio’s western border, the eight-room Indiana home they bought and used as a “station” before they came to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Underground Railroad Gets Its Name
Owen Brown, the father of radical abolitionist John Brown, was a member of the Underground Railroad in the state of New York during the Civil War. An unconfirmed narrative suggests that “Mammy Sally” designated the house where Abraham Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up and served as a safe house where fugitives could receive food, but the account is doubtful. Routes of the Underground Railroad It was not until the early 1830s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was first used.
Fugitives going by water or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t give themselves away by wearing their worn-out job attire.
Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their rightful owners.
The slave or slaves were forced to flee from their masters, which was frequently done at night. It was imperative that the runaways maintain their eyes on the North Star at all times; only by keeping that star in front of them could they be certain that they were on their trip north.
Conductors On The Railroad
A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to lead them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten death to any captives who lost heart and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of risks as well. If someone living in the North was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad was openly operated, and no one was arrested.
His position as the most significant commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went on.
However, in previous times of American history, the phrase “vigilance committee” generally refers to citizen organizations that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and hanging those suspected of crimes when there was no local government or when they considered the local authority was corrupt or weak.
White males who were found assisting slaves in their escape were subjected to heavier punishments than white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.
The Civil War On The Horizon
Events such as the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott decision compelled more anti-slavery activists to take an active part in the effort to liberate slaves in the United States. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Southern states began to secede in December 1860, putting an end to the Union’s hopes of achieving independence from the United States. Abolitionist newspapers and even some loud abolitionists warned against giving the remaining Southern states an excuse to separate. Lucia Bagbe (later known as Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson) is considered to be the final slave who was returned to bondage as a result of the Fugitive Slave Law.
Her owner hunted her down and arrested her in December 1860.
Even the Cleveland Leader, a Republican weekly that was traditionally anti-slavery and pro-the Fugitive Slave Legislation, warned its readers that allowing the law to run its course “may be oil thrown upon the seas of our nation’s difficulties,” according to the newspaper.
Following her capture, Lucy was carried back to Ohio County, Virginia, and punished, but she was released at some time when Union soldiers took control of the region. In her honor, a Grand Jubilee was celebrated on May 6, 1863, in the city of Cleveland.
The Reverse Underground Railroad
A “reverse Underground Railroad” arose in the northern states surrounding the Ohio River during the Civil War. The black men and women of those states, whether or not they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves.