What is 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.
How do I find out if my house was part of the Underground Railroad?
1) Check the date when the house was built.
- Check the date when the house was built.
- At your county clerk’s office, or wherever historical deeds are stored in your locality, research the property to determine who owned it between the American Revolution and the Civil War (roughly 1790-1860).
What codes were used in the Underground Railroad?
The code words often used on the Underground Railroad were: “tracks” (routes fixed by abolitionist sympathizers); “stations” or “depots” (hiding places); “conductors” (guides on the Underground Railroad); “agents” (sympathizers who helped the slaves connect to the Railroad); “station masters” (those who hid slaves in
What was the Underground Railroad system?
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.
What was the Underground Railroad for dummies?
The Underground Railroad was a term used for a network of people, homes, and hideouts that slaves in the southern United States used to escape to freedom in the Northern United States and Canada.
What states was the Underground Railroad in?
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.
Does the Underground Railroad still exist?
It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. Ashtabula County had over thirty known Underground Railroad stations, or safehouses, and many more conductors. Nearly two-thirds of those sites still stand today.
What did slaves use quilts for?
When slaves made their escape, they used their memory of the quilts as a mnemonic device to guide them safely along their journey, according to McDaniel.
Why did they call it underground railroad?
(Actual underground railroads did not exist until 1863.) According to John Rankin, “It was so called because they who took passage on it disappeared from public view as really as if they had gone into the ground. After the fugitive slaves entered a depot on that road no trace of them could be found.
Who was the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad?
Our Headlines and Heroes blog takes a look at Harriet Tubman as the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Tubman and those she helped escape from slavery headed north to freedom, sometimes across the border to Canada.
How successful was the Underground Railroad?
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. In both cases the success of the Underground Railroad hastened the destruction of slavery.
Why was the Underground Railroad a cause of 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.
What was the Underground Railroad quizlet?
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to-mid 19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.
How did slaves know where to go in the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. The safe houses used as hiding places along the lines of the Underground Railroad were called stations. A lit lantern hung outside would identify these stations.
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.
How many slaves did Harriet Tubman save?
Fact: According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people —family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.
Tips for Researching the Underground Railroad – National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Primary materials are the most effective approach to gain an understanding of the Underground Railroad and the experiences of freedom seekers and conductors who used it. Sydney Howard Gay, a New York conductor, kept confidential notes on more than 200 political prisoners. William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, wrote the first book on the subject, which was released in 1872 and recounted his experiences assisting freedom seekers. Slave tales, which have been written in excess of 6,000 copies, can also give valuable information.
- Consult the Library of Congress’s collection of almost 2,300 first-person narratives of enslavement, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938
Secondary sources from abolitionists, abolitionist organizations and abolitionist newspapers
These three types of sources may be used to get information on freedom seekers, conductors, and safe houses. You can learn about them by reading their personal letters, diaries, organizational records, and newspaper articles:
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
- The Library of Congress: Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874
- Documenting the American South: Levi Coffin Papers, 1798-1877
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
A number of resources are available from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, including the Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874 at the Library of Congress, Documenting the American South: Levi Coffin Papers, 1798-1877 at the Library of Congress, and the Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874 at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
- To get you started, we recommend the following: Eric Foner’s Gateway to Freedom: The Untold Story of the Underground Railroad is a must-read.
Local and state historical societies
Inquiring with your local or state history organization is an excellent approach to learn whether or if there was Underground Railroad activity in your neighborhood. These folks are experts in all elements of your local or state history, and they are an excellent source of information.
- If you reside in Ohio, you should check out the Ohio History Connection website.
National and state park services
Some Underground Railroad or abolitionist sites may come under the administration of the National Park Agency or a state park service, while others may fall under the control of a private entity. Among other things, the home where Frederick Douglass lived at Cedar Hill is a national historic monument that is overseen by rangers from the National Park Service. nps.gov.
Colleges and universities
It’s possible that local history instructors can assist you in the proper path if you’re not sure where to begin your investigation. Some of them may also be specialists on the history of the Underground Railroad, as well as individual conductors and freedom seekers who took part in it. A number of schools and institutions have created online databases that are devoted to certain historical themes and periods. Here are a few illustrations:
- Eastern Illinois University, the Yale University Macmillan Center: Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, and the Harvard University Hutchins Center for African American Research are among the institutions involved.
The use of libraries, and especially librarians, as a resource for historical study is highly recommended. Choosing the appropriate primary and secondary materials for your assignment is something that librarians are excellent at accomplishing. In addition to books and periodicals, newspapers and databases are among the materials that are frequently available at libraries.
Library of Congress and National Archives
The Library of Congress and the National Archives are two reputable and respected databases to search for information.
In contrast to Google and other public search engines, documents on these websites are subjected to a verification and authentication procedure before being published. Using the search term “Underground Railroad,” you will receive over 40,000 “results” from the Library of Congress.
We believe that interactive learning is an excellent method to educate yourself and your family about the Underground Railroad, and that museums like ours provide a variety of learning opportunities. Look up which museums are nearest to you and make a visit to one of them.
- Tickets to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center can be purchased online
If you’re seeking for a basic introduction to the Underground Railroad, I recommend seeing a well-regarded documentary about the subject matter. You will get an informative and inspirational understanding of the Underground Railroad and William Still, a great American hero, via the viewing of Underground Railroad: The William Still Story.
The Underground Railroad
At the time of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to flee to freedom in the northern states. Subjects History of the United States, Social StudiesImage
Home of Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist. This was a station on the Underground Railroad, a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in escaping to the North during the Civil War. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography. “> During the age of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in escaping to the North, according to the Underground Railroad Museum.
Although it was not a real railroad, it fulfilled the same function as one: it carried passengers across large distances.
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad were driven by a passion for justice and a desire to see slavery abolished—a drive that was so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom in order to assist enslaved people in escaping from bondage and staying safe while traveling the Underground Railroad.
- As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
- In recent years, academic research has revealed that the vast majority of persons who engaged in the Underground Railroad did it on their own, rather than as part of a larger organization.
- According to historical tales of the railroad, conductors frequently pretended to be enslaved persons in order to smuggle runaways out of plantation prisons and train stations.
- Often, the conductors and passengers traveled 16–19 kilometers (10–20 miles) between each safehouse stop, which was a long distance in this day and age.
- Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
- Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
- Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
- Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
- Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
- Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
- Person who is owned by another person or group of people is referred to as an enslaved person.
Slavery is a noun that refers to the act of owning another human being or being owned by another human being (also known as servitude). Abolitionists utilized this nounsystem between 1800 and 1865 to aid enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee to free states.
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The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration of the world’s natural wonders.
Gina Borgia is a member of the National Geographic Society. Jeanna Sullivan is a member of the National Geographic Society.
According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
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The Little-Known History of the Underground Railroad in New York
Cyrus Gates House, located in Broome County, New York, was formerly a major station on the Underground Railroad’s route through the country. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons There was a time when New York City wasn’t the liberal Yankee bastion that it is now. When it came to abolitionists and abolitionist politics in the decades preceding up to the Civil War, the city was everything but an epicenter of abolitionism. Banking and shipping interests in the city were tightly related to the cotton and sugar businesses, both of which relied on slave labor to produce their products.
However, even at that time, the Underground Railroad, a network of hidden safe houses and escape routes used by fugitive slaves seeking freedom in the North, passed through the city and into the surrounding countryside.
In New York, however, the full extent of the Underground Railroad’s reach has remained largely unknown, owing to the city’s anti-abolitionist passion.
“This was a community that was strongly pro-Southern, and the Underground Railroad was working in much greater secrecy here than in many other parts of the North, so it was much more difficult to track down the Underground Railroad.”
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
runaway slaves and antislavery campaigners who disobeyed the law to aid them in their quest for freedom are the subjects of this gripping documentary. Eric Foner, more than any other researcher, has had a significant impact on our knowledge of American history. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian has reconfigured the national tale of American slavery and liberation once more, this time with the help of astounding material that has come to light through his research. Foner’s latest book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, describes how New York was a vital way station on the Underground Railroad’s journey from the Upper South to Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York, the New England states and Canada.
- Their narrative represents a phase in the history of resistance to slavery that has gotten only sporadic attention from historians up to this point.
- The existence of the Record of Fugitives, which was collected by abolitionist newspaperman Sydney Howard Gay in New York City, was unknown to researchers until a student informed Foner of its existence.
- A runaway long forgotten, James Jones of Alexandria, according to Gay’s account, “had not been treated cruelly but was bored of being a slave,” according to the records.
- Foner reports that many fugitives ran away because they were being physically abused as much as they did out of a yearning for freedom, using terms such as “huge violence,” “badly treated,” “rough times,” and “hard master” to describe their experiences.
- During the late 1840s, he had risen to the position of the city’s foremost lawyer in runaway slave cases, frequently donating his services without charge, “at tremendous peril to his social and professional status,” according to Gay.
- Agent,” a title that would become synonymous with the Underground Railroad.
- He was an illiterate African-American.
- A number of letters and writs of habeas corpus bearing his name appear later on, as well as some of the most important court cases emerging from the disputed Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
- “He was the important person on the streets of New York, bringing in fugitives, combing the docks, looking for individuals at the train station,” Foner said.
that he had ever been the liberator of 3,000 individuals from bondage.” The author, who used theRecordas a jumping off point to delve deeper into New York’s fugitive slave network, also traces the origins of the New York Vigilance Committee, a small group of white abolitionists and free blacks who formed in 1835 and would go on to form the core of the city’s underground network until the eve of the Civil War.
The New York Vigilance Committee was a small group of white abolitionists and For the duration of its existence, Foner writes, “it drove runaway slaves to the forefront of abolitionist awareness in New York and earned sympathy from many people beyond the movement’s ranks.” It brought the intertwined concerns of kidnapping and fugitive slaves into the wider public consciousness.” The publication of Gateway to Freedom takes the total number of volumes authored by Foner on antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction America to two dozen.
- His previous book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was published in 2012.
- What was the inspiration for this book?
- Everything started with one document, the Record of Fugitives, which was accidentally pointed up to me by a Columbia University student who was writing a senior thesis on Sydney Howard Gay and his journalistic career and happened to mention it to me.
- She was in the manuscript library at Columbia when she mentioned it.
- It was essentially unknown due to the fact that it had not been catalogued in any manner.
- What was the atmosphere like in New York at the time?
- As a result of their tight relationships with cotton plantation owners, this city’s merchants effectively controlled the cotton trade in the region.
The shipbuilding industry, insurance firms, and banks all had a role in the financialization of slavery.
They came to conduct business, but they also came to enjoy themselves.
The free black community and the very tiny band of abolitionists did exist, but it was a challenging setting in which to do their important job.
Routes were available in Ohio and Kentucky.
It was part of a larger network that provided assistance to a large number of fugitives.
It is incorrect to think of the Underground Railroad as a fixed collection of paths.
It wasn’t as if there were a succession of stations and people could just go from one to the next.
It was even more unorganized – or at least less organized – than before.
And after they moved farther north, to Albany and Syracuse, they were in the heart of anti-slavery area, and the terrain became much more amenable to their way of life.
People advertised in the newspaper about assisting escaped slaves, which was a radically different milieu from that of New York City at the time.
The phrase “Underground Railroad” should be interpreted relatively literally, at least toward the conclusion of the book.
Frederick Douglas had just recently boarded a train in Baltimore and traveled to New York.
Ship captains demanded money from slaves in exchange for hiding them and transporting them to the North.
The book also looks at the broader influence that escaped slaves had on national politics in the nineteenth century.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a particularly severe piece of legislation that drew a great deal of controversy in the northern states.
So that’s something else I wanted to emphasize: not only the story of these individuals, but also the way in which their acts had a significant impact on national politics and the outbreak of the Civil War. Activism History of African Americans Videos about American History that are recommended
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?
Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
Underground Railroad in New York
Travel down New York’s Underground Railroad to commemorate the history and valor that carried America to freedom during the American Civil War era. Note: Please join I LOVE NY for a panel discussion with top experts from Underground Railroad tourist destinations. You can see it here. Why did New York play such a significant part in the Underground Railroad, which helped approximately 100,000 enslaved people escape to freedom in the northern United States and Canada during the American Civil War?
Visiting New York’s Underground Railroad system, which stretches from Brooklyn to Buffalo and everywhere in between, and learning the stories of America’s most courageous abolitionists along the route, is a popular tourist attraction.
For further information, please see the Underground Railroad page on the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation’s website.
The Underground Railroad (TV Series 2021– )
- Trivia The “Underground Railroad” as a train or as a railroad has never ever existed as a train or as a railroad. During the nineteenth century, a network of secret passageways and safe houses spread across the United States, assisting enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee, particularly to the Northern United States and Canada
- This network was known as the Underground Railroad.
6 out of 10 There are a few bright points, but generally, it is an awful bore-fest. An tremendously powerful pilot episode, followed by a highly fascinating second episode, set the tone for the enormously well-received series from the outset. However, this is where the show’s attractiveness ends, and it gets preoccupied with terribly uninteresting white people as a result. I’ve dragged it out to episode 8 thus far, and I want to see the program through to the conclusion – however I believe it should have finished at Episode 2.
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Frederick Douglass is a public domain author. While upstate New York will serve as the institute’s “laboratory,” readings, conversations, and individual study will be conducted on the evolution of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad across the United States and beyond. With the help of Karen Wulf’s renowned work in the Humanities, “Vast Early America,” this institution hopes to learn more about how enslaved individuals fought captivity throughout North America. In the institution, geography and chronology are intertwined.
- During the post-Revolutionary War years of northern laws that gradually emancipated African Americans after years of servitude to masters, old debates over the nature of slavery and opposition to it resurfaced.
- The state of New York passed progressive emancipation legislation in 1799, and legal servitude was abolished in 1827.
- At the same time, a rising educated African American elite sought to protect endangered freedoms and fight kidnappers who were intent on profiting from the illegal sale of blacks to southern states.
- The emergence of a southern Underground Railroad into Spanish-controlled Florida, Texas, and Mexico is being investigated by the institution using more recent sources.
- Internal arguments centered on political politics, which many people believed had been perverted by slavery and which unapologetically excluded black people and all women.
- This year’s institute will include work by a wide range of academics, including Manisha Sinha and Richard Blackett as well as Kate Larson and Eric Foner.
- Institute colleagues will collaborate with Jacqueline Simmons of Teachers College, Columbia University, in order to translate scholarly findings into instructional knowledge and understanding.
Podcasts, videocasts, and digital portfolios will be created in collaboration with participants by Simmons and Hodges.
Uncovering William Still’s Underground Railroad
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has began work on a new digital history project on the Underground Railroad, which will be completed by the end of this summer. Using the manuscript diary and published book of William Still, renowned as the “Father of the Underground Railroad,” the study establishes new links between the two works. In addition to providing amazing insight into the lives of enslaved people and families who travelled through Philadelphia between 1852 and 1857, this endeavor also gives extraordinary insight into the hidden networks that facilitated their escape.
Even the smallest of information documented in Still’s “Journal C,” which is held in trust by HSP on behalf of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, can provide valuable material for discussion regarding slavery and emancipation.
A prototype for an interactive website presenting transcripts and digital facsimiles of Still’s manuscript journal and published book, carefully researched biographies, and other contextual annotation and materials, was developed during the first phase of this project, which was partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
- Using snippets from Still’s letters, the prototype site “Family Ties on the Underground Railroad” delves deeper into the lives of three enslaved families: the Shephards, the Taylors, and the Wanzers.
- hspguest is the user name.
- Scholars, educators, students, genealogists, and history aficionados will be able to find profound connections both geographically and chronologically as they are taken through Still’s painstaking documentation since his materials have been interpreted and connected for the first time.
- To keep up with our efforts, check out our updates on the HSP blog “Fondly Pennsylvania.” Although the National Endowment for the Humanities strongly supports the results and recommendations presented in this study, the organization does not necessarily agree with those findings.
A Final River to Cross: The Underground Railroad at Youngstown, NY (Paperback)
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‘A Final River to Cross: The Underground Railroad in Youngstown, New York,’ now in its second edition, provides further evidence of the existence, support for, and operation of the Underground Railroad in Western New York, as well as evidence of its supporters. The second edition, which has been edited and expanded, incorporates newly found primary source materials as well as an extended bibliography and a thorough index of sources. Youngstown, New York was obviously connected to regional and national Underground Railroad networks, and the dramatic stories of the Village and its citizens—an agent, boaters, and ferrymen—who were linked to other people and towns as part of a larger network are told.
Based on the Wellman Scale, the last chapter contains a database of information about the Underground Railroad.
“This book highlights the remarkable people, locations, and stories linked to the Underground Railroad in Youngstown, New York,” says the author.
The Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University provided her with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, followed by a Master of Arts in Creative and Gifted Education from Buffalo State College, and a Master of Science in Educational Administration and Supervision from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
After retiring from teaching, she has dedicated her time to researching and answering the many unresolved questions concerning the history of the Underground Railroad.
He graduated from the College of Wooster and McCormick Theological Seminary, where he was ordained as a Presbyterian preacher.
He has written books and technical studies in his area, served on the boards of professional associations, delivered academic lectures in the United States, Europe, and South Africa, and traveled to the Middle East on several occasions.
He is a Professor Emeritus at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, where he taught for many years. Specifications of the product ISBN:9781952536014 ISBN-10:1952536014 New Idea Press is the publisher. The publication date is set for July 1, 2021. Pages:490 Language:English
‘The Underground Railroad’ conducts an unsettling ride through an alternate history
(CNN) “The Underground Railroad” has a surreal air to it, as it explores an alternate history of the antebellum South that is seen through the lens of “Moonlight”director Barry Jenkins, based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. However, the emotional punch delivered by Amazon’s wonderfully depicted limited series is slightly mitigated by the journey’s length, which spans around six fantastic hours of television across a ten-hour period. A multitude of historical alterations are made by Whitehead’s novel, the most notable of which being the literalization of slavery’s Underground Railroad as an actual route of transit and escape.
- In her attempt to flee slavery in Georgia, she travels through other states, each of which deals with race in a unique but generally horrible manner.
- Although the state appears to welcome Black citizens, the state’s methods of exerting White supremacy and control soon emerge.
- The subject matter hasn’t lost any of its raw emotional impact.
- While Jenkins directs the show from beginning to end, the structure does allow for a variety of what might be considered guest stars.
- Amazon should be commended for taking on such challenging material and enabling Jenkins to adapt it faithfully to the original material, resulting in a picture that effectively blends the tone of an independent cinema with the grandeur of a sweeping epic.
‘The Underground Railroad’ is a film that is both sobering and unnerving, with one abolitionist – who lives in a state that conducts genocide – marveling at “the brutality that man is capable of when he thinks his cause to be righteous.” Considering the fact that the filming took place in Georgia, which has recently made news for its problematic voting legislation, it only serves to emphasize the significance of connecting past to the present, a concept Jenkins tackles in an outstanding director’s note for the film.
According to him, “the necessity to express the truth while without being eaten by the barbarity of that reality” is “the most difficult task I have ever tried in my creative life.”
Jenkins has created a voyage that is definitely worth embarking on because of the attention and feeling of duty that has gone into each frame. Moreover, the duration of the stops along the road has the effect of dampening the overall impact of the journey. The Amazon series “The Underground Railroad” will launch on May 14th.
Underground Railroad in Iowa
Initially funded by the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program in 2002, the Iowa Network to Freedom project, which investigated persons and locations involved with the Underground Railroad in Iowa, became the Iowa Freedom Trail Project in 2003. After a five-year period of grant funding, volunteers have continued to collect information from historical resources and compile it into a form containing general information, such as biographical data, resource references, associated properties, and researcher information, among other things, to be used by the public.
- Individuals (by name)
- Individuals (by county)
- Places (by county)
- Research Files (by county)
- Inventory of Individuals (by name)
- Inventory of Places (by county)
- Inventory of Research Files
If you have any concerns concerning the Iowa Freedom Trail Project, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Researching Underground Railroad Activity
Since 2002, volunteers at the State Historical Society of Iowa have been doing research into the Underground Railroad’s presence in the state. The research and biographical form instructions can be found here. If you are interested in researching Underground Railroad activity in Iowa and have access to historical documents and primary sources, please review the instructions for submitting a research and biographical form to learn how you can contribute to the project.
- Instructions for the Research and Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
- Sample Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
Iowa and the Underground Railroad
Beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Underground Railroad was a network of people who assisted runaway slaves in their attempts to escape slavery. It included both northern and southern states, spanning from Texas all the way up to Maine. The vast majority of runaway slaves fled to Canada from the Deep South, although a minor number journeyed further south to Mexico and the Caribbean. Due to the fact that slaves were considered property in the United States at the time, helping runaway slaves was deemed larceny under American law at the time.
Prior to the American Revolution, slavery was lawful across the British Empire, including the United States.
These principles would transform the lives of black people, and many of them fought in the American Revolution in the hope that these rights would be given to them as well.
Vermont became the first state in the new United States of America to pass anti-slavery legislation after the British were defeated in the Revolutionary War in 1777.
Apart from that, there were no laws in the newly created United States that forced civilians to return fugitive slaves to their owners.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution both stated similar views on the subject at the time.
Taking it a step further, the Fleeing Slave Act of 1850 declared aiding and abetting fugitive slaves a federal felony punishable by penalties or jail.
As the Underground Railroad network began to take shape, people began to fill a number of positions inside it.
Fugitive slaves were often referred to as passengers, cargo, fleece, or freight when they were on the run.
Others choose to play a more passive role.
The modes of transportation used varied from one region to the next, and were mostly determined by concealment and closeness to slave hunters.
In contrast to this, the majority of fleeing slaves travelled at night, particularly in towns with ambivalent sentiments regarding slavery.
In the middle of the night, conductors would walk or ride horses to the next station to transport them.
Because of its physical proximity between Missouri, a slave state to the south, and Illinois, a free state to the east, Iowa saw a substantial amount of Underground Railroad activity during this period.
That meant that when Iowa became a state in the Union in 1846, it would be a free state.
Most fugitive slaves crossed through Iowa on their route to other free states farther north or to Canada, where Britain would protect them from being arrested and returned to slavery.
Southeastern Iowa was also home to a large number of fugitive slaves from northern Missouri who were making their way to the Mississippi River and Illinois.
Numerous Iowans also became involved in the growing political opposition to the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which culminated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and granted Kansas and Nebraska the authority to determine their own slave-holding status.
You may get further information about the history of the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movements in Iowa and other states by clicking here. Take a look at the resources listed below.
- The John Brown Freedom Trail (1859)
- Abolitionist Movement Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Sites in the Iowa Culture mobile app