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 were the stations on the Underground Railroad?
- William Jackson’s house in Newton, Massachusetts, was a “station” on the Underground Railroad. The Jacksons were abolitionists, people who worked to end slavery.
What were the stations of the Underground Railroad?
Hiding places included private homes, churches and schoolhouses. These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.” There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa.
Who helped with the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.
What did Stationmasters do?
The station master is responsible for the management of other station employees and holds responsibility for safety and the efficient running of the station. The term was historically employed across stations of all sizes, leading to variation in the precise role.
Was there really an underground railway?
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 is the main station of the Underground Railroad?
With it’s sophisticated network of conductors, proximity north of the Ohio River and defiant free African Americans, Cincinnati was the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.
Where were stations in Indiana that were part of the Underground Railroad?
Indiana’s Underground Railroad All three paths eventually led to Michigan, then to Canada. (Canada abolished slavery in 1833.) The routes in Indiana went from Posey to South Bend; from Corydon to Porter; and from Madison to DeKalb County, with many stops in between.
Who is the most famous person in the Underground Railroad?
HARRIET TUBMAN – The Best-Known Figure in UGR History Harriet Tubman is perhaps the best-known figure related to the underground railroad. She made by some accounts 19 or more rescue trips to the south and helped more than 300 people escape slavery.
Who 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.
Who is the leader of the Underground Railroad?
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913), a renowned leader in the Underground Railroad movement, established the Home for the Aged in 1908. Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman gained her freedom in 1849 when she escaped to Philadelphia.
What does freight mean in the Underground Railroad?
Cargo / Freight: Cargo or Freight was the name given to fugitive slaves who received assistance from conductors on the Underground Railroad. Passengers: Passengers was another name give to slaves traveling the escape routes.
What are runaway slaves?
In the United States, fugitive slaves or runaway slaves were terms used in the 18th and 19th century to describe enslaved people who fled slavery. Most slave law tried to control slave travel by requiring them to carry official passes if traveling without a master with them.
What happened to Lovey in the Underground Railroad?
She secretly decides to join Cora and Caesar’s escape mission but she is captured early in the journey by hog hunters who return her to Randall, where she is killed by being impaled by a metal spike, her body left on display to discourage others who think of trying to escape.
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.
Were quilts used in the Underground Railroad?
Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. Quilts with patterns named “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw” appear to have contained secret messages that helped direct slaves to freedom, the pair claim.
9 Unsung Heroes of the Underground Railroad
With hundreds of people participating in the Underground Railroad’s operation, which spanned from the Deep South all the way to Canada, it’s hardly surprising that the network of underground pathways and safe homes known as the Underground Railroad was so large in scope. Some, like as Harriet Tubman, served as “conductors,” directing rescue efforts, while others, such as John Brown, served as “station masters,” welcoming fugitives into their houses and facilitating their safe journey to safety after their capture.
1. William Still
William Still, who was born in 1821 to previously enslaved parents in New Jersey, traveled to Philadelphia when he was 23 years old and took up the abolitionist banner in more ways than one. As a result, he learned himself to read and write and obtained employment as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, where he rose through the ranks until he was appointed head of the organization’s new Vigilance Committee in the early 1850s. While in that role, Still administered the region’s network of safe houses, which included his own residence, and generated funds to support important rescue operations, including a number of those undertaken by Harriet Tubman.
The fact that he’s frequently referred to as “the Father of the Underground Railroad” is due to another factor.
Hopefully, the “amazing drive and ambition” displayed in the terrible stories will serve as an inspiration to Black Americans as they continue the fight for civil rights.
2. John P. Parker
When John P. Parker was 8 years old, a trader in Norfolk, Virginia, removed him from his enslaved mother and sold him to a doctor in Mobile, Alabama. John P. Parker was born into slavery. With the assistance of the doctor’s children, Parker worked as an apprentice in an iron foundry, where he also learned to read and write. Having persuaded one of the doctor’s patients to purchase him at the age of 18, he was given the opportunity to gradually reclaim his freedom with the money he earned from his foundry.
- While all of this was going on, Parker was making regular trips over the Ohio River to transport fugitives from Kentucky back to Ripley’s safe homes (one belonged to John Rankin, a prominent white abolitionist who lived less than a mile from Parker).
- He once anticipated that an enslaversuspecteda married couple would seek to flee, so he kidnapped their infant and placed him in his chamber to sleep.
- The enslaver awakened and chased after Parker, firing his gun, but Parker and his family were able to flee across the river and into Canada.
- Gregg during a series of interviews in the 1880s, but the manuscript remained undiscovered in Duke University’s archives until historian Stuart Seeley Sprague unearthed it and published it in 1996.
Parker’s rescues were recounted to journalist Frank M. Gregg during a series of interviews in the 1880s, but the manuscript remained undiscovered in Duke University’s archives until historian Stuart Seeley Sprague unearthed
3. and 4. Harriet Bell Hayden and Lewis Hayden
Lewis Hayden, who was born enslaved in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1812, witnessed enslavers tear his family apart not once, but twice throughout his lifetime. His brothers were sold to a different enslaver at first, and then his wife and son were purchased by Kentucky senator Henry Clay and sold someplace in the Deep South, according to historical records. Hayden never saw them or heard from them again. In the early 1840s, he married an enslaved lady called Harriet Bell, adopted her son, and began preparing their escape from the plantation where they had been held.
- The couple had returned to the United States by 1846, when they had settled in Boston’s Beacon Hill district, where they had founded a clothes business.
- Despite the fact that slavery had been outlawed in Massachusetts since 1783, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 declared that enslaved persons who had escaped to free states might still be apprehended and returned to their enslavers in the southern United States.
- Among those who have received considerable notice are Ellen and William Craft, who gained notoriety for their perilous escape from slavery in Georgia, which required Ellen impersonating a white man and William as a Black servant.
- The bounty hunters didn’t take any chances and returned home empty-handed.
- In 1873, he was elected to the Massachusetts General Assembly, where he served until his death in 1904.
- The estate of Harriet Tubman, who died in 1893, was bequeathed to Harvard Medical School for the aim of creating an annual scholarship for Black students, which is still in existence today.
5. Henrietta Bowers Duterte
His wife, Henrietta Bowers, was 35 when she married Francis A. Duterte, a Haitian-American undertaker who was also 35 at the time. It should have been a long and happy union because they both hailed from well-respected Philadelphia households and Francis’s mortuary was prosperous; in other words, it should have been a joyful union. However, by the end of the decade, Henrietta was on her own: Her children had all died while they were young, and Francis had also died unexpectedly. Instead of handing over the funeral company to a male, as would have been anticipated at the time, Henrietta took over and transformed it into a particularly secretive station on the Underground Railroad, in addition to maintaining the mortuary business.
It was nonetheless profitable, and Henrietta used the proceeds to support organizations that supported Philadelphia’s Black population, such as the First Colored Church and Stephen Smith’s Philadelphia Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons, which were both founded by Stephen Smith.
In 1866, she assisted in the organization of the Freedman’s Aid Society Fair, which raised funds for previously enslaved persons in Tennessee.
6. David Ruggles
David Ruggles, who was born free in Norwich, Connecticut, in 1810, traveled to New York City when he was 17 years old and founded a grocery store, which he operated with liberated African Americans. Ruggles soon expanded his business to include lending and selling abolitionist books, pamphlets, and newspapers as well, making him the first Black bookshop proprietor in the United States. Ruggles and other local abolitionists formed the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835, which was an inter-racial group that, like the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, assisted people in their attempts to elude slavery.
- Frederick Douglass, who had escaped slavery and arrived in New York in 1838, impoverished and starving, was one of these temporary visitors.
- David Ruggles saved his life, as he revealed in his autobiography published in 1845.
- Ruggles’s alertness, kindness, and tenacity,” he wrote.
- Ruggles gave the couple $5 shortly after their wedding and arranged for them to go by steamer to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
- Ruggles distributed countless anti-slavery publications during his years as an Underground Railroad station master, and he advocated for “practical abolitionism,” which is the idea that each individual should actively participate in the emancipation of African-Americans.
- Not that he was without adversaries: his business was burned down on two occasions, and he was violently attacked on other times.
- Ruggles was able to restore some of his strength by hydrotherapy while he was there, and he subsequently founded his own hydrotherapy facility, where Douglass would frequently pay him a visit.
7. and 8. Harriet Forten Purvis and Robert Purvis
Robert Purvis, the son of a free Black woman and a free white man, was involved in virtually every aspect of Philadelphia’s anti-slavery movement from the 1830s to the Civil War, and he died in the Civil War. His work with prominent abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison to establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society a few years later resulted in the formation of the Vigilant Association of Philadelphia and its Vigilance Committee, which provided fugitive fugitives with boarding, clothing, medical attention, legal counsel, and northern passage.
- Harriet, like Mott, would go on to become a prominent figure in the women’s suffragist movement.
- Their home on Lombard Street became a well-traveled corridor for fugitives on their way to the United States border with Canada.
- The eighth anniversary of slavery’s abolition in the British West Indies was being celebrated when a mob of Irish people, resentful of their own low social standing, attacked the revelers and began looting and setting fire to Black-owned businesses along the street.
- However, according to reports, a Catholic priest diverted the rioters off their intended route to the Purvises’ home, where Robert was armed and ready to confront them.
Robert estimated that he had assisted in the emancipation of around one person each day between 1831 and 1861 (though it’s probable that this figure includes his larger involvement with other anti-slavery organizations).
9. Samuel D. Burris
For more than a decade in the 1840s, Samuel D. Burris worked diligently to transport fugitives through his home state of Delaware and into Philadelphia, where he resided with his wife and children. Despite the fact that Burris was a free man, he might be imprisoned and sold into slavery if he was found assisting fugitives in Delaware—which is exactly what happened to him in 1847. Burris was detained while attempting to sneak a lady named Maria Matthews onto a boat, according to authorities. Because his bail was set at $5000 (equivalent to more than $157,000 today), he was compelled to spend months in jail while awaiting his trial.
Burris was found guilty on November 2, 1847, and he was sentenced to 10 more months in jail as well as a $500 fine.
A group of Philadelphia abolitionists raised $500 during Burris’ 10-month prison sentence and sent a Quaker named Isaac Flint to masquerade as a merchant and acquire Burris at an auction while Burris was serving his sentence.
In Still’s words, “he was not in the least conscious that he had fallen into the hands of friends, but on the contrary, he appeared to be under the assumption that his freedom had been taken away.” ‘The joyous news was whispered in Burris’s ear that everything was OK; that he had been purchased with abolition money in order to keep him from going south.’ The historian Robin Krawitz of Delaware State University told CNN that Burris continued to assist fugitives after his release, and enraged Delawareans petitioned the government to punish him even more severely after he was sentenced to prison.
Burris’ operations in Delaware were suspended when officials approved legislation that prescribed public flogging as a penalty for anyone caught a second time.
Underground Railroad Terminology
Written by Dr. Bryan Walls As a descendant of slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad, I grew up enthralled by the stories my family’s “Griot” told me about his ancestors. It was my Aunt Stella who was known as the “Griot,” which is an African name that means “keeper of the oral history,” since she was the storyteller of our family. Despite the fact that she died in 1986 at the age of 102, her mind remained keen till the very end of her life. During a conversation with my Aunt Stella, she informed me that John Freeman Walls was born in 1813 in Rockingham County, North Carolina and journeyed on the Underground Railroad to Maidstone, Ontario in 1846.
- Many historians believe that the Underground Railroad was the first big liberation movement in the Americas, and that it was the first time that people of many races and faiths came together in peace to fight for freedom and justice in the United States.
- Escaped slaves, as well as those who supported them, need rapid thinking as well as a wealth of insight and information.
- The Underground Railroad Freedom Movement reached its zenith between 1820 and 1865, when it was at its most active.
- A Kentucky fugitive slave by the name of Tice Davids allegedly swam across the Ohio River as slave catchers, including his former owner, were close on his trail, according to legend.
- He was most likely assisted by nice individuals who were opposed to slavery and wanted the practice to be abolished.
- “He must have gotten away and joined the underground railroad,” the enraged slave owner was overheard saying.
- As a result, railroad jargon was employed in order to maintain secrecy and confound the slave hunters.
In this way, escaping slaves would go through the forests at night and hide during the daytime hours.
In order to satiate their hunger for freedom and proceed along the treacherous Underground Railroad to the heaven they sung about in their songs—namely, the northern United States and Canada—they took this risky route across the wilderness.
Despite the fact that they were not permitted to receive an education, the slaves were clever folks.
Freedom seekers may use maps created by former slaves, White abolitionists, and free Blacks to find their way about when traveling was possible during the day time.
The paths were frequently not in straight lines; instead, they zigzagged across wide places in order to vary their smell and confuse the bloodhounds on the trail.
The slaves could not transport a large amount of goods since doing so would cause them to become sluggish.
Enslaved people traveled the Underground Railroad and relied on the plant life they encountered for sustenance and medical treatment.
The enslaved discovered that Echinacea strengthens the immune system, mint relieves indigestion, roots can be used to make tea, and plants can be used to make poultices even in the winter when they are dormant, among other things.
After all, despite what their owners may have told them, the Detroit River is not 5,000 miles wide, and the crows in Canada will not peck their eyes out.
Hopefully, for the sake of the Freedom Seeker, these words would be replaced by lyrics from the “Song of the Fugitive: The Great Escape.” The brutal wrongs of slavery I can no longer tolerate; my heart is broken within me, for as long as I remain a slave, I am determined to strike a blow for freedom or the tomb.” I am now embarking for yonder beach, beautiful land of liberty; our ship will soon get me to the other side, and I will then be liberated.
No more will I be terrified of the auctioneer, nor will I be terrified of the Master’s frowns; no longer will I quiver at the sound of the dogs baying.
All of the brave individuals who were participating in the Underground Railroad Freedom Movement had to acquire new jargon and codes in order to survive. To go to the Promised Land, one needed to have a high level of ability and knowledge.
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
Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.
- I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
- On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
- It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
- Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
- I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
- Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
- The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
- This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.
For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.
Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.
Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.
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.
Inside The Underground Railroad, The Clandestine Network That Freed Thousands Of People From Slavery
Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The Underground Railroad as depicted on Wilber Siebert’s map. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required escaped slaves to journey all the way to Canada before they could be declared really free by the United States government. Something shook the banks of the Ohio River on a night in 1831, and it was a ghost. A splash, followed by guys swearing and a frenzied search for a boat, signaled the beginning of the end. Even if the specifics of the situation are unclear, the fundamentals of the situation are clear: Tice Davids, a slave who was fleeing from a farm in Kentucky, jumped into the Ohio River in the hope of finding freedom on the other side of the river.
Apparently, the plantation owner was enraged and sneered that Davids had “gone out on a secret mission to find the Underground Railroad.” As a result, the word “underground railroad” entered the American lexicon — yet the shadowy organization that held its name had been in operation for decades before the term became popular.
What Was The Underground Railroad?
Historians are divided on whether the plantation owner was the one who invented the phrase “underground railroad.” In contrast, the Davids narrative effectively portrays the tremendous dangers of evading capture as well as the whispered promise of certain safe havens. The phrase immediately gained popularity. As early as 1845, Frederick Douglass complained that irresponsible abolitionists had hyped it up to the point that it had become a “upperground railroad.” Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons This is a frequent picture that appears in wanted advertising for fugitive slaves.
Slaves, on the other hand, have been escaping for generations.
So, what exactly was the Underground Railroad, and why did it exist?
It was more a loose network of incomplete and unstructured local groups all working toward the same goal: assisting fleeing slaves in their journey to safety and freedom, as historian Eric Foner points out.
Slavery In 19th-Century America
Davids escaped over the Ohio River in 1831, a total of 2.2 million persons in the United States were enslaved — about 15% of the country’s population — at the time of his departure. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Gordon fled from a Louisiana farm in 1863 and sought safety in a Union Army camp near Baton Rouge, which is where he was photographed. His image was sent throughout the world by abolitionists to draw attention to the atrocities of slavery. However, despite the founders’ hopes that slave trade would eventually die out on its own — and despite the fact that the importing of slaves became banned in 1808— the development of the cotton gin in 1793 breathed fresh life into the institution.
Slaves, who were mostly concentrated in the South, endured arduous lives filled with uncertainty, brutality, and forced work.
Pete Bruner, an ex-slave, recalled being beaten with “a piece of sole leather approximately 1 foot long and 2 inches broad, cut.full of holes and dipped.in water that had been brined,” according to his account.
In the 1862 or 1863 period, slaves on a plantation were growing sweet potatoes, according to Wikimedia Commons.
Formation Of The Underground Railroad
No one can pinpoint the precise date when the Underground Railroad was established. Slaves had been fleeing farms since before the country’s independence, and the abolitionist movement may trace its origins back to a time when slaves were fleeing plantations. In 1796, a slave called Ona Judge managed to flee the farm of America’s most renowned founding father and first president, George Washington, and reach freedom. A few of decades earlier, in 1775, the world’s first abolitionist movement was established, with another notable founding father, Benjamin Franklin, serving as its president from 1787 to 1801.
The Underground Railroad was established as a result of a desire to flee and a commitment to see slavery put an end to it.
Fugitive Slave Law, which was passed in 1793, penalised people who assisted fugitive slaves with a $500 fine (equivalent to $13,000 today).
By the 1840s, the phrase “underground railroad” was becoming widely familiar to the general public in the United States.
How The Underground Railroad Operated
Many of the phrases used by the Underground Railroad were the same as those used by a real railroad. Safe homes were referred to as “stations” or “depots,” and they were supervised by “station masters.” “Conductors” were those who played active roles within the organization, such as those who risked their lives in order to guide captives to safety. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons A map showing slave states and territories (in green) against free states and territories (in blue) from 1850.
- The fugitives were directed north by conductors, who were mostly emancipated blacks themselves.
- However, as historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- “Until they passed the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon line, fugitive slaves were basically on their own until they reached a Free State.” Gates penned the piece.
- In the decades preceding up to the American Civil War, abolitionism and involvement with initiatives such as the Underground Railroad were extremely unpopular among the general public.
- As a result, the voyage continued in secrecy.
- A communication would be sent to the next station master, informing them that “freight” had arrived at the station.
In actuality, the group was dispersed, unstructured, and very secretive — and everyone was well aware of the dangers that lay ahead.
The Main Participants Of The Underground Railroad
Many of the most important players in the Underground Railroad were freed blacks or former slaves who collaborated with white abolitionists to transport captives to safety. According to Gates, the railroad was “perhaps one of the first instances in American history of a really multiracial alliance.” In spite of this, Gates emphasizes that the railroad was “predominantly controlled by free Northern African Americans,” albeit acknowledging the assistance of white abolitionists, particularly Quakers.
- One of these men was William Still, a liberated black man who assisted hundreds of fugitive slaves in their escape to freedom.
- Still, he maintained a meticulous record of the people he assisted.
- “They were resolved to obtain liberty, even if it meant sacrificing their lives,” wrote Still.
- Tubman was able to escape slavery in 1849 with the assistance of a white abolitionist.
- ” Tubman was able to make it to Philadelphia with the assistance of Still, and he returned a year later to assist other slaves in their escape.
- The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information.
- The year after the United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Tubman joined the Union Army and conducted a military operation in South Carolina.
Tubman aided 70 slaves in their escape from Maryland over the course of 13 journeys, and she boasted to Frederick Douglass that she had “never lost a single passenger.” Among the other notable members of the Underground Railroad were Levi Coffin, a white abolitionist Quaker who assisted thousands of people fleeing through Ohio; John Parker, a slave who purchased his own freedom and made numerous dangerous incursions onto Kentucky plantations to aid slaves in their escape; and the Reverend John Rankin, who used the location of his home on the Ohio River to flash a light to the other side, indicating that fugitive slaves could safely cross.
According to Underground Railroad conductor John Parker’s book, “every night of the year witnessed runaways, individually or in groups, making their way surreptitiously to the country north.” “Traps and snares were laid for them, and they fell into them by the hundreds, after which they were restored to their homes.” Once infected with the spirit of liberty, they would attempt again and again until they either succeeded or were sold to the South.””
The End Of The Line: War Begins
Throughout the nineteenth century, the issue of slavery and its growth was a source of contention in American politics. On both sides, there was a flurry of intense emotions. White, slave-owning elites of southern states believed that slavery was ordained by God, and although abolition remained extremely unpopular in the north, the more industrialized states north of the Mason-Dixon line tried to at the very least prevent the development of slavery in their territories. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Levi Coffin’s house in Indiana was dubbed “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad because of its proximity to the railroad’s main hub.
- Lincoln was far from an abolitionist; rather, he felt that slavery should be controlled rather than abolished.
- Following Lincoln’s election, the state of South Carolina proclaimed its desire to separate from the Union.
- The president stated that he had “no intention, directly or indirectly, of interfering with the institution of slavery in the states where it is still practiced.” “I feel I do not have a legal right to do so, and I have no desire to do so,” says the author.
- After Lincoln was sworn in, four other men followed his example, and the Civil War officially begun.
- The Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln went into force on January 1, 1863, resulting in the emancipation of slaves across the Confederacy.
- How many slaves were able to elude capture by escaping via the Underground Railroad?
- Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, essentially ending slavery in the United States and putting an end to the Underground Railroad, at the insistence of African-American leaders.
What Is The Legacy Of The Underground Railroad Today?
Even today, the Underground Railroad has a tangled legacy, but it has also had a comeback in popular culture. According to Gates, numerous fallacies surround the notion of the Underground Railroad, which is primarily based on the work of Wilbur Siebert’s The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom (The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom). It has been pointed out to me by both Gates and historian David Blight that Siebert’s 1898 depiction of the Underground Railroad places a strong emphasis on the role of white conductors who assisted “nameless blacks to freedom.” According to Gates, Siebert also presented the system as well-organized and vast – a fallacy that continues to exist today.
Despite this, Siebert’s description of the Underground Railroad, which was based mostly on interviews with surviving white abolitionists and their children, had a greater impact on the American consciousness than Still’s collection of accounts from escaped slaves themselves did.
However, there has been a shift in the narrative.
The stakes of the quest are also made explicit in Whitehead’s work.
Harriet Tubman, who was unquestionably an advocate of the Underground Railroad, will also receive her due in the near future.
Harriet will portray Tubman’s emancipation from slavery and transition into one of America’s most notable abolitionists and Underground Railroad conductors in her play Harriet Will Show Me.
They are green and pleasant, and they do not reveal the secrets of thousands of individuals who have swum or paddled over dark seas in a frantic hunt for light on the other side of the ocean.
Then learn about Ellen and William Craft, two slaves who fled to freedom by impersonating a slave master and his attendant in order to gain their freedom.