What is the history of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia?
- With a deep abolitionist history and large and vibrant free black population, Philadelphia and the surrounding region played a prominent role in the famed Underground Railroad. The loosely connected organization of white and black people helped hide and guide enslaved people as they sought freedom in the North and Canada.
What groups made up the Underground Railroad?
Those who most actively assisted slaves to escape by way of the “railroad” were members of the free black community (including such former slaves as Harriet Tubman), Northern abolitionists, philanthropists, and such church leaders as Quaker Thomas Garrett.
Did the Underground Railroad go through Philadelphia?
Two tours of antislavery sites. It’s more than just Harriet Tubman: Philadelphia was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and in the fight against slavery. And Philadelphia abolitionists, Black and white, were major figures in the movement. You can learn this part of Philadelphia history by walking the city.
Who led the underground railroads?
Perhaps the most outstanding “conductor” of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman. Born a slave herself, she began working on the railroad to free her family members. During the 1850s, Tubman made 19 separate trips into slave territory.
Where did Harriet Tubman go Philadelphia?
From the outside, 625 South Delhi Street looks like an average Philadelphia rowhouse. But in the 1850s, it was home to Underground Railroad leaders William and Letitia Still. Within the house’s narrow confines, they hid hundreds of escapees and gave well-known figures like Harriet Tubman shelter.
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.
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.
Why was Philadelphia important in the Underground Railroad?
Since Philadelphia was the home of the William Still, who was known as the Father of the Underground Railroad, Philadelphia would play a very important role in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves seeking their secure and safe passage to freedom.
Was the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania?
As the first free state north of the Mason-Dixon line, Pennsylvania provided numerous entry points to freedom and stops along the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad operated from around 1831 until enslaved people were freed after the Civil War.
Did Harriet Tubman live in Philadelphia?
In 1820, Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester Country, Maryland. Born a slave, she later married a free man but left him and fled to Philadelphia and freedom. She is remembered as an important conductoron the Underground Railroad. She helped many slaves escape to the North where they could be free.
How did the Underground Railroad influence American history?
The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War. Many slaveholders were so angry at the success of the Underground Railroad that they grew to hate the North.
Who founded the Underground Railroad to help fugitive slaves escape from the South?
William Still, sometimes called “The Father of the Underground Railroad”, helped hundreds of slaves escape (as many as 60 a month), sometimes hiding them in his Philadelphia home.
What was the Underground Railroad apex?
What was the Underground Railroad? It was not an actual railroad. It was a network of houses and buildings that were used to help slaves escape from the South to freedom in the Northern states or Canada.
Where was the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia?
Located just outside Philadelphia, Bucks County is home to a number of significant sites that were part of the Underground Railroad. Towns like Yardley, Bristol, New Hope and Doylestown feature churches, farms, taverns and more where enslaved people were aided in their journey north.
Celebrate Harriet Tubman Day by Exploring Philly’s Underground Railroad Sites
Summary As we see in this chapter, Douglass manages to flee to the north without divulging the details of how he did it. Because his technique of escape is still in use by other slaves, he does not want his method to be made public for fear that it would be copied by others. Douglass goes on to say that the underground railroad (an organized system of cooperation among abolitionists who assisted fugitive slaves in escaping to the North or Canada) should be renamed the “upperground railroad,” and he commends “those good men and women for their noble daring, and applauds them for willingly subjecting themselves to bloody persecution,” but he is adamantly opposed to anyone disclosing the methods by which slaves were able to escape In order to escape, Douglass claims that he approached Hugh Auld with the idea of “hiring his time.” Having agreed to a fixed sum every week in exchange for the freedom to seek employment, Douglass received the right to keep any earnings in excess of the amount he had promised Auld in exchange for his services.
“Rain or shine, work or no job, at the end of each week, the money must be forthcoming, or I will be forced to give up my privilege,” says the narrator.
Despite the fact that Douglass was working under slavery, he was experiencing the fear of being a free person at the same time (who must fend for him or herself in the job market).
On September 3, 1838, he was able to secure enough funds to travel to New York City on his own.
- “Man-hunters” are abundant in the northern hemisphere, willing to return fugitive slaves to their masters in exchange for a price.
- This is the first occasion that Douglass mentions his wife, Anna Murray (a freed lady whom he had met in Maryland), who had traveled with him to New York City from Maryland.
- They immediately began their honeymoon.
- Douglass provides the following clarification: “I granted Mr.
- To maintain a feeling of my own identity, I must hang on to what I have learned.” Instead of “Bailey,” Johnson picked “Douglass,” a character from Sir Walter Scott’s epic romantic poem The Lady of the Lake, to take his place.
- For Douglass, the abundance of luxury in the North came as a complete surprise, as he had assumed that Northerners would be forced to live in squalor if they did not have slaves.
- In comparison to the inhabitants of Maryland, the people of Virginia appeared to be more able, stronger, healthier, and happier.” The entrepreneurial Douglass quickly found employment loading ships and handling a variety of odd tasks.
During this period, another watershed moment happened.
On August 11, 1841, while attending an anti-slavery conference, he delivered his first speech to a white audience, at the suggestion of William Coffin, an abolitionist leader who had encouraged him to do so.
Analysis Douglass, being a free man, saw that his name was inextricably linked to his identity and decided to keep his given name, Douglass.
There is a runaway hero (James of Douglas) who redeems himself in the novel The Lady of the Lake, a plot that is somewhat similar to Douglass’ own fugitive existence.
The first and most important point, he continues, is that slavery is a robber, and the rewards of slave labor are exclusively enjoyed by slaveholders.
One of the underlying components of slavery is unquestionably avarice — namely, the desire for power and wealth.
Certainly, a free market in which an individual must fend for himself or herself is a challenging environment to live in, but Douglass would have chosen it over a slave economy any day.
Regarding racism in the North, Douglass is far less critical and forthright (at least in this first version of his autobiography).
First and foremost, he was still drunk with freedom in the North, and any prejudice he encountered there would have been insignificant in comparison to what he would have endured in the Southern states.
A difficult topic in the free states for many years was the authority of slave hunters.
Dougie required money in order to travel to New York, therefore money became a crucial key to freedom, one that was equally important as education.
They were healthier, happier, and more affluent than their counterparts in the Southern United States.
Living circumstances in the north were superior, and the free market was just a more efficient process. Labor was no longer provided by slaves, but rather by machinery. As a result of his experiences in the North, Douglass enthusiastically accepts capitalism as a whole.
Walk Philly’s Black history with these two tours of the city’s antislavery sites
If you are familiar with the story of Harriet Tubman, you are aware that the road to freedom passed through Philadelphia, which served as a vital stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe havens for fugitives fleeing to free states and Canada during the American Revolution. And Philadelphia abolitionists, both black and white, played a significant role in the movement’s success. By strolling throughout the city, you can learn about this period of Philadelphia history.
In addition, we have audio tours that will accompany you through the various locations.
You’ll witness a chapel where fugitives were hidden in the basement while on their way to freedom.
Also demolished lately was a building that wasn’t even included on the city’s historical register.» MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Investigate our chronology of police violence against African-Americans in Philadelphia throughout history.
Walk 1: Society Hill and Center City
After witnessing individuals being sold here, Thomas Paine penned an essay that was instrumental in igniting the anti-slavery campaign in the United States. The historic tavern served as a meeting place for merchants, ship owners, and political officials who came together to do business and socialize. Outside, enslaved Africans were being auctioned off on the open market. The auctions were visible from an upstairs window of the boarding house next door, where the English author Thomas Paine (1737-1809) resided and worked as a boarder.
» READ MORE: ‘It’s a part of our history,’ says a storyteller as he takes a trip of locations associated with Philadelphia’s slave trade
2. Anthony Benezet Home,325 Chestnut St. (now Buddakan restaurant)
Anthony Benezet pushed for the integration of Black schools and founded the first abolitionist association in the United States. Benezet (1713-1784) was a white Quaker teacher and abolitionist who lived during the American Revolutionary War. Benezet began teaching night sessions to Black youths in his house in 1750, and continued until his death in 1801. He established the first public school for females (all of whom were white and from notable families) and, in 1770, persuaded the Quakers to establish the first school for African-American children.
Benjamin Rush reorganized the group to become the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which is still in operation to this day. The structure is no longer standing and has been transformed into the Buddakan restaurant.
3. Pennsylvania Hall,190 N. 6th St. (Current site of Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission)
A lynch mob, enraged that a gathering of Black and white men and women was taking place, set fire to the structure. This structure, which was the first to be built particularly for abolitionist gatherings, was dedicated on a Monday in May 1838. The Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women got underway the next day. Meetings were to be limited to white women exclusively, according to the city, since some people were uncomfortable with the concept of women speaking in public. The abolitionists were adamant.
A few days later, the structure was completely destroyed by fire.
4. The President’s House,Sixth and Market
While President George Washington was working to overthrow Pennsylvania’s Gradual Abolition Act, at least one of his servants managed to flee to freedom in the neighboring state of New Hampshire. When Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, the White House was located at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets in a house on Sixth Street. There were nine enslaved persons under George Washington’s control. He took use of a legal loophole to avoid complying with Pennsylvania’s 1780 Gradual Abolition Act, which stated that any enslaved person who remained in the state for six months would be freed from their bonds.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was signed here by George Washington.
5. Congo Square, now Washington Square,210 W. Washington Square
Before it was known as Washington Square, this site served as a meeting place and a burial ground for members of the Black community, both free and enslaved. As part of William Penn’s plan for the city, this park was originally known as Southeast Square. It was given its name in 1825 in honor of George Washington. It was previously known as Congo Square, since it was a gathering place for Africans and Black Americans, both free and enslaved, to congregate in their spare time and on holidays throughout the 19th century.
People would pay their respects to the tombs of their loved ones, pouring libations and leaving food.
6. Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church,419 S. Sixth St.
This chapel served as a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Bishop Richard Allen was born into slavery and was able to buy his way out of it. Allen went on to build Mother Bethel in 1794, which is located on the oldest tract of United States land continuously held by African Americans and is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the country. After becoming a stop on the Underground Railroad, the basement served as a safe haven for fugitives fleeing the United States.
African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, which formerly situated on Fifth Street near St. James, was another Black church whose parishioners were participating in the Underground Railroad.) There is a commemorative plaque at that location.)
7. James Forten House,336 Lombard St.
James Forten was a prominent African-American merchant who contributed to the anti-slavery movement’s funding. James Forten (1766-1842), a free black man born in Philadelphia, was a pupil at the school that Anthony Benezet established for African-American children. Following the Revolutionary War, Forten worked as an apprentice with sailmaker Robert Bridges, eventually purchasing the business when Bridges retired. He was a rich entrepreneur and inventor who contributed to antislavery movements such as the publication of The Liberator newspaper by providing financial support.
8. William Still House,625 S. Delhi St.
He was a prosperous Black merchant who contributed to the anti-slavery movement’s financial resources. Forten was a pupil in the school that Anthony Benezet established for black children in Philadelphia, where he was born free in 1766. When Forten began working as an apprentice with sailmaker Robert Bridges after the Revolutionary War, Bridges eventually retired and Forten purchased the business. It is believed that he was a rich businessman and inventor who contributed to the antislavery movement, including the publication of The Liberator newspaper.
9. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper House,1006 Bainbridge St.
This is where the mother of African American journalism grew up. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was an abolitionist, author, and poet who lived from 1825 to 1911. She was born in Baltimore to parents who were both free black. Her first collection of poems was published in 1845, and she is widely regarded as the “mother of African American journalism” for her work writing for abolitionist journals during the Civil War era. Her novel, Iola Leroy, about a mixed-race free woman who is sold into slavery, was published in 1892 and is still in print today.
She wrote the following words in her poem “Bury Me in a Free Land,” which was published in 1854:”I beg no monument, grand and towering, / To capture and hold the sight of passers-by; / All that my longing spirit desires, / Is that I be buried not in a land of slaves.”
10. Henry Minton House,204 S. 12th St.
There were gatherings here where abolitionist Frederick Douglass attended, and it is thought that John Brown slept the night here while preparing for his attack on Harpers Ferry. Henry Minton was a caterer who rose to prominence in Philadelphia’s free black society as a significant leader. Minton welcomed abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Still, who came to the town to speak. During his ill-fated attack on the Harpers Ferry arsenal in 1859, abolitionist John Brown is said to have spent the night in Minton’s residence on his way to liberate enslaved Black people by stealing their weapons.
The attack is regarded as a precursor to the American Civil War.
It is planned for renovation after historians failed to persuade the city to include it on the city’s list of historical sites. CHECK OUT THIS OTHER ARTICLE:Hey, Mayor Kenney: The following are the structures that Philadelphians desire to see maintained historically.
Walk 2: Northwest Philadelphia
Slavery-era artifacts like as chains and shackles are on display at the museum. J. Justin Ragsdale, the museum’s founder, began collecting artifacts associated with slavery more than 40 years ago. He and his wife, Gwen Ragsdale, now run the museum at the Germantown Historical Society, which they founded. Among the items on display at this museum are shackles, chains, coffles, branding irons, and other ironware that was used to punish and confine enslaved African Americans during the period of slavery.
Meetings for abolitionists were conducted here, and William Still and others were in attendance.
The Johnson family, who were members of the Society of Friends, lived in this house for five generations.
The home was in the line of fire during the Battle of Germantown in 1777, and the scars left by musket balls may still be seen on the walls today.
3.Cliveden,6401 Germantown Ave.
Slavery-related objects, including as chains and shackles, are on display at the museum. Collections of artefacts relating to slavery began more than 40 years ago by museum founder J. Justin Ragsdale. The Germantown Historical Society’s museum is now operated by him and his wife, Gwen Ragsdale. Among the items on display at this museum are shackles, chains, coffles, branding irons, and other ironware that was used to punish and confine enslaved African Americans during the time of slavery. Examples of “Jim Crow”-era artefacts that were designed to mock and degrade African Americans, as well as to instill racist sentiments toward Black people, are also included in the collection.
People fleeing enslavement are thought to have taken refuge in the attic area on the third story.
As early as the 1850s, the family was involved with the American Anti-Slavery Society and other abolitionist organizations; this home served as a station and meeting point for the Underground Railroad, and it is possible that Harriet Tubman spent some time here.
Today, it is a free, publicly accessible museum that is dedicated to the positive impact that ordinary people can have on their communities.« More information may be found at: Germantown is bridging understanding through history, art, and geography.
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 valor of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, are made all the more noble, heroic, and striking 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
As Blight correctly points out, the railroad has proven to be one of the most “enduring and popular strands in the fabric of America’s national historical memory.” Since the end of the nineteenth century, many Americans, particularly in New England and the Midwest, have either made up legends about the deeds of their ancestors or simply repeated stories that they have heard about their forebears.
It’s worth taking a look at the history of the phrase “Underground Railroad” before diving into those tales, though.
Tice Davids was a Kentucky slave who managed to escape to Ohio in 1831, and it is possible that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was invented as a result of his successful escape.
According to Blight, he is believed to have said that Davids had vanished as though “the nigger must have gone off on an underground railroad.” This is a fantastic narrative — one that would be worthy of Richard Pryor — but it is improbable, given that train lines were non-existent at the time.
- The fleeing slave from Washington, D.C., who was tortured and forced to testify that he had been taken north, where “the railroad extended underground all the way to Boston,” according to one report from 1839, was captured.
- constructed from Mason and Dixon’s to the Canada line, upon which fugitives from slavery might come pouring into this province” is the first time the term appears.
- 14, 1842, in the Liberator, a date that may be supported by others who claim that abolitionist Charles T.
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 fleeing slavery had been thus planned 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.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. More information may be found at The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
Those enslaved persons who were assisted by the Underground Railroad were primarily from border states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland (see map below). Fugitive slave capture became a lucrative industry in the deep South after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, and there were fewer hiding places for escaped slaves as a result. Refugee enslaved persons usually had to fend for themselves until they reached specified northern locations. In the runaway enslaved people’s journey, they were escorted by people known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were among the hiding spots.
Stationmasters were the individuals in charge of running them.
Others traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, while others passed through Detroit on their route to the Canadian border.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.
Agent,” according to the document.
John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was at this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting fleeing enslaved individuals in their journey to Canada. Abolitionist John Brown would go on to play a variety of roles during his life. His most well-known duty was conducting an assault on Harper’s Ferry in order to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Ultimately, Brown’s forces were beaten, and he was executed for treason in 1859.
- The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved lady and her young daughter.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
- After being apprehended in 1844 while transporting a boatload of freed slaves from the Caribbean to the United States, Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was sentenced to prison for life.
- John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to assist in the rescue of enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their families as they made their way north.
- He managed to elude capture twice.
End of the Line
Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad is a book about the Underground Railroad. Fergus Bordewich is a Scottish actor. A Biography of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Catherine Clinton is the first lady of the United States. Who Exactly Was in Charge of the Underground Railroad? ‘Henry Louis Gates’ is a pseudonym for Henry Louis Gates. The Underground Railroad’s History in New York is a little known fact. The Smithsonian Institution’s magazine. The Underground Railroad’s Dangerous Allure is well documented.
Vigilant Committee and the Underground Railroad
The Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia was a covert auxiliary of the Vigilant Association that existed between 1837 and 1852 in the city of Philadelphia. The Vigilant Association was a group founded by Robert Purvis, an outspoken abolitionist, in August 1837 with the goals of publicizing antislavery doctrine and “creating a fund to relieve colored folks in need,” according to the group’s website. To accomplish this, the Vigilant Committee established offices, raised funds, and made resources readily accessible to aid escaped slaves while they were in Philadelphia or passing through the city.
- During a meeting of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society the same year, a new Vigilance Committee was established, with Robert Purvis serving as the General Committee’s chairman and William Still serving as the committee’s vice chairman.
- Throughout this section, students will learn about the Underground Railroad as a complex structure that was propelled by individual desire and resolve for freedom, with assistance and support from individuals in larger groups, notably free black communities.
- Students can use the William Still diary and the Vigilance Committee expenditure records to create a profile of a runaway slave who is seeking assistance in the city of Philadelphia.
- Additionally, these sites provide insight into another facet of the Underground Railroad: the financial burden of care.
AbolitionCivil WarPennsylvaniaAbolitionistsAfrican Americans PhiladelphiaSlavery
Contextualization in History Pennsylvania’s illustrious past
- Setting the Scene in History Histories of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Learning about the past and the many settings in which it occurred, each of which was affected by social, cultural, and political factors, prepares one for involvement as active, critical citizens in a democracy. To fully appreciate society in the Pennsylvania, it is necessary to examine both conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states. Household instability, ethnic and racial tensions, labor disputes and unionization, immigration, wars, and revolutions are instances of societal conflict and collaboration.
- Educating oneself about the past and the many circumstances in which it was molded by social, cultural, and political factors prepares one to participate as active, critical citizens in a democratic society. To fully appreciate society in the Pennsylvania, it is necessary to understand conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states. Household instability, ethnic and racial tensions, labor disputes and unionization, immigration, wars, and revolutions are instances of societal conflict and collaboration
Background Material for Teacher
“Philadelphia County,” written by Charles Blockson. Pennsylvania’s Underground Railroad (also known as the Underground Railroad of the United States) Flame International, Jacksonville, North Carolina, 1981, pp. 8-32. A full historical backdrop of anti-slavery beliefs in Philadelphia County is provided in this excerpt from “The Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania” to the reader. The author goes into considerable depth regarding the paths of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, the importance of the Vigilant Committee, and the effect of various anti-slavery organisations on the Underground Railroad movement.
- Joseph A.
- A variety of original sources from the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee, including the minutes of the committee’s sessions, are presented in this page for the benefit of the reader.
The book offers light on the role performed by clergymen as agents and conductors of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia throughout the nineteenth century.
End of Unit Assessment
Students should write in a diary, claiming to be a member of the Vigilant Committee, to demonstrate their understanding. The diary should be around four pages in length, with each journal entry being approximately a page in duration. The journal should satisfy the following requirements and provide satisfactory answers to the following questions:
- Know the situations of the fleeing slaves they have assisted, as well as the names of any other groups or clergy members who are assisting them in hiding these fugitive slaves. Mention how the passage of anti-fugitive slave legislation has made their services more dangerous. Why do they continue to assist escaping slaves if they know it might be possibly hazardous
Students can utilize other sources to complete this assessment, but they will also be supplied with a copy of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and an excerpt from William Still’s journal to aid them in their efforts. Students should be allowed a substantial amount of time outside of the classroom to complete this end-of-unit evaluation in order to succeed. Their performance should be judged on the basis of how successfully they:
- Students can utilize other sources to complete this assessment, but they will also be given with a copy of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and an excerpt from William Still’s journal to aid them in their research. Students should be allowed an extensive period of time outside of the classroom to complete this end-of-unit evaluation. Work should be assessed based on how effectively they do the following things:
Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
With a long and illustrious abolitionist history as well as a sizable and active free black community, Philadelphia and the surrounding region played an important part in the infamous Underground Railroad network. It was a loosely linked group of white and black persons that assisted enslaved people on their journeys to freedom in the northern United States and Canadian territories. As documented by Robert Smedley in 1883, slaveholders began to refer to the “Underground Railroad” as early as the 1780s to describe covert activities in the Columbia, Pennsylvania region to aid fugitives from slavery.
- The city of Columbia came out of the little hamlet of Wright’s Ferry, which was formed by Quakers and other white people who were opposed to slavery and wanted to establish a free society.
- The Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse, which was built in 1708 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, functioned as a station on the Underground Railroad in conjunction with Abolition Hall, which was located on the other side of Germantown Pike on the opposite side of the street.
- In south central and southern Pennsylvania, as well as in southwestern New Jersey, runaway routes evolved, aided by strong Quaker abolitionist networks and flourishing free black communities, which assisted fugitives in their journeys farther north.
- The fugitives on the southeastern Pennsylvania route had a common planned goal of Phoenixville, where they hoped to find the residence ofElijah Pennypacker(1804-1888), who would assist them on their way to Philadelphia, Norristown, Quakertown, Reading, and other stations along the way.
As early as 1804, this network of help was given the term “Underground Railroad,” and historian Larry Gara estimates that by the mid to late 1840s, as many as one thousand enslaved persons a year were joining the sluggish but constant movement on the Underground Railroad.
Philly and the surrounding region played a significant part in the abolitionist movement because of the city’s long abolitionist history and sizable and active free black community. The loosely affiliated group of white and black individuals assisted enslaved persons on their journeys to freedom throughout the northern United States and Canadian provinces. In the late 1780s, slaveholders in the Columbia, Pennsylvania, region began to use the phrase “Underground Railroad” to characterize covert efforts to assist fugitives from slavery, according to one of the first stories, recorded by Robert Smedley in 1883.
- Shortly after its foundation, the town earned a reputation for harboring fugitives and enabling free black settlement in the surrounding areas.
- Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress Within a short period of time, a network of escape routes connected the Chesapeake Bay to Havre de Grace, Maryland, and the Susquehanna River to Lancaster and Chester Counties in the Pennsylvania Dutch Republic.
- Many of them going through New Jersey used a route that would subsequently become the course of the New Jersey Turnpike.
- As early as 1804, this network of help was given the term “Underground Railroad,” and historian Larry Gara estimates that by the mid to late 1840s, the Underground Railroad was transporting as many as one thousand enslaved persons a year.
Philadelphia’s Aid Network
Even yet, the legacy of free black volunteers assisting fugitives was still being built upon. In Philadelphia, he joined the largest and wealthiest northern free black community, one that was home to a slew of churches, clubs, and mutual assistance groups, among them the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which he attended as a young boy. These institutions contributed to the development of a strong leadership class among African-Americans, who had already contributed to the establishment of Philadelphia as an epicenter of American abolition even before the American Revolution.
- The Pennsylvania Abolition Society and the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society were established to fight against bondage and provide assistance to liberate black people in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- In the 1850s, Pennsylvanians were occasionally hauled before the courts for assisting and hiding fugitives from slavery, and alleged fugitives were subjected to trials that may result in their being returned to slavery.
- Because it compelled federal officials to seek runaway slaves and bystanders to engage in their apprehension when called upon, the 1850 legislation made it impossible to provide assistance to fugitives, particularly in the South.
- The tale of the Underground Railroad serves as a powerful example of inter-racial cooperation in the struggle for social justice, which began in the colonial era and continues now in the United States.
- Citizens from various walks of life who worked as guides and conductors along the train had come to see that the United States’ racial caste system was harmful to all Americans, and they took nonviolent direct action to combat the injustice they witnessed.
She is the author of Pennsylvania Hall: A “Legal Lynching” in the Shadow of the Liberty Bell (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Colonization and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania (Colonization and Its Discontents: Emancipation, Emigration, and Antislavery in Antebellum Pennsylvania) (NYU Press, 2011).
She currently serves as an associate professor of history and assistant provost at the University of Houston-Victoria.
the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers University) Nat and Yanna Brandt are the authors of this work.
The University of South Carolina Press, in Columbia, South Carolina, published a book in 2007 titled The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850-1860, by Stanley Campbell.
The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, published this book in 1970.
Pennsylvania History28 (1961): 33-44.
In Gigantino, James J.
Stanley Harrold is a fictional character created by Stanley Harrold.
The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, published a book in 2010 titled McCurdy, Linda McCabe, and others.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1995.
The names Okur and Nilgun are derived from the Turkish words for “beautiful” and “nilgun.” Anadolu.
Journal of Black Studies, Volume 25, Number 5, May 1995, pages 537-557.
Siebert’s The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom is a must-read.
Smedley, R.C., “History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania,” in Smedley, R.C., History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania.
Smith, David G., et al.
Fordham University Press published a book in 2013 titled Nonetheless, William.
narrating the hardships, hair-breadth escapes, and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts to achieve freedom, as related by themselves and others or witnessed by the author; and sketches of some of the largest stockholders and most liberal aiders and advisers of the road.
The article “”Beautiful Providences”: William Still, the Vigilance Committee, and Abolitionists in the Age of Sectionalism” by Elizabeth Varon is available online.
In Richard Newman and James Mueller, eds., Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2011, pages 229-45.
The William Still Journals and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Records are housed in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street in Philadelphia, and are open to the public.