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.
Who really ran the Underground Railroad?
- The “railroad” itself, according to this legend, was composed of “a chain of stations leading from the Southern states to Canada,” as Wilbur H. Siebert put it in his massive pioneering (and often wildly romantic) study, The Underground Railroad (1898), or “a series of hundreds of interlocking ‘lines,’ ” that ran from Alabama or Mississippi,
Who were the heroes of the Underground Railroad?
These eight abolitionists helped enslaved people escape to freedom.
- Isaac Hopper. Abolitionist Isaac Hopper.
- John Brown. Abolitionist John Brown, c.
- Harriet Tubman.
- Thomas Garrett.
- William Still.
- Levi Coffin.
- Elijah Anderson.
- Thaddeus Stevens.
Who helped Harriet Tubman with the Underground Railroad?
Fugitive Slave Act She often drugged babies and young children to prevent slave catchers from hearing their cries. Over the next ten years, Harriet befriended other abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett and Martha Coffin Wright, and established her own Underground Railroad network.
Who was the father of the Underground Railroad?
William Still (1821-1902), known as “the Father of the Underground Railroad,” assisted nearly 1,000 freedom seekers as they fled enslavement along the eastern branch of the Underground Railroad. Inspired by his own family’s story, he kept detailed, written records about the people who passed through the PASS offices.
Who financed the Underground Railroad?
5: Buying Freedom Meanwhile, so-called “stockholders” raised money for the Underground Railroad, funding anti-slavery societies that provided ex-slaves with food, clothing, money, lodging and job-placement services. At times, abolitionists would simply buy an enslaved person’s freedom, as they did with Sojourner Truth.
What was William Still’s role in the Underground Railroad?
He became an active agent on the Underground Railroad, assisting fugitive Africans who came to Philadelphia. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Still was appointed chairman of the society’s revived Vigilance Committee that aided and supported fugitive Africans.
What did Frederick Douglass do?
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker. He became a leader in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end the practice of slavery, before and during the Civil War.
Who were William Still’s siblings?
William Still was an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Rail Road for 18 years. During this time he raised funds, provided shelter, and facilitated the resettlement of escaped slaves in the North. He got his start in 1847 at the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery as a clerk.
Is William still still alive?
The Underground Railroad and Siblings Tubman first encountered the Underground Railroad when she used it to escape slavery herself in 1849. Following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia.
Why did Harriet Tubman wear a bandana?
As was the custom on all plantations, when she turned eleven, she started wearing a bright cotton bandana around her head indicating she was no longer a child. She was also no longer known by her “basket name”, Araminta. Now she would be called Harriet, after her mother.
How were runaway slaves caught?
Other slaves seeking freedom relied upon canoes. Some runaways pretended to be free blacks, Native Americans, or whites. Runaway slaves who were caught typically were whipped and sometimes shackled. Some masters sold recovered runaway slaves who repeatedly defied their efforts at control.
8 Key Contributors to the Underground Railroad
Isaac Hopper, an abolitionist, is shown in this image from the Kean Collection/Getty Images. As early as 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with a “organization of Quakers, founded for such reasons,” which had sought to free a neighbor’s slave. Quakers were instrumental in the establishment of the Underground Railroad. Slavery was opposed in especially in Philadelphia, where Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who converted to Christianity, created what has been described as “the first working cell of the abolitionist underground.” Hopper not only protected escaped slave hunters in his own house, but he also constructed a network of safe havens and recruited a web of spies in order to get insight into their plans.
Hopper, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte, the exiled brother of the former French emperor, went to New York City in 1829 and established himself as a successful businessman.
READ MORE: The Underground Railroad and Its Operation
2. John Brown
John Brown, an abolitionist, about 1846 GraphicaArtis/Getty Images courtesy of Similar to his father, John Brown actively participated in the Underground Railroad by hosting runaways at his home and warehouse and organizing an anti-slave catcher militia following the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which he inherited from his father. The next year, he joined several of his sons in the so-called “Bleeding Kansas” war, leading one attack that resulted in the deaths of five pro-slavery settlers in 1856.
Brown’s radicalization continued to grow, and his ultimate act occurred in October 1859, when he and 21 supporters seized the government arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an effort to incite a large-scale slave uprising.
3. Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she experienced repeated violent beatings, one of which involving a two-pound lead weight, which left her with seizures and migraines for the rest of her life. Tubman fled bondage in 1849, following the North Star on a 100-mile walk into Pennsylvania, fearing she would be sold and separated from her family. She died in the process. She went on to become the most well-known “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, participating in around 13 rescue missions back into Maryland and rescuing at least 70 enslaved individuals, including several of her siblings.
As a scout, spy, and healer for the Union Army, Tubman maintained her anti-slavery activities during the Civil War, and is believed to have been the first woman in the United States to lead troops into battle. Tubman died in 1865. When Harriet Tubman Led a Civil War Raid, You Should Pay Attention
4. Thomas Garrett
‘Thomas Garrett’ is a fictional character created by author Thomas Garrett. The New York Public Library is a public library in New York City. The Quaker “stationmaster” Thomas Garrett, who claimed to have assisted over 2,750 escaped slaves before the commencement of the Civil War, lived in Wilmington, Delaware, and Tubman frequently stopped there on her route up north. Garret not only gave his guests with a place to stay but also with money, clothing & food. He even personally led them to a more secure area on occasion, arm in arm.
Despite this, he persisted in his efforts.
He also stated that “if any of you know of any poor slave who needs assistance, please send him to me, as I now publicly pledge myself to double my diligence and never miss an opportunity to assist a slave to obtain freedom.”
5. William Still
William Still is a well-known author and poet. Photograph courtesy of the Hulton Archive/Getty Images Many runaways traveled from Wilmington, the final Underground Railroad station in the slave state of Delaware, to the office of William Still in adjacent Philadelphia, which was the last stop on their journey. The Vigilance Committee of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, which provided food and clothing, coordinated escapes, raised funds, and otherwise served as a one-stop social services shop for hundreds of fugitive slaves each year, was chaired by Still, who was a free-born African American.
Still ultimately produced a book in which he chronicled the personal histories of his guests, which offered valuable insight into the operation of the Underground Railroad as a whole.
His assistance to Osborne Anderson, the only African-American member of John Brown’s company to survive the Harpers Ferry raid, was another occasion when he was called upon.
6. Levi Coffin
Charles T. Webber’s painting The Underground Railroad depicts fleeing slaves Levi Coffin, his wife Catherine, and Hannah Haydock providing assistance to the group of fugitive slaves. Getty Images/Bettina Archive/Getty Images Levi Coffin, often known as the “president of the Underground Railroad,” is said to have been an abolitionist when he was seven years old after witnessing a column of chained slaves people being taken to an auction house. Following a humble beginning delivering food to fugitives holed up on his family’s North Carolina plantation, he rose through the ranks to become a successful trader and prolific “stationmaster,” first in Newport (now Fountain City), Indiana, and subsequently in Cincinnati, Kentucky.
In addition to hosting anti-slavery lectures and abolitionist sewing club meetings, Coffin, like his fellow Quaker Thomas Garrett, stood steadfast when hauled before a court of law.
His writings state that “the dictates of humanity came in direct conflict with the law of the land,” and that “we rejected the law.”
7. Elijah Anderson
The Ohio River, which formed the border between slave and free states, was referred to as the River Jordan in abolitionist circles because it represented the border between slave and free states. Madison, Indiana, was an especially appealing crossing point for enslaved persons on the run, because to an Underground Railroad cell established there by blacksmith Elijah Anderson and several other members of the town’s Black middle class in the 1850s. With his fair skin, Anderson might have passed for a white slave owner on his repeated travels into Kentucky, where would purportedly pick up 20 to 30 enslaved persons at a time and whisk them away to freedom, sometimes accompanying them as far as the Coffins’ mansion in Newport.
An anti-slavery mob devastated Madison in 1846, almost drowning an agent of the Underground Railroad, prompting Anderson to flee upriver to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he eventually settled.
8. Thaddeus Stevens
Mr. Thaddeus Stevens is an American lawyer and senator. Bettmann Archive courtesy of Getty Images; Matthew Brady/Bettmann Archive Thaddeus Stevens, a representative from Pennsylvania, was outspoken in his opposition to slavery. The 14th and 15th amendments, which guaranteed African-American citizens equal protection under the law and the right to vote, respectively, were among his many accomplishments, and he also advocated for a radical reconstruction of the South, which included the redistribution of land from white plantation owners to former enslaved people.
Despite this, it wasn’t until 2002 that his Underground Railroad activities were brought to light, when archeologists uncovered a hidden hiding hole in the courtyard of his Lancaster house.
Seward, also served as Underground Railroad “stationmasters” during the era.
The Underground Railroad
At the time of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to flee to freedom in the northern states. Subjects History of the United States, Social StudiesImage
Home of Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist. This was a station on the Underground Railroad, a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in escaping to the North during the Civil War. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography. “> During the age of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in escaping to the North, according to the Underground Railroad Museum.
Although it was not a real railroad, it fulfilled the same function as one: it carried passengers across large distances.
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad were driven by a passion for justice and a desire to see slavery abolished—a drive that was so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom in order to assist enslaved people in escaping from bondage and staying safe while traveling the Underground Railroad.
- As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
- In recent years, academic research has revealed that the vast majority of persons who engaged in the Underground Railroad did it on their own, rather than as part of a larger organization.
- According to historical tales of the railroad, conductors frequently pretended to be enslaved persons in order to smuggle runaways out of plantation prisons and train stations.
- Often, the conductors and passengers traveled 16–19 kilometers (10–20 miles) between each safehouse stop, which was a long distance in this day and age.
- Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
- Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
- Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
- Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
- Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
- Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
- Person who is owned by another person or group of people is referred to as an enslaved person.
Slavery is a noun that refers to the act of owning another human being or being owned by another human being (also known as servitude). Abolitionists utilized this nounsystem between 1800 and 1865 to aid enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee to free states.
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The 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was Harriet Tubman?
In the United States, Harriet Tubman, née Araminta Ross, (born c. 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland, U.S.—died March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York) was an abolitionist who managed to escape from slavery in the South and rise to prominence before the American Civil War. As part of the Underground Railroad, which was an extensive covert network of safe homes built specifically for this reason, she was responsible for guiding scores of enslaved persons to freedom in the North. Araminta Ross was born into slavery and eventually assumed her mother’s maiden name, Harriet, as her own.
- When she was approximately 12 years old, she reportedly refused to assist an overseer in punishing another enslaved person; as a result, he hurled an iron weight that accidently struck her, causing her to suffer a terrible brain injury, which she would endure for the rest of her life.
- Tubman went to Philadelphia in 1849, allegedly on the basis of rumors that she was due to be sold.
- In December 1850, she made her way to Baltimore, Maryland, where she was reunited with her sister and two children who had joined her in exile.
- A long-held belief that Tubman made around 19 excursions into Maryland and assisted upwards of 300 individuals out of servitude was based on inflated estimates in Sara Bradford’s 1868 biography of Tubman.
- If anyone opted to turn back, putting the operation in jeopardy, she reportedly threatened them with a revolver and stated, “You’ll either be free or die,” according to reports.
- One such example was evading capture on Saturday evenings since the story would not emerge in the newspapers until the following Monday.
- It has been stated that she never lost sight of a runaway she was escorting to safety.
Abolitionists, on the other hand, praised her for her bravery.
Her parents (whom she had brought from Maryland in June 1857) and herself moved to a tiny farm outside Auburn, New York, about 1858, and remained there for the rest of her life.
Tubman spied on Confederate territory while serving with the Second Carolina Volunteers, who were under the leadership of Col.
Montgomery’s forces were able to launch well-coordinated attacks once she returned with intelligence regarding the locations of munitions stockpiles and other strategic assets.
Immediately following the Civil War, Tubman relocated to Auburn, where she began caring for orphans and the elderly, a practice that culminated in the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Home for IndigentAged Negroes in 1892.
Aside from suffrage, Tubman became interested in a variety of other issues, including the abolition of slavery.
A private measure providing for a $20 monthly stipend was enacted by Congress some 30 years after her contribution was recognized. Those in charge of editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica Jeff Wallenfeldt was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.
“The Underground Railroad,” directed by Barry Jenkins, explores two historical legacies. One is unsightly and horrifying, a ringing echo of an organization that stripped human people of their culture and identity and enslaved them for the sake of profiting from their labor. The other is beautiful and thrilling, and it is defined by strength and determination. Even while these two legacies have been entwined for 400 years, there have been few few films that have examined their unsettling intersection as carefully and cohesively as Jenkins’s adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
- Following Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and a protecting fellow slave named Caesar (Aaron Pierre) as they flee from a Georgia farm under the threat of a vengeful slave catcher, the narrative is told in flashback.
- The Amazon Prime series, which premieres on Friday and will be available for streaming thereafter, comes at a time when there is rising discussion over shows and films that concentrate on Black agony.
- I used the stop button a lot, both to collect my thoughts and to brace myself for what was about to happen.
- Cora suffers a series of setbacks as she makes her way to freedom, and her anguish is exacerbated by the death of her mother, Mabel (Sheila Atim), who emigrated from the plantation when Cora was a youngster and died there.
- Unlike any other drama on television, this one is unique in how it displays the resilience and tenacity of Black people who have withstood years of maltreatment in a society established on contradictory concepts of freedom.
- There, she becomes a part of the growing Black society there.
- In this community, however, there is also conflict between some of the once enslaved Black people who built the agricultural community and Cora, who is deemed to be a fugitive by the authorities.
The series takes on a nostalgically patriotic tone since it is set against the backdrop of the American heartland.
This is when Jenkins’s hallmark shot, in which actors maintain a lingering focus on the camera, is at its most impactful.
The urgent and scary horn of a train is skillfully incorporated into composerNicholas Britell’s eerie and at times comical soundtrack.
Even after finding safety in the West, Cora is still wary of Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), the slave hunter who is determined to track her down.
Despite the fact that “The Underground Railroad” delves into Ridgeway’s fears and personal shortcomings that drove him to his murderous vocation, it does not offer any excuses for his heinous behavior.
Dillon, who plays an outstanding part), a little Black child who is officially free but who acts as the slave catcher’s constant companion while being formally in his possession.
For a few precious minutes, the youngster pretends to be the child he once was by holding the weapon and playing with it.
After Amazon commissioned a focus group in which they questioned Black Atlanta residents if they thought Whitehead’s novel should be adapted for the screen, the director informed the press that he made the decision to proceed.
It was like, ‘Tell it, but you have to demonstrate everything,'” says the author.
‘It has to be nasty,’ says the author “Jenkins spoke with the New York Times.
Over the course of the week that I spent viewing “The Underground Railroad,” I found myself becoming increasingly interested in the amateur genealogical research I’d done on my own family, which is descended in part from African American slaves.
However, some of my ancestors’ stories have made their way to me, including those of my great-great-great-grandmother, who returned to her family in Virginia after years of being sold to a plantation owner in Mississippi; and the male relatives in her line who defiantly changed their surnames so that their children wouldn’t bear the name of a man who owned people for profit.
Pain is abundant, and the series invites us to express our sorrow.
Wait, but don’t take your eyes off the prize. There’s a lot more to Cora’s tale than meets the eye. The Underground Railroad (ten episodes) will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime starting Friday. (Full disclosure: The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.)
The Underground Railroad
|The Underground Railroad, a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada, was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals – many whites but predominently black – who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Still, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year – according to one estimate,the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850. An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a “conductor,” posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.The fugitives would also travel by train and boat – conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for. Money was also needed to improve the appearance of the runaways – a black man, woman, or child in tattered clothes would invariably attract suspicious eyes. This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.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.|
Underground Railroad in Iowa
Initially funded by the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program in 2002, the Iowa Network to Freedom project, which investigated persons and locations involved with the Underground Railroad in Iowa, became the Iowa Freedom Trail Project in 2003. After a five-year period of grant funding, volunteers have continued to collect information from historical resources and compile it into a form containing general information, such as biographical data, resource references, associated properties, and researcher information, among other things, to be used by the public.
- Individuals (by name)
- Individuals (by county)
- Places (by county)
- Research Files (by county)
- Inventory of Individuals (by name)
- Inventory of Places (by county)
- Inventory of Research Files
If you have any concerns concerning the Iowa Freedom Trail Project, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Researching Underground Railroad Activity
Since 2002, volunteers at the State Historical Society of Iowa have been doing research into the Underground Railroad’s presence in the state. The research and biographical form instructions can be found here. If you are interested in researching Underground Railroad activity in Iowa and have access to historical documents and primary sources, please review the instructions for submitting a research and biographical form to learn how you can contribute to the project.
- Instructions for the Research and Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
- Sample Biographical Form
- Biographical Form
Iowa and the Underground Railroad
Beginning in the late 1700s and continuing until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Underground Railroad was a network of people who assisted runaway slaves in their attempts to escape slavery. It included both northern and southern states, spanning from Texas all the way up to Maine. The vast majority of runaway slaves fled to Canada from the Deep South, although a minor number journeyed further south to Mexico and the Caribbean. Due to the fact that slaves were considered property in the United States at the time, helping runaway slaves was deemed larceny under American law at the time.
- Prior to the American Revolution, slavery was lawful across the British Empire, including the United States.
- These principles would transform the lives of black people, and many of them fought in the American Revolution in the hope that these rights would be given to them as well.
- Vermont became the first state in the new United States of America to pass anti-slavery legislation after the British were defeated in the Revolutionary War in 1777.
- Apart from that, there were no laws in the newly created United States that forced civilians to return fugitive slaves to their owners.
- The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and Article IV, section 2 of the United States Constitution both stated similar views on the subject at the time.
- Taking it a step further, the Fleeing Slave Act of 1850 declared aiding and abetting fugitive slaves a federal felony punishable by penalties or jail.
- As the Underground Railroad network began to take shape, people began to fill a number of positions inside it.
Fugitive slaves were often referred to as passengers, cargo, fleece, or freight when they were on the run.
Others choose to play a more passive role.
The modes of transportation used varied from one region to the next, and were mostly determined by concealment and closeness to slave hunters.
In contrast to this, the majority of fleeing slaves travelled at night, particularly in towns with ambivalent sentiments regarding slavery.
In the middle of the night, conductors would walk or ride horses to the next station to transport them.
Because of its physical proximity between Missouri, a slave state to the south, and Illinois, a free state to the east, Iowa saw a substantial amount of Underground Railroad activity during this period.
That meant that when Iowa became a state in the Union in 1846, it would be a free state.
Most fugitive slaves crossed through Iowa on their route to other free states farther north or to Canada, where Britain would protect them from being arrested and returned to slavery.
Southeastern Iowa was also home to a large number of fugitive slaves from northern Missouri who were making their way to the Mississippi River and Illinois.
Numerous Iowans also became involved in the growing political opposition to the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which culminated in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and granted Kansas and Nebraska the authority to determine their own slave-holding status.
You may get further information about the history of the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery movements in Iowa and other states by clicking here. Take a look at the resources listed below.
- The John Brown Freedom Trail (1859)
- Abolitionist Movement Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Primary Sources
- Underground Railroad Sites in the Iowa Culture mobile app
Making a TV show about slavery is enough to undo you. Ask Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins clearly recalls the moment he learned about the Underground Railroad for the very first time. The first time he heard such words, he was probably 5 or 6, and he recalls how it was “unimaginable” to him: “IsawBlack people riding trains that were underground.” He worked as a longshoreman and would always arrive at the port with his hard hat and tool belt on his back. Someone like him, I believed, was responsible for the construction of the Underground Railroad. “It was a great sensation since it was only about Black people and the concept of constructing things.” It would later become clear to the child that the name “Underground Railroad” was actually a slang word for a network of safe homes and passageways that slaves used to flee their tyrannical owners in the antebellum South.
This year’s highly anticipated “The Underground Railroad,” an Amazon limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel about a runway slave named Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and her desperate, often hellish quest for freedom as she flees the shackles of bondage, will bring Jenkins’ childhood vision of the railroad full circle.
- The author serves as an executive producer on the adaptation, which will debut on the streaming service on Friday, April 12.
- He was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for his work on the 2016 homosexual coming-of-age film, which went on to win the award for best picture.
- However, while Jenkins is clearly pleased with his accomplishment, he is also aware that “The Underground Railroad” represents the greatest risk of his professional life.
- Specifically, the filmmaker predicts that Black viewers, in particular, would have a more intense emotional response to the distressing content than other audiences.
- “That’s not what it’s about,” he remarked in an interview done through video conference from his home, during which he was both animated and softly reflective.
- For the past 41 and a half years, this has been my life’s work.
- I’m not sure how to digest what I’ve just heard.
This is not the case in this instance.
‘That duty, that weight, it’s still on my shoulders.’ (Image courtesy of Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Prime Video) Jenkins considers the project to be his destiny on the one hand.
Then I realized that I had to do it.” In addition, he was able to witness the practical manifestation of his early idea with the construction of an underground set at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah, Georgia.
“It needs to be authentic.
In order for the players to walk into the tunnel and touch the rails, they must be able to get down on their knees and touch the walls.
It would have been a mind-boggling experience.
The series is the latest in a long line of notable ventures that have combined America’s horrendous history of racial relations with elements of popular culture to great effect.
Black viewers have condemned the films “Them” and “Two Distant Strangers” in particular, labeling the painful imagery as “Black trauma porn” (trauma for black people).
There is a good chance that the premiere episode of “The Underground Railroad” will add additional gasoline to the fire.
Jenkins claims that black viewers had already expressed their opinions many weeks before the broadcast.
“Do we require any further photographs of this?” the query posed.
(Image courtesy of Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios) From the beginning, he was warned that he was about to walk into a minefield.
“However, I do not believe that the country will ever be prepared to look at photos from this period.” Despite this, all you’ve heard for the past four years has been the slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’ At least some of what America has done, particularly when it comes to individuals who look like me, has to be a result of wilful ignorance or erasure on their side.
To discover Jenkins’ genuine goal, audiences are encouraged to look past the scenes of brutality and recognize his underlying motivation: to shine a light on the victory of slaves rather than on their traumatic experiences.
“It’s the only reason someone like me is here today, and nothing else.” “If I am able to take these photographs and put them back into their original context, it makes the portrayal of the images worthwhile.” He mentioned the prominent role played by children in Whitehead’s work, and he stated that he intended to replicate that presence in the series.
- However, there is a great deal that has to do with parenting as well.
- As a result, youngsters are constantly present in our presentation.
- The NAACP and the journal were founded by W.E.B.
- “I came to the realization that this was one of the most amazing acts of collective parenting the world has ever witnessed.” They were there to safeguard the youngsters.
- We hear that Black families have always been divided and that Black dads have always been gone from their children’s lives, and this is true.
- (Image courtesy of Amazon Studios’ Atsushi Nishijima) Kim Whyte, a mental health counselor located in Georgia, was brought on board to help him create a safe and open setting for dealing with the challenging and often visceral subject matter.
According to Jenkins, Whyte’s involvement was not intentional: “I didn’t want these pictures to unravel us, even while we were unpacking them.” Whyte expressed gratitude to Jenkins for the confidence he placed in her, saying, “I couldn’t find a model before me in terms of being a mental health counselor on a set.” I was able to engage with everyone on the set because to Barry’s generosity.
His permission to connect with them after takes and in between takes was very appreciated.” ‘It was eye-opening,’ she described her experience.
However, they all had lives of their own.
The material, on the other hand, was causing people to respond.
“It’s a stain on humanity that we all share,” Whyte explained.
‘This character does not sit well with me.’ It was necessary for them to unravel the emotions that they were required to express at times.
As we went through it, I told her, ‘Yes, you have every right to be unhappy about this,’ she said.
‘And you are a human being.’ They needed to realize that it wasn’t their own rage.