The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. Involvement with the Underground Railroad was not only dangerous, but it was also illegal. So, to help protect themselves and their mission secret codes were created.
How did the Underground Railroad help slaves escape?
- Most of the enslaved people helped by the Underground Railroad escaped border states such as Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. In the deep South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped enslaved people a lucrative business, and there were fewer hiding places for them.
Why did people help in the Underground Railroad?
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad had a passion for justice and drive to end the practice of slavery —a drive so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom to help enslaved people escape from bondage and keep them safe along the route.
What was the Underground Railroad It helped 100000 slaves to escape?
Established in the early 1800s and aided by people involved in the Abolitionist Movement, the underground railroad helped thousands of slaves escape bondage. By one estimate, 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the South between 1810 and 1850.
Why did Harriet Tubman help slaves escape?
The Underground Railroad and Siblings Following a bout of illness and the death of her owner, Tubman decided to escape slavery in Maryland for Philadelphia. She feared that her family would be further severed and was concerned for her own fate as a sickly slave of low economic value.
Was the Underground Railroad a success?
Ironically the Fugitive Slave Act increased Northern opposition to slavery and helped hasten the Civil War. The Underground Railroad gave freedom to thousands of enslaved women and men and hope to tens of thousands more. In both cases the success of the Underground Railroad hastened the destruction of slavery.
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans?
How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans? It provided a network of escape routes toward the North. In his pamphlet Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, on what did David Walker base his arguments against slavery? They feared that the abolition of slavery would destroy their economy.
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.
Is Gertie Davis died?
Harriet Tubman’s exact age would be 201 years 10 months 28 days old if alive. Total 73,747 days. Harriet Tubman was a social life and political activist known for her difficult life and plenty of work directed on promoting the ideas of slavery abolishment.
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 many runaway slaves were there?
Approximately 100,000 American slaves escaped to freedom.
Why was helping slaves escape from the plantations difficult?
Brutal physical punishment, psychological abuse and endless hours of hard labor without compensation drove many slaves to risk their lives to escape plantation life. The death of a master usually meant that slaves would be sold as part of the estate, and family relationships would be broken.
What did Harriet Tubman do in her later life?
Harriet Tubman lived much of her later life in near poverty. She would work odd jobs or receive money from donors to help pay her bills. Whatever money Harriet earned, she used to help others including her family and struggling former slaves.
What was the main thing Tubman did to encourage the fugitives?
As explained in the selection, what was the main thing Tubman did to encourage the fugitives? She talked about paid work in the North. She told them funny stories to pass the time.
Why does the author choose to call the individuals who worked on the underground railroad conductors?
Why does the author choose to call the individuals who worked on the Underground Railroad “conductors”? They were responsible for driving the trains that took slaves from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. They carried pistols on their hips that were known by people in the North as “conductors.”
He was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner named Henry Bibb. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned multiple times. It was only through his determination that he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then to Canada with the help of the Underground Railroad, a feat that had been highly anticipated.
For my own personal liberty, I made a decision somewhere during the autumn or winter of 1837 that I would try to flee to Canada if at all feasible.” Immediately after, I began preparing for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the chains that kept me a prisoner in my own home.
I also purchased a suit that I had never worn or been seen in before, in order to escape discovery.
It was the twenty-fifth of December, 1837.
- My moral bravery was tested to the limit when I left my small family and tried to keep my emotions under wraps at all times.
- No matter how many opportunities were presented to me to flee if I wanted to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free!
- A thousand barriers had formed around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded spirit, which was still imprisoned in the dark dungeon of mental degradation.
- It was difficult to break free from my deep bonds to friends and relatives, as well as the love of home and birthplace that is so natural among the human family, which were entwined around my heart and made it difficult to go forward.
- But I’d calculated the cost and was completely prepared to make the sacrifice before I started the process.
If I don’t want to be a slave, I’ll have to abandon friends and neighbors, along with my wife and child.” I was given something to eat by these gracious folks, who then set me on my way to Canada on the advise of a buddy who had met me along the road.” This marked the beginning of the construction of what was referred to be the underground rail track from the United States to the Canadian continent.
In the morning, I walked with bold courage, trusting in the arm of Omnipotence; by night, I was guided by the unchangeable North Star, and inspired by the elevated thought that I was fleeing from a land of slavery and oppression, waving goodbye to handcuffs, whips, thumb-screws, and chains, and that I was on my way to freedom.
I continued my journey vigorously for nearly forty-eight hours without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, being pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not being able to find a house in which to take shelter from the storm.” Among the countless accounts recorded by escaped slaves is this one, which is only one example.
Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became well-known for her efforts to bring slavery to an end, was another person who came from a slave background.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal journeys.
The writing down of one’s experiences by so many escaped slaves may have been done in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or it may have been done in order to help individuals learn from their mistakes in the aim of building a brighter future.
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.
The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.
Agent,” according to the document.
John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
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.
Finally, they were able to make their way closer to him. Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Ordinary individuals, farmers and business owners, as well as pastors, were the majority of those who operated the Underground Railroad. Several millionaires, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who campaigned for president twice, were involved. For the first time in his life, Smith purchased and freed a whole family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, was one of the earliest recorded individuals to assist fleeing enslaved persons. Beginning in 1813, when he was 15 years old, he began his career.
They eventually began to make their way closer to him and eventually reached him.
End of the Line
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were everyday individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, such as Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired and freed an entire family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first persons to assist escaped enslaved people.
Coffin stated that he had learnt 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 fugitives from slavery everywhere he went.
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as pastors. Some affluent individuals were involved, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who has run for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a whole family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first known persons to assist escaped enslaved people. He began about 1813, when he was 15 years old.
They eventually began to make their way to him.
See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to freedom. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this historical period. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that publishes encyclopedias. View all of the videos related to this topic. When escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada, this was referred to as the Underground Railroad in the United States.
Even though it was neither underground nor a railroad, it was given this name because its actions had to be carried out in secret, either via the use of darkness or disguise, and because railroad words were employed in relation to the system’s operation.
In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down or capture them.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, obtained firsthand experience of escaped slaves via her association with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived for a time during the Civil War.
The existence of the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that it was only a small minority of Northerners who took part in it, did much to arouse Northern sympathy for the plight of slaves during the antebellum period, while also convincing many Southerners that the North as a whole would never peacefully allow the institution of slavery to remain unchallenged.
When was the first time a sitting president of the United States appeared on television? Return to the past for the really American responses. Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.
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.
With the exception of promotional graphics, which normally link to another page that carries the media credit, all audio, artwork, photos, and videos are attributed beneath the media asset they are associated with. In the case of media, the Rights Holder is the individual or group that gets credited.
Tyson Brown is a member of the National Geographic Society.
The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the exploration of the world’s natural wonders.
The National Geographic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the world’s natural and cultural resources.
According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
- User Permissions are set to expire on June 21, 2019. Users’ permissions are detailed in our Terms of Service, which you can see by clicking here. Alternatively, if you have any issues regarding how to reference something from our website in your project or classroom presentation, please speak with your instructor. They will be the most knowledgeable about the selected format. When you contact them, you will need to provide them with the page title, URL, and the date on which you visited the item.
If a media asset is available for download, a download button will show in the lower right corner of the media viewer window. If no download or save button displays, you will be unable to download or save the material.
The text on this page is printable and may be used in accordance with our Terms of Service agreement.
- Any interactives on this page can only be accessed and used while you are currently browsing our site. You will not be able to download interactives.
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 effectively transformed themselves into Underground Railroad agents in the heart of the South, sheltering fugitives who flocked 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 extremely limited.” And it’s possible that New Yorkers were startled to open their eyes in early 1864.
The accompanying essay, on the other hand, soon put their worries at ease. It described a plan to construct Manhattan’s first subway line, which would run northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park. It was never built.
A decade before the Civil War, the leading Southern periodical De Bow’s Reviewpublished a series titled Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race—a much-needed study, the editors opined, because it had “direct and practical bearing” on 3 million people whose worth as property totaled approximately $2 billion at the time of the publication. 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.
- (“Fleeing slave,” he said, was an old Greek phrase for a fugitive slave).
- “Treating one’s slaves lovingly but sternly,” he said, was the first option.
- 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 exodus was seen by many Southern whites as a portent of a greater disaster.
- Was it a matter of time until the entire fabric came undone?
- Rather, it was intentionally supported and helped by a well-organized network that was both huge and ominous in scale.
- The term underground railroad brings to mind pictures of trapdoors, flickering torches, and dark passageways winding through the woods, much as it did for most of the population in the 1840s and 1850s.
- At least until recently, researchers paid relatively little attention to the story, which is remarkable considering how prominent it is in the public 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 concocted from a succession of isolated and unconnected escapes?
- Depending on whose historians you trust, the answers will be different.
One historian (white) questioned surviving abolitionists (most of whom were also white) a decade after the Civil War and documented a “big and complicated network” of agents, 3,211 of whom he recognized by name, who he characterized as “a large and intricate network” (nearly all of them white).
- Activist clergyman James W.
- Pennington claimed in 1855 that he had escaped “without the help.
- As a result of his work on Abraham Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner, one of the nation’s most recognized practitioners of history (his earlier book on the subject was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), has joined an expanding number of researchers who are illuminating the night sky.
- (Since the student, as he makes clear in his acknowledgments, chose to become a lawyer, no scholarly careers were jeopardized in the course of the publication of this book.) Readers will be surprised by the narrative told in Gateway to Freedom: The Secret History of the Underground Railroad.
- Assisting runaways was nothing new for abolitionist organisations, who made a point of publicizing it in pamphlets, publications, and yearly reports.
- Local newspapers published stories about Jermain W.
Bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” offered donated luxury goods and handcrafted knickknacks just before the winter holidays, and bake sales in support of the Underground Railroad became common fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities, despite the fact that this may seem unlikely.
- Many women were enthralled by these incidents, which transformed everyday, “feminine” tasks like baking, grocery shopping, and sewing into exhilarating acts of moral commitment and political rebellion for thousands of them.
- While governor of New York, William Seward publicly sponsored Underground Railroad operations, and while serving as a senator in the United States Senate, he (not so openly) provided refuge to runaways in his basement.
- When Northern states implemented “personal liberty” acts in the 1850s, they were able to exclude state and municipal authorities from federal fugitive-slave statutes, this act of defiance acquired legal recognition.
- Yet another surprise in Foner’s gripping story is that it takes place in New York City.
- Even as recently as the 1790s, enslaved laborers tended Brooklyn’s outlying fields, constituting a quarter of the city’s total population (40 percent).
- 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 bond slavery.
- George Kirk snuck away on board a ship bound for New York in 1846, only to be apprehended by the captain and kept in chains while waiting to be returned to his master’s possession.
- Following his triumphant exit from court, the winning fugitive was met with applause from the courtroom’s African-American contingent.
- A second legal basis was discovered by the same court to free Kirk, who this time rolled out triumphantly in a carriage and arrived in the safety of Boston in no time.
- In addition to being descended from prominent Puritans, Sydney Howard Gay married a wealthy (and radical) Quaker heiress, who became the editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard.
- Whilst Gay was busy publishing abolitionist manifestos and raising funds, Napoleon was patrolling the New York harbor in search of black stowaways and traveling the length and breadth of the Mason-Dixon Line in pursuit of those who had managed to escape slavery.
It’s “the most complete description in existence of how the underground railroad worked in New York City,” according to Foner, and it contains “a treasure trove of compelling anecdotes and a storehouse of insights about both slavery and the underground railroad.” One of the most moving passages was when Gay documented the slaves’ accounts of their reasons for fleeing in a matter-of-fact tone.
- Cartwright’s theory, it appears that none of them addressed Drapetomania.
- I was beaten with a hatchet and bled for three days after being struck with 400 lashes by an overseer.” As a result of his research, Foner concludes that the phrase “Underground Railroad” has been used to describe something that is restrictive, if not deceptive.
- Though it had tunnels, it also had straightaways and bright straightaways where its traces might be found.
- It is true that the Underground Railroad had conductors and stationmasters in a sense, but the great majority of its people contributed in ways that were far too diverse to be compared in such a straightforward manner.
- Its passengers and their experiences were almost as different.
- During this time, a Virginia mother and her little daughter had spent five months crouched in a small hiding hole beneath a house near Norfolk before being transported out of the country.
- Although the Underground Railroad operated on a small scale, its effect considerably beyond the size of its activities.
It fostered the suspicions of Southern leaders while driving Northern leaders to choose sides with either the slaves or the slavecatchers.
Escapees were reported to be flooding northward at an unusual rate just a few days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861.
There had been a Drapetomania on a magnitude that was worse beyond Dr.
The Reverend Samuel Cartwright passed away in 1863, just a few months after the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially established Drapetomania as a national policy.
As he put it, the Underground Railroad “has hardly no business at all these days.
New Yorkers may have been astonished to open their eyes in the early 1864 season as well.
The accompanying piece, on the other hand, soon put their concerns to rest. According to the plan, Manhattan’s first subway line would travel northward up Broadway from the Battery to Central Park, beginning at 42nd Street.
Underground Railroad “Stations” Develop in Iowa
Iowa shares a southern border with Missouri, which was a slave state during the American Civil War. The abolitionist movement (those who desired to abolish slavery) built a system of “stations” in the 1840s and 1850s that could transport runaways from the Mississippi River to Illinois on their route to freedom. Activists from two religious movements, the Congregationalists and the Quakers, played crucial roles in the abolitionist movement. They were also involved in the Underground Railroad’s operations in the state of New York.
- According to one source, there are more than 100 Iowans who are participating in the endeavor.
- The Hitchcock House, located in Cass County near Lewis, is another well-known destination on the Underground Railroad in one form or another.
- George Hitchcock escorted “passengers” to the next destination on his route.
- Several of these locations are now public museums that are available to the general public.
- Individual families also reacted when they were approached for assistance.
- When the Civil War broke out and the Fugitive Slave Law could no longer be enforced in the northern states, a large number of slaves fled into the state and eventually settled there permanently.
- It was determined that segregated schools and discrimination in public accommodations were both unconstitutional in Iowa by the Supreme Court.
Iowa: A Free State Willing to Let Slavery Exist
Slavery has been a contentious topic in the United States since its inception, and it continues to be so today. As new states entered the Union, the early fights did not revolve over slavery in the South but rather its expansion. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 created an east-west line along the southern boundary of Missouri, which would remain in place for the rest of time, separating free and slave settlement. States to the south may legalize slavery, whilst states to the north (with the exception of slave state Missouri) were prohibited from doing so.
The majority of Iowans were ready to allow slavery to continue in the South.
They enacted legislation in an attempt to deter black people from settling in the state.
Iowa did have a tiny community of abolitionists who believed that slavery was a moral wrong that should be abolished everywhere.
This increased the likelihood that Nebraska, which borders Iowa on its western border, would become a slave state. The majority of Iowans were opposed to the idea. The Republican Party has evolved as a staunch opponent of any future expansion of slavery into western areas in the United States.
- $200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
- “Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Print, 1850 (Image)
- Fugitive Slave Law, 1850 (Document)
- Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
- Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Do
How did runaway slaves rely on the help of abolitionists to escape to freedom?
- Article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle titled “William and Ellen Craft,” published on February 23, 1849 (Document)
- Anti-Slavery Bugle Article titled “Underground Railroad,” published on September 16, 1854 (Document)
- “A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article published on November 8, 1855 (Document)
- William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, circa 1890 (Image)
How did some runaway slaves create their own opportunities to escape?
- A newspaper article entitled “The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry Box Brown” published on June 23, 1849 (Document)
- The Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, published in 1850 (Image, Document)
- “The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” illustration published in 1850 (Image)
- Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” published on June 14, 1862 (Do
$200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847
- After escaping enslavement, many people depended on northern whites to guide them securely to the northern free states and eventually to Canadian territory. For someone who had previously been forced into slavery, life may be quite perilous. There were incentives for capturing them, as well as adverts such as the one seen below for a prize. More information may be found here.
“Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Illustration, 1850
- Written in strong opposition to the Runaway Slave Act, which was approved by Congress in September 1850 and expanded federal and free-state duty for the return of fugitive slaves, this letter is full of anger. The bill called for the appointment of federal commissioners who would have the authority to enact regulations. More information may be found here.
Fugitive Slave Law, 1850
- As a result of the Fleeing Slave Law of 1850, it became unlawful for anybody in the northern United States to aid fugitive slaves in their quest for freedom. This statute supplemented the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act with additional clauses addressing runaways, and it imposed even harsher sanctions for interfering with their escape. More information may be found here.
Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “William and Ellen Craft,” February 23, 1849
- In this article from the abolitionist journal, The Anti-Slavery Bugle, the narrative of Ellen and William Craft’s emancipation from slavery is described in detail. Ellen disguised herself as a male in order to pass as the master, while her husband, William, claimed to be her servant as they made their way out of the building. More information may be found here.
Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “Underground Railroad,” September 16, 1854
- The Anti-Slavery Bugle article indicates the number of runaway slaves in northern cities in 1854, based on a survey conducted by the organization. This group contained nine slaves from Boone County, Kentucky, who were seeking refuge in the United States. Their captors were said to be on the lookout for them in Cincinnati, and they were found. More information may be found here.
“A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article, November 8, 1855
- This newspaper story was written in Fayettville, Tennessee, in 1855 and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a priest in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article details his ordeal in detail. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting escaped slaves on their way to freedom. More information may be found here.
William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, 1890
- It was published in the Fayetteville, Tennessee, newspaper in 1855, and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a clergyman in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article tells what happened. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting fugitive slaves on their way out of the country. More information may be found at:
“Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried” – A Daily Gate City Article, April 13, 1915
- This story, which was published in the Keokuk, Iowa, newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915, is about a trial that took place in Burlington in 1850. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had fled from Missouri and had worked for him as slaves. More information may be found here.
“The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry ‘Box’ Brown” Article, June 23, 1849
- It was published in the Keokuk, Iowa newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915 and is about a trial that took place in Burlington, Iowa, in 1850 and was published in The Daily Gate City. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had escaped from Missouri and had been working for him. More information may be found at:
Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, 1850
- Image of the engraving on the box that Henry “Box” Brown built and used to send himself to freedom in Virginia. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. There is a label on the box that says “Right side up with care.” During his first appearance out of the box in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the attached song, Henry “Box” Brown sang a song that is included here. More information may be found here.
“The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” Illustration, 1850
- Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped from Richmond, Virginia, in a box measuring three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two and a half feet broad, is depicted in a somewhat comical but sympathetic manner in this artwork. In the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s administrative offices. More information may be found here.
Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” June 14, 1862
- The escape of Robert Smalls and other members of his family and friends from slavery was chronicled in detail in an article published in Harper’s Weekly. Smalls was an enslaved African American who acquired freedom during and after the American Civil War and went on to work as a ship’s pilot on the high seas. More information may be found here.
“A Bold Stroke for Freedom” Illustration, 1872
- The image from 1872 depicts African Americans, most likely fleeing slaves, standing in front of a wagon and brandishing firearms towards slave-catchers. A group of young enslaved persons who had escaped from Loudon by wagon are said to be shown in the cartoon on Christmas Eve in 1855, when patrollers caught up with them. More information may be found here.
- Harriet Tubman Day is observed annually on March 31. The statement issued by the State of Delaware on the observance of Harriet Ross Tubman Day on March 10, 2017 may be seen on the website. Governor John Carney and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long both signed the statement. Harriet Tubman – A Guide to Online Resources A wide range of material linked with Harriet Tubman may be found in these digital collections from the Library of Congress, which include manuscripts, pictures, and publications. It is the goal of this guide to consolidate connections to digital materials about Harriet Tubman that are available throughout the Library of Congress website. Scenes from Harriet Tubman’s Life and Times The website, which is accessible through the Digital Public Library of America, contains portions from the novel Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, written by Sarah Bradford in 1869 and published by the American Library Association.
- Maryland’s Pathways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the State of Maryland On this page, you can find primary materials pertaining to Maryland and the Underground Railroad. Information from three former slaves, Samuel Green, Phoebe Myers, and others is included in this collection. “The Underground Railroad: A Secret History” by Eric Foner is a book on the history of the Underground Railroad. The author of this piece from The Atlantic discusses the “secret history” of the Underground Railroad, which he believes reveals that the network was not nearly as secretive as many people believe. Emancipation of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery According to “Documenting the American South,” this webpage focuses on how slaves William and Ellen Craft escaped from Georgia and sought asylum and freedom in the United States’ northern states.
Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (8th Grade)
The content anchor requirements for Iowa Core Social Studies that are most accurately reflected in this source collection are listed below. The subject requirements that have been implemented to this set are appropriate for middle school pupils and cover the major areas that make up social studies for eighth grade students in the United States.
- S.8.13.Explain the rights and obligations of people, political parties, and the media in the context of a range of governmental and nonprofit organizations and institutions. (Skills for the twenty-first century)
- SS.8.19.Explain how immigration and migration were influenced by push and pull influences in early American history. SS.8.21.Examine the relationships and linkages between early American historical events and developments in the context of wider historical settings
- In your explanation of how and why prevalent social, cultural, and political viewpoints altered over early American history, please include the following information: SS.8.23.Explain the numerous causes, impacts, and changes that occurred in early American history
- And The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, Washington’s Farewell Address, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty with France, the Monroe Doctrine, the Indian Removal Act, the Missouri Compromise, Dred Scott v. Sanford, and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo are examples of primary and secondary sources of information that should be critiqued with consideration for the source of the document, its context, accuracy, and usefulness.
The Little-Known History of the Underground Railroad in New York
Cyrus Gates House, located in Broome County, New York, was formerly a major station on the Underground Railroad’s route through the country. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons There was a time when New York City wasn’t the liberal Yankee bastion that it is now. When it came to abolitionists and abolitionist politics in the decades preceding up to the Civil War, the city was everything but an epicenter of abolitionism. Banking and shipping interests in the city were tightly related to the cotton and sugar businesses, both of which relied on slave labor to produce their products.
However, even at that time, the Underground Railroad, a network of hidden safe houses and escape routes used by fugitive slaves seeking freedom in the North, passed through the city and into the surrounding countryside.
In New York, however, the full extent of the Underground Railroad’s reach has remained largely unknown, owing to the city’s anti-abolitionist passion.
“This was a community that was strongly pro-Southern, and the Underground Railroad was working in much greater secrecy here than in many other parts of the North, so it was much more difficult to track down the Underground Railroad.”
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad
runaway slaves and antislavery campaigners who disobeyed the law to aid them in their quest for freedom are the subjects of this gripping documentary. Eric Foner, more than any other researcher, has had a significant impact on our knowledge of American history. The Pulitzer Prize–winning historian has reconfigured the national tale of American slavery and liberation once more, this time with the help of astounding material that has come to light through his research. Foner’s latest book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, describes how New York was a vital way station on the Underground Railroad’s journey from the Upper South to Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York, the New England states and Canada.
- Their narrative represents a phase in the history of resistance to slavery that has gotten only sporadic attention from historians up to this point.
- The existence of the Record of Fugitives, which was collected by abolitionist newspaperman Sydney Howard Gay in New York City, was unknown to researchers until a student informed Foner of its existence.
- A runaway long forgotten, James Jones of Alexandria, according to Gay’s account, “had not been treated cruelly but was bored of being a slave,” according to the records.
- Foner reports that many fugitives ran away because they were being physically abused as much as they did out of a yearning for freedom, using terms such as “huge violence,” “badly treated,” “rough times,” and “hard master” to describe their experiences.
- During the late 1840s, he had risen to the position of the city’s foremost lawyer in runaway slave cases, frequently donating his services without charge, “at tremendous peril to his social and professional status,” according to Gay.
- Agent,” a title that would become synonymous with the Underground Railroad.
- He was an illiterate African-American.
- A number of letters and writs of habeas corpus bearing his name appear later on, as well as some of the most important court cases emerging from the disputed Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
- “He was the important person on the streets of New York, bringing in fugitives, combing the docks, looking for individuals at the train station,” Foner said.
that he had ever been the liberator of 3,000 individuals from bondage.” The author, who used theRecordas a jumping off point to delve deeper into New York’s fugitive slave network, also traces the origins of the New York Vigilance Committee, a small group of white abolitionists and free blacks who formed in 1835 and would go on to form the core of the city’s underground network until the eve of the Civil War.
The New York Vigilance Committee was a small group of white abolitionists and For the duration of its existence, Foner writes, “it drove runaway slaves to the forefront of abolitionist awareness in New York and earned sympathy from many people beyond the movement’s ranks.” It brought the intertwined concerns of kidnapping and fugitive slaves into the wider public consciousness.” The publication of Gateway to Freedom takes the total number of volumes authored by Foner on antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction America to two dozen.
His previous book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was published in 2012.
What was the inspiration for this book?
Everything started with one document, the Record of Fugitives, which was accidentally pointed up to me by a Columbia University student who was writing a senior thesis on Sydney Howard Gay and his journalistic career and happened to mention it to me.
She was in the manuscript library at Columbia when she mentioned it.
It was essentially unknown due to the fact that it had not been catalogued in any manner.
What was the atmosphere like in New York at the time?
As a result of their tight relationships with cotton plantation owners, this city’s merchants effectively controlled the cotton trade in the region.
The shipbuilding industry, insurance firms, and banks all had a role in the financialization of slavery.
They came to conduct business, but they also came to enjoy themselves.
The free black community and the very tiny band of abolitionists did exist, but it was a challenging setting in which to do their important job.
Routes were available in Ohio and Kentucky.
It was part of a larger network that provided assistance to a large number of fugitives.
It is incorrect to think of the Underground Railroad as a fixed collection of paths.
It wasn’t as if there were a succession of stations and people could just go from one to the next.
It was even more unorganized – or at least less organized – than before.
And after they moved farther north, to Albany and Syracuse, they were in the heart of anti-slavery area, and the terrain became much more amenable to their way of life.
People advertised in the newspaper about assisting escaped slaves, which was a radically different milieu from that of New York City at the time.
The phrase “Underground Railroad” should be interpreted relatively literally, at least toward the conclusion of the book.
Frederick Douglas had just recently boarded a train in Baltimore and traveled to New York.
Ship captains demanded money from slaves in exchange for hiding them and transporting them to the North.
The book also looks at the broader influence that escaped slaves had on national politics in the nineteenth century.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was a particularly severe piece of legislation that drew a great deal of controversy in the northern states.
So that’s something else I wanted to emphasize: not only the story of these individuals, but also the way in which their acts had a significant impact on national politics and the outbreak of the Civil War. Activism History of African Americans Videos about American History that are recommended