African Americans fled slavery in the South for a variety of reasons. Brutal physical punishment, psychological abuse and endless hours of hard labor without compensation drove many slaves to risk their lives to escape plantation life.
Why was the Underground Railroad dangerous for slaves?
Traveling along the Underground Railroad was a long a perilous journey for fugitive slaves to reach their freedom. Runaway slaves had to travel great distances, many times on foot, in a short amount of time. They did this with little or no food and no protection from the slave catchers chasing them.
Why did slaves try to escape?
Of course, the main reason to flee was to escape the oppression of slavery itself. To assist their flight to freedom, some escapees hid on steamboats in the hope of reaching Mobile, where they might blend in with its community of free blacks and slaves living on their own as though free.
What was the punishment for helping runaway slaves?
The law also imposed a $500 penalty on any person who helped harbor or conceal escapees. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was immediately met with a firestorm of criticism.
How many slaves escaped on the Underground Railroad?
The total number of runaways who used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom is not known, but some estimates exceed 100,000 freed slaves during the antebellum period.
How did slaves get punished?
Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding, rape, and imprisonment. Punishment was often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was performed to re-assert the dominance of the master (or overseer) over the slave.
What did slaves do to runaway?
Many escaped slaves upon return were to face harsh punishments such as amputation of limbs, whippings, branding, hobbling, and many other horrible acts. Individuals who aided fugitive slaves were charged and punished under this law.
What would happen if slaves tried to escape?
If an enslaved person was caught trying to escape, the punishment could be very severe. Often runaways would be sold “south.” That means that they were sold to someone who lived much further south than Maryland, where it would be harder to run away because the distance to the North was so much greater.
What did the slaves eat?
Weekly food rations — usually corn meal, lard, some meat, molasses, peas, greens, and flour — were distributed every Saturday. Vegetable patches or gardens, if permitted by the owner, supplied fresh produce to add to the rations. Morning meals were prepared and consumed at daybreak in the slaves’ cabins.
What made slavery illegal in all of the United States?
Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States and provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or
What caused the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was established to aid enslaved people in their escape to freedom. The railroad was comprised of dozens of secret routes and safe houses originating in the slaveholding states and extending all the way to the Canadian border, the only area where fugitives could be assured of their freedom.
How many slaves did Harriet Tubman save?
Fact: According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people —family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.
Myths About the Underground Railroad
When it comes to teaching African-American Studies today, one of the great delights is the satisfaction that comes from being able to restore to the historical record “lost” events and the persons whose sacrifices and bravery enabled those events to take place, never to be lost again. Among our ancestors’ long and dreadful history of human bondage is the Underground Railroad, which has garnered more recent attention from teachers, students, museum curators, and the tourism industry than any other institution from the black past.
Nevertheless, in the effort to convey the narrative of this magnificent institution, fiction and lore have occasionally taken precedence over historical truth.
The sacrifices and valor of our forefathers and foremothers, as well as their allies, are made all the more noble, heroic, and striking as a result.
I think this is a common misconception among students.
As described by Wilbur H.
Running slaves, frequently in groups of up to several families, were said to have been directed at night on their desperate journey to freedom by the traditional “Drinking Gourd,” which was the slaves’ secret name for the North Star.
The Railroad in Lore
Following is a brief list of some of the most frequent myths regarding the Underground Railroad, which includes the following examples: 1. It was administered by well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers. 2. The Underground Railroad was active throughout the southern United States. Most runaway slaves who managed to make their way north took refuge in secret quarters hidden in attics or cellars, while many more managed to escape through tunnels. Fourteenth, slaves made so-called “freedom quilts,” which they displayed outside their homes’ windows to signal fugitives to the whereabouts of safe houses and safe ways north to freedom.
When slaves heard the spiritual “Steal Away,” they knew Harriet Tubman was on her way to town, or that an ideal opportunity to run was approaching.
scholars like Larry Gara, who wrote The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad and Blight, among other works, have worked tirelessly to address all of these problems, and I’ll outline the proper answers based on their work, and the work of others, at the conclusion of this piece.
First, a brief overview of the Underground Railroad’s history:
A Meme Is Born
As Blight correctly points out, the railroad has proven to be one of the most “enduring and popular strands in the fabric of America’s national historical memory.” Since the end of the nineteenth century, many Americans, particularly in New England and the Midwest, have either made up legends about the deeds of their ancestors or simply repeated stories that they have heard about their forebears.
It’s worth taking a look at the history of the phrase “Underground Railroad” before diving into those tales, though.
Tice Davids was a Kentucky slave who managed to escape to Ohio in 1831, and it is possible that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was invented as a result of his successful escape.
According to Blight, he is believed to have said that Davids had vanished as though “the nigger must have gone off on an underground railroad.” This is a fantastic narrative — one that would be worthy of Richard Pryor — but it is improbable, given that train lines were non-existent at the time.
- The fleeing slave from Washington, D.C., who was tortured and forced to testify that he had been taken north, where “the railroad extended underground all the way to Boston,” according to one report from 1839, was captured.
- constructed from Mason and Dixon’s to the Canada line, upon which fugitives from slavery might come pouring into this province” is the first time the term appears.
- 14, 1842, in the Liberator, a date that may be supported by others who claim that abolitionist Charles T.
Myth Battles Counter-Myth
Historically, the appeal of romance and fantasy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced back to the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over what the Civil War was all about — burying Lost Cause mythology deep in the national psyche and eventually propelling the racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. Many white Northerners attempted to retain a heroic version of their history in the face of a dominant Southern interpretation of the significance of the Civil War, and they found a handy weapon in the stories of the Underground Railroad to accomplish this goal.
Immediately following the fall of Reconstruction in 1876, which was frequently attributed to purportedly uneducated or corrupt black people, the story of the struggle for independence was transformed into a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a poor and nameless “inferior” race.
Siebert questioned practically everyone who was still alive who had any recollection of the network and even flew to Canada to interview former slaves who had traced their own pathways from the South to freedom as part of his investigation.
In the words of David Blight, Siebert “crafted a popular tale of largely white conductors assisting nameless blacks on their journey to freedom.”
Truth Reveals Unheralded Heroism
That’s a little amount of history; what about those urban legends? The answers are as follows: It cannot be overstated that the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement itself were possibly the first examples in American history of a truly multiracial alliance, and the role played by the Quakers in its success cannot be overstated. Despite this, it was primarily controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, with the most notable exception being the famous Philadelphian William Still, who served as its president.
- The Underground Railroad was made possible by the efforts of white and black activists such as Levi Coffin, Thomas Garrett, Calvin Fairbank, Charles Torrey, Harriet Tubman and Still, all of whom were true heroes.
- Because of the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the railroad’s growth did not take place until after that year.
- After all, it was against the law to help slaves in their attempts to emancipate themselves.
- Being an abolitionist or a conductor on the Underground Railroad, according to the historian Donald Yacovone, “was about as popular and hazardous as being a member of the Communist Party in 1955,” he said in an email to me.
- The Underground Railroad was predominantly a phenomena of the Northern United States.
- For the most part, fugitive slaves were left on their own until they were able to cross the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon Line and thereby reach a Free State.
- For fugitives in the North, well-established routes and conductors existed, as did some informal networks that could transport fugitives from places such as the abolitionists’ office or houses in Philadelphia to other locations north and west.
(where slavery remained legal until 1862), as well as in a few locations throughout the Upper South, some organized support was available.
I’m afraid there aren’t many.
Furthermore, few dwellings in the North were equipped with secret corridors or hidden rooms where slaves might be hidden.
What about freedom quilts?
The only time a slave family had the resources to sew a quilt was to shelter themselves from the cold, not to relay information about alleged passages on the Underground Railroad that they had never visited.
As we will discover in a future column, the danger of treachery about individual escapes and collective rebellions was much too large for escape plans to be publicly shared.5.
No one has a definitive answer.
According to Elizabeth Pierce, an administrator at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the figure might be as high as 100,000, but that appears to be an overstatement.
We may put these numbers into context by noting that there were 3.9 million slaves and only 488,070 free Negroes in 1860 (with more than half of them still living in the South), whereas there were 434,495 free Negroes in 1850 (with more than half still living in the South).
The fact that only 101 fleeing slaves ever produced book-length “slave narratives” describing their servitude until the conclusion of the Civil War is also significant to keep in mind while thinking about this topic.
However, just a few of them made it to safety.
How did the fugitive get away?
John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger, as summarized by Blight, “80 percent of these fugitives were young guys in their teens and twenties who absconded alone on the majority of occasions.
Because of their household and child-rearing duties, young slave women were significantly less likely to flee than older slave women.
Lyford in 1896 reported that he could not recall “any fugitives ever being transported by anyone, they always had to pilot their own canoe with the little help that they received,” suggesting that “the greatest number of fugitives were self-emancipating individuals who, upon reaching a point in their lives when they could no longer tolerate their captive status, finally just took off for what had been a long and difficult journey.” 7.
What is “Steal Away”?
They used them to communicate secretly with one another in double-voiced discussions that neither the master nor the overseer could comprehend.
However, for reasons of safety, privacy, security, and protection, the vast majority of slaves who escaped did so alone and covertly, rather than risking their own safety by notifying a large number of individuals outside of their families about their plans, for fear of betraying their masters’ trust.
Just consider the following for a moment: If fleeing slavery had been thus planned and maintained on a systematic basis, slavery would most likely have been abolished long before the American Civil War, don’t you think?
According to Blight, “Much of what we call the Underground Railroad was actually operated clandestinely by African Americans themselves through urban vigilance committees and rescue squads that were often led by free blacks.” The “Underground Railroad” was a marvelously improvised, metaphorical construct run by courageous heroes, the vast majority of whom were black.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrible and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the total numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in escaping, were “not huge.” There were thousands of heroic slaves who were helped by the organization, each of whom should be remembered as heroes of African-American history, but there were not nearly as many as we often believe, and certainly not nearly enough.
Approximately fifty-five of the 100 Amazing Facts will be published on the website African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. On The Root, you may find all 100 facts.
Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources
But enough about history; what about those urban legends? Answers to the questions are as follows: It cannot be overstated that the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement as a whole were possibly the first examples in American history of a genuinely multiracial alliance, with the Quakers playing a critical part in its success. Although it was mostly controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, it was also dominated by Philadelphians, most notably the famous William Still.
- Some of the Underground Railroad’s most heroic figures were both white and black campaigners.
- As reported by James Horton, William Still himself was responsible for the rescue of 649 fugitives who sought refuge in Philadelphia, including 16 who came on a single day (June 1, 1855), according to Blight.
- People were involved in its activities, but only a small number of them, relative to the number of people in the world.
- It is possible to be charged with “constructive treason” if you violate the 1850 Act of Congress.
- Because of this, it concentrated its operations mostly in the Free States.
- Because of these circumstances, the Underground Railroad could be put into operation.
Additionally, in Washington, D.C.
In addition, some slaves were aided in their attempts to flee from Southern seaports, albeit only a small number of people.
You know, those secret passageways or rooms in attics, garrets, cellars, or basements.
Tunnels were rarely used by escaped slaves, who preferred to sneak out of towns at night than than via them, which would have been a massive task and extremely expensive project.
Simply put, this is one of the strangest urban legends to have been perpetuated in the whole history of African-American culture and civilization.
The truth is that messages of many kinds were sent out at black church gatherings and prayer sessions from time to time, but none of them had information concerning Harriet Tubman’s arrival date and time.
How many slaves actually managed to escape to a new life in the North, in Canada, Florida, or Mexico?
No one is certain of anything.
It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people worked at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, according to Elizabeth Pierce, a center spokeswoman, but that sounds a bit optimistic to me given the current state of the economy.
In light of the fact that these data would include those fugitives who had successfully crossed into Canada via the Underground Railroad as well as natural growth, we can see how modest the numbers of runaway slaves who successfully crossed into Canada in this decade, for example, were.
According to John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger’s groundbreaking book, Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, more than 50,000 slaves fled not to the North, but “inside the South,” as Blight explains, “annually throughout the late antebellum period,” according to Franklin and Schweninger.
Families as a group?
Because of their family and child-rearing duties, young slave women were significantly less inclined to flee away.
Lyford, in 1896 reported that he could not recall “any fugitives ever being transported by anyone, they always had to pilot their own canoe, with the little help that they received,” suggesting that “the greatest number of fugitives were self-emancipating individuals who, upon reaching a point in their lives when they could no longer tolerate their captive status, finally just took off for what had become “Steal Away” is the seventh question.
Inventing coded languages to communicate clandestinely with one another, in double-voiced discourses that the master and overseer couldn’t comprehend, was a brilliant trait of African Americans during the slave trade era.
They did not put themselves or their families at danger by alerting a large number of individuals outside of their families about their plans, out of fear of being betrayed.
Let’s consider the following for a moment: If fleeing slavery had been this planned and maintained on a systematic basis, slavery would most likely have been abolished long before the American Civil War, don’t you believe?
According to Blight, “Much of what we call the Underground Railroad was actually operated clandestinely by African Americans themselves through urban vigilance committees and rescue squads that were often led by free blacks.” The “Underground Railroad” was a marvelously improvised, metaphorical construct run by courageous heroes, the majority of whom were African Americans.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrifying and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the aggregate numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in escaping, was “not enormous.” There were thousands of heroic slaves who were helped by the organization, each of whom should be remembered as heroes of African-American history, but there were nothing like as many as we often believe, and certainly not nearly enough.
Approximately fifty-five of the 100 Amazing Facts will be made available on the African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website. On The Root, you may read all 100 facts.
A Dangerous Path to Freedom
That’s a piece of history; what about those urban legends? Here are the solutions: 1. The Underground Railroad and the abolitionist campaign itself were possibly the first instances in American history of a genuinely multiracial alliance, and the significance of the Quakers in its success cannot be overstated. It was, however, mostly controlled by free Northern African Americans, particularly in its early years, with the most notable exception being the famous Philadelphian William Still. He was aided in his efforts by white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers.
- According to James Horton, William Still personally recorded the rescue of 649 fugitives who sought refuge in Philadelphia, including 16 who arrived on a single day, June 1, 1855, according to Blight.
- However, there was just a small number of persons that participated in its activities, as compared to other organizations.
- Violations of the 1850 Act might result in accusations of “constructive treason,” according to the law.
- The Underground Railroad was predominantly aNorthern phenomenon, according to historians.
- Before crossing the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon Line and entering a Free State, fugitive slaves were mostly on their own.
- There were well-established routes and conductors in the North, as well as some informal networks that might transport a runaway from, example, the abolitionists’ office or houses in Philadelphia to other areas north and west.
- In addition, some slaves were aided in escape from Southern seaports, albeit only a small number of them.
You know, those secret passageways or apartments in attics, garrets, cellars, or basements?
The majority of fugitive slaves escaped from towns under the cover of night, rather than through tunnels, which would have been enormous enterprises and extremely expensive to construct.
Simply put, this is one of the strangest urban legends to have been perpetuated in the entirety of African-American history.
However, on rare occasions, communications of all kinds were sent at black church gatherings and prayer sessions, but none of them had information regarding the day and time that Harriet Tubman would be arriving in town.
How many slaves actually fled to a new life in the North, in Canada, Florida, or Mexico?
Some researchers believe that a range between 25,000 and 40,000 is the most reasonable estimate, while others believe that 50,000 is the highest possible amount.
We may put these numbers into context by noting that there were 3.9 million slaves and only 488,070 free Negroes in 1860 (with more than half of them still residing in the South), but there were 434,495 free Negroes in 1850 (and 3.9 million slaves in 1860).
Remember that only 101 fleeing slaves ever produced book-length “slave narratives” concerning their servitude before the conclusion of the Civil War, and that most of them were executed.
What about entire families?
In fact, 95% of those who escaped did it alone.
Families with children attempted to flee to freedom in large numbers, but such cases were unusual.” Furthermore, according to scholar John Michael Vlach, one abolitionist, W.H.
When it came to establishing coded languages, African Americans were geniuses.
Moreover, theGrapevinewas a genuine creation, with John Adams himself commenting on it as early as 1775.
As much as I wish it had been otherwise, the escape and rescue of fugitive slaves did not take place in the manner portrayed by the most popular tales about the Underground Railroad.
It should come as no surprise that only a small number of slaves were able to escape slavery.
Gara’s study revealed that “running away was a terrible and risky idea for slaves,” according to Blight, and that the total numbers of slaves who risked their lives, or even those who succeeded in attaining freedom, were “not substantial.” There were hundreds of heroic slaves who were helped by the organization, each of whom should be remembered as heroes of African-American history, but there were not nearly as many as we generally assume, and certainly not nearly enough.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross website will host fifty of the 100 Amazing Facts. Read the entire list of 100 Facts on The Root.
Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.
- They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
- Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
- With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
- She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
- He went on to write a novel.
- John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.
Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.
The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.
Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.
The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.
His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.
Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.
For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.
Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives
Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.
- I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
- On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
- It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
- Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
- I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
- Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
- The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
- This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.
For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.
Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.
Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.
Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.
Inside The Underground Railroad, The Clandestine Network That Freed Thousands Of People From Slavery
Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons The Underground Railroad as seen on Wilber Siebert’s map. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required escaped slaves to journey all the way to Canada before they could be declared really free by the United States government. Something shook the banks of the Ohio River on a night in 1831, and it was a ghost. A splash, followed by guys swearing and a frenzied search for a boat, signaled the beginning of the end. Even if the specifics of the situation are unclear, the fundamentals of the situation are clear: Tice Davids, a slave who was fleeing from a farm in Kentucky, jumped into the Ohio River in the hope of finding freedom on the other side of the river.
Apparently, the plantation owner was enraged and sneered that Davids had “gone out on a secret mission to find the Underground Railroad.” As a result, the word “underground railroad” entered the American lexicon — yet the shadowy organization that held its name had been in operation for decades before the term became popular.
What Was The Underground Railroad?
Historical scholars disagree on whether or not Davids’ plantation owner created the phrase “underground railroad.” Regardless of whether he did or did not, his story highlights the enormous stakes of escaping and the whispered promise of certain safe havens. The phrase immediately gained popularity. It was Frederick Douglass who remarked in 1845 that reckless abolitionists had hyped up the Underground Railroad to the point where it had become a “uppergroundrailroad.” Wikimedia CommonsA common image used in wanted ads for runaway slaves.Because the Underground Railroad operated in secrecy, it is difficult to determine exactly when the organization got its started.
By the time Davids fled across the Ohio River, 38 years had passed since the first Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1793— and indeed, the right of southern slave owners to recapture fugitive slaves is enshrined in the United States Constitution.
It was more a loose network of incomplete and unstructured local groups all working toward the same goal: assisting fleeing slaves in their journey to safety and freedom, as historian Eric Foner points out.
Slavery In 19th-Century America
Davids escaped over the Ohio River in 1831, a total of 2.2 million persons in the United States were enslaved — about 15% of the country’s population — at the time of his departure. Commons image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Gordon fled from a Louisiana farm in 1863 and sought safety in a Union Army camp near Baton Rouge, which is where he was photographed. His image was sent throughout the world by abolitionists to draw attention to the atrocities of slavery. However, despite the founders’ hopes that slave trade would eventually die out on its own — and despite the fact that the importing of slaves became banned in 1808— the development of the cotton gin in 1793 breathed fresh life into the institution.
Slaves, who were mostly concentrated in the South, endured arduous lives filled with uncertainty, brutality, and forced work.
Pete Bruner, an ex-slave, recalled being beaten with “a piece of sole leather approximately 1 foot long and 2 inches broad, cut.full of holes and dipped.in water that had been brined,” according to his account.
In the 1862 or 1863 period, slaves on a plantation were growing sweet potatoes, according to Wikimedia Commons.
Formation Of The Underground Railroad
No one can pinpoint the precise date when the Underground Railroad was established. Slaves had been fleeing farms since before the country’s independence, and the abolitionist movement may trace its origins back to a time when slaves were fleeing plantations. In 1796, a slave called Ona Judge managed to flee the farm of America’s most renowned founding father and first president, George Washington, and reach freedom. A few of decades earlier, in 1775, the world’s first abolitionist movement was established, with another notable founding father, Benjamin Franklin, serving as its president from 1787 to 1801.
The Underground Railroad was established as a result of a desire to flee and a commitment to see slavery put an end to it.
Fugitive Slave Law, which was passed in 1793, penalised people who assisted fugitive slaves with a $500 fine (equivalent to $13,000 today).
By the 1840s, the phrase “underground railroad” was becoming widely familiar to the general public in the United States.
How The Underground Railroad Operated
The Underground Railroad was established at an unknown date. Slaves had been fleeing farms since before the country’s independence, and the abolitionist movement may trace its origins back to a time when slaves were fleeing their masters’ plantations. One of America’s most renowned founding fathers and first president, George Washington, let a slave called Ona Judge to flee his farm in 1796. Prior to that, in 1775, the world’s first abolitionist movement was established, with another notable founding father, Benjamin Franklin, serving as its president from 1787 until 1801.
the editor of the abolitionist journal The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison, was born on this day in 1832.
In addition, the requirement for confidentiality grew urgent.
Throughout the 1840s, the phrase “underground railroad” was becoming widely familiar to Americans.
The Main Participants Of The Underground Railroad
Many of the most important players in the Underground Railroad were freed blacks or former slaves who collaborated with white abolitionists to transport captives to safety. According to Gates, the railroad was “perhaps one of the first instances in American history of a really multiracial alliance.” In spite of this, Gates emphasizes that the railroad was “predominantly controlled by free Northern African Americans,” albeit acknowledging the assistance of white abolitionists, particularly Quakers.
- One of these men was William Still, a liberated black man who assisted hundreds of fugitive slaves in their escape to freedom.
- Still, he maintained a meticulous record of the people he assisted.
- “They were resolved to obtain liberty, even if it meant sacrificing their lives,” wrote Still.
- Tubman was able to escape slavery in 1849 with the assistance of a white abolitionist.
- ” Tubman was able to make it to Philadelphia with the assistance of Still, and he returned a year later to assist other slaves in their escape.
- The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information.
- The year after the United States President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Tubman joined the Union Army and conducted a military operation in South Carolina.
Tubman aided 70 slaves in their escape from Maryland over the course of 13 journeys, and she boasted to Frederick Douglass that she had “never lost a single passenger.” Among the other notable members of the Underground Railroad were Levi Coffin, a white abolitionist Quaker who assisted thousands of people fleeing through Ohio; John Parker, a slave who purchased his own freedom and made numerous dangerous incursions onto Kentucky plantations to aid slaves in their escape; and the Reverend John Rankin, who used the location of his home on the Ohio River to flash a light to the other side, indicating that fugitive slaves could safely cross.
According to Underground Railroad conductor John Parker’s book, “every night of the year witnessed runaways, individually or in groups, making their way surreptitiously to the country north.” “Traps and snares were laid for them, and they fell into them by the hundreds, after which they were restored to their homes.” Once infected with the spirit of liberty, they would attempt again and again until they either succeeded or were sold to the South.””
The End Of The Line: War Begins
Freed blacks and former slaves were among the most important participants in the Underground Railroad, and they often worked in collaboration with white abolitionists to accomplish their goals. In his book, Gates claims that the railroad was “perhaps one of the first examples in American history of a really multiracial alliance.” In spite of this, Gates emphasizes that the railroad was “predominantly controlled by free Northern African Americans,” despite his acknowledgment of the services of white abolitionists, particularly Quakers.
As an example, consider the life of William Still, a liberated black man who assisted hundreds of fugitive slaves in their escape to freedom.
Yet he maintained a meticulous record of the people to whom he was of assistance.
In Still’s words, “they were resolved to obtain liberty even if it meant losing their lives.” Araminta Ross, who eventually went by the name of Harriet Tubman, was one of the women who received assistance from Still throughout her lifetime.
Harriet Tubman reported this experience in Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubmanby Sarah Hopkins Bradford: “When I realized I had passed that border, I glanced at my hands to check whether I was the same person.” “There was such a splendor over everything; the light shone through the trees like gold and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” Using Still’s assistance, Tubman was able to make it to Philadelphia, where she returned a year later to assist other slaves in their escape.
Her work as a conductor became considerably more dangerous with the adoption of The Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, but Tubman continued.
Tubman assisted 70 slaves in their escape from Maryland over the course of 13 voyages, and she boasted to Frederick Douglass that she had “never lost a single passenger” during her journeys.
Other According to Underground Railroad conductor John Parker’s book, “Every night of the year witnessed runaways, individually or in groups, making their way surreptitiously to the country north.” “Traps and snares were prepared for them, and they fell into them by the hundreds, and they were returned to their respective homes.” Once infected with the spirit of liberty, they would attempt again and again until they either succeeded or were sold to the South.” –
What Is The Legacy Of The Underground Railroad Today?
Even today, the Underground Railroad has a tangled legacy, but it has also had a comeback in popular culture. According to Gates, numerous fallacies surround the notion of the Underground Railroad, which is primarily based on the work of Wilbur Siebert’s The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom (The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom). It has been pointed out to me by both Gates and historian David Blight that Siebert’s 1898 depiction of the Underground Railroad places a strong emphasis on the role of white conductors who assisted “nameless blacks to freedom.” According to Gates, Siebert also presented the system as well-organized and vast – a fallacy that continues to exist today.
- Despite this, Siebert’s description of the Underground Railroad, which was based mostly on interviews with surviving white abolitionists and their children, had a greater impact on the American consciousness than Still’s collection of accounts from escaped slaves themselves did.
- However, there has been a shift in the narrative.
- The stakes of the quest are also made explicit in Whitehead’s work.
- Harriet Tubman, who was unquestionably an advocate of the Underground Railroad, will also receive her due in the near future.
- Harriet will portray Tubman’s emancipation from slavery and transition into one of America’s most notable abolitionists and Underground Railroad conductors in her play Harriet Will Show Me.
- They are green and pleasant, and they do not reveal the secrets of thousands of individuals who have swum or paddled over dark seas in a frantic hunt for light on the other side of the ocean.
Then learn about Ellen and William Craft, two slaves who fled to freedom by impersonating a slave master and his attendant in order to gain their freedom.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
According to historical records, the Quakers were the first organized organization to actively assist fugitive slaves. When Quakers attempted to “liberate” one of Washington’s enslaved employees in 1786, George Washington took exception to it. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were fleeing their masters’ hands. Abolitionist societies founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitives at the same time.
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. 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?
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives and assisted 400 escapees in their journey to Canada. In addition to helping 1,500 escapees make their way north, former fugitive Reverend Jermain Loguen, who lived near Syracuse, was instrumental in facilitating their escape. The Vigilance Committee was founded in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a businessman. 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 labor skills to support themselves.
Agent,” according to the document.
A free Black man in Ohio, John Parker was a foundry owner who used his rowboat to transport fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born to runaway enslaved parents in New Jersey and raised as a free man in the city of Philadelphia.
Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person and renowned writer, hosted fugitives at his house in Rochester, New York, assisting 400 fugitives on their journey to Canada. Former fugitive Reverend Jermain Loguen, who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 fugitives in their escape to the north. In 1838, Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a Philadelphia merchant, founded the Vigilance Committee in the city. 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 necessary labor skills.
Agent” in New York City.
John Parker was a free Black man in Ohio, a foundry owner who used his rowboat to transport fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a famous Philadelphia citizen who was born to runaway slaves parents in New Jersey and raised by them as a free man.
End of the Line
Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed. MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad is a book about the Underground Railroad. Fergus Bordewich is a Scottish actor. A Biography of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Catherine Clinton is the first lady of the United States. Who Exactly Was in Charge of the Underground Railroad? ‘Henry Louis Gates’ is a pseudonym for Henry Louis Gates. The Underground Railroad’s History in New York is a little known fact. The Smithsonian Institution’s magazine. The Underground Railroad’s Dangerous Allure is well documented.