How was the Underground Railroad like a real railroad?
- Nope! Despite its name, the Underground Railroad wasn’t a railroad in the way Amtrak or commuter rail is. It wasn’t even a real railroad. It was a metaphoric one, where “conductors,” that is basically escaped slaves and intrepid abolitionists, would lead runaway slaves from one “station,” or save house to the next.
Is the Underground Railroad still there today?
It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman. Ashtabula County had over thirty known Underground Railroad stations, or safehouses, and many more conductors. Nearly two-thirds of those sites still stand today.
Why is the Underground Railroad significant?
The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another. The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ample evidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to African American philosophy.
When was the Underground Railroad most active?
system used by abolitionists between 1800-1865 to help enslaved African Americans escape to free states.
Were there tunnels in the Underground Railroad?
Contrary to popular belief, the Underground Railroad was not a series of underground tunnels. While some people did have secret rooms in their houses or carriages, the vast majority of the Underground Railroad involved people secretly helping people running away from slavery however they could.
What states was the Underground Railroad in?
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.
How many runaway slaves were there?
Approximately 100,000 American slaves escaped to 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.
What did slaves do after they escaped?
Most large plantations in the South, however, had slaves who escaped. Slaves’ resistance to captivity took many forms, such as performing careless work, destroying property, or faking illness. Many enslaved persons who were able chose escape, however. Some tried to rejoin family members living on a nearby properties.
Who financed the Underground Railroad?
5: Buying Freedom Meanwhile, so-called “stockholders” raised money for the Underground Railroad, funding anti-slavery societies that provided ex-slaves with food, clothing, money, lodging and job-placement services. At times, abolitionists would simply buy an enslaved person’s freedom, as they did with Sojourner Truth.
How long did the Underground Railroad take to travel?
The journey would take him 800 miles and six weeks, on a route winding through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York, tracing the byways that fugitive slaves took to Canada and freedom.
What state ended slavery first?
In 1780, Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish slavery when it adopted a statute that provided for the freedom of every slave born after its enactment (once that individual reached the age of majority). Massachusetts was the first to abolish slavery outright, doing so by judicial decree in 1783.
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.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the South by providing them with refuge and assistance. A number of separate covert operations came together to form the organization. Although the exact dates of its creation 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 Union was defeated.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.
MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:
How the Underground Railroad Worked
The majority of enslaved persons aided by the Underground Railroad were able to flee to neighboring states like as Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made catching fugitive enslaved persons a lucrative industry in the deep South, and there were fewer hiding places for them as a result of the Act. The majority of fugitive enslaved people were on their own until they reached specific places farther north. The escaping enslaved people were escorted by individuals known as “conductors.” Private residences, churches, and schools were also used as hiding places throughout the war.
The personnel in charge of running them were referred to as “stationmasters.” There were several well-traveled roads that ran west through Ohio and into Indiana and Iowa.
While some traveled north via Pennsylvania and into New England, or through Detroit on their route to Canada, others chose to travel south. 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.
She was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad, and her name is Harriet Tubman. In 1849, she and two of her brothers managed to escape from a farm in Maryland, where they were born into slavery under the name Araminta Ross. Harriet Tubman was her married name at the time. While they did return a few of weeks later, Tubman set out on her own shortly after, 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 people.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other runaway slaves to the Maryland state capital of Fredericksburg. In order to avoid being captured by the United States, Tubman would transport parties of escapees to Canada.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.
Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was at this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting fleeing enslaved individuals in their journey to Canada. Abolitionist John Brown would go on to play a variety of roles during his life. His most well-known duty was conducting an assault on Harper’s Ferry in order to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people at gunpoint. Ultimately, Brown’s forces were beaten, and he was executed for treason in 1859.
- The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved lady and her young daughter.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their attempt to flee through Virginia.
- After being apprehended in 1844 while transporting a boatload of freed slaves from the Caribbean to the United States, Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was sentenced to prison for life.
- John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to assist in the rescue of enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their families as they made their way north.
- He managed to elude capture twice.
End of the Line
Abolitionist He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was during this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, an organization dedicated to aiding fleeing slaves in their journey to Canada. With the abolitionist movement, Brown would play a variety of roles, most notably leading an assault on Harper’s Ferry to raise an armed army that would march into the deep south and free enslaved people under threat of death. Eventually, Brown’s forces were defeated, and he was executed for treason in 1859.
- The year 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two of them were jailed for aiding an escaped enslaved woman and her child escape.
- When Charles Torrey assisted an enslaved family fleeing through Virginia, he was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland.
- was his base of operations; earlier, he had served as an abolitionist newspaper editor in Albany, New York.
- In addition to being fined and imprisoned for a year, Walker had the letters “SS” for Slave Stealer tattooed on his right hand.
As a slave trader, Fairfield’s strategy was to travel across the southern states. Twice he managed to escape from prison. Tennessee’s arebellion claimed his life in 1860, and he was buried there.
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.
Making a TV show about slavery is enough to undo you. Ask Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins clearly recalls the moment he learned about the Underground Railroad for the very first time. The first time he heard such words, he was probably 5 or 6, and he recalls how it was “unimaginable” to him: “IsawBlack people riding trains that were underground.” He worked as a longshoreman and would always arrive at the port with his hard hat and tool belt on his back. Someone like him, I believed, was responsible for the construction of the Underground Railroad. “It was a great sensation since it was only about Black people and the concept of constructing things.” It would later become clear to the child that the name “Underground Railroad” was actually a slang word for a network of safe homes and passageways that slaves used to flee their tyrannical owners in the antebellum South.
This year’s highly anticipated “The Underground Railroad,” an Amazon limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel about a runway slave named Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and her desperate, often hellish quest for freedom as she flees the shackles of bondage, will bring Jenkins’ childhood vision of the railroad full circle.
- The author serves as an executive producer on the adaptation, which will debut on the streaming service on Friday, April 12.
- He was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for his work on the 2016 homosexual coming-of-age film, which went on to win the award for best picture.
- However, while Jenkins is clearly pleased with his accomplishment, he is also aware that “The Underground Railroad” represents the greatest risk of his professional life.
- Specifically, the filmmaker predicts that Black viewers, in particular, would have a more intense emotional response to the distressing content than other audiences.
- “That’s not what it’s about,” he remarked in an interview done through video conference from his home, during which he was both animated and softly reflective.
- For the past 41 and a half years, this has been my life’s work.
- I’m not sure how to digest what I’ve just heard.
This is not the case in this instance.
‘That duty, that weight, it’s still on my shoulders.’ (Image courtesy of Atsushi Nishijima/Amazon Prime Video) Jenkins considers the project to be his destiny on the one hand.
Then I realized that I had to do it.” In addition, he was able to witness the practical manifestation of his early idea with the construction of an underground set at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah, Georgia.
“It needs to be authentic.
In order for the players to walk into the tunnel and touch the rails, they must be able to get down on their knees and touch the walls.
It would have been a mind-boggling experience.
The series is the latest in a long line of notable ventures that have combined America’s horrendous history of racial relations with elements of popular culture to great effect.
Black viewers have condemned the films “Them” and “Two Distant Strangers” in particular, labeling the painful imagery as “Black trauma porn” (trauma for black people).
There is a good chance that the premiere episode of “The Underground Railroad” will add additional gasoline to the fire.
Jenkins claims that black viewers had already expressed their opinions many weeks before the broadcast.
“Do we require any further photographs of this?” the query posed.
(Image courtesy of Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios) From the beginning, he was warned that he was about to walk into a minefield.
“However, I do not believe that the country will ever be prepared to look at photos from this period.” Despite this, all you’ve heard for the past four years has been the slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’ At least some of what America has done, particularly when it comes to individuals who look like me, has to be a result of wilful ignorance or erasure on their side.
To discover Jenkins’ genuine goal, audiences are encouraged to look past the scenes of brutality and recognize his underlying motivation: to shine a light on the victory of slaves rather than on their traumatic experiences.
“It’s the only reason someone like me is here today, and nothing else.” “If I am able to take these photographs and put them back into their original context, it makes the portrayal of the images worthwhile.” He mentioned the prominent role played by children in Whitehead’s work, and he stated that he intended to replicate that presence in the series.
- However, there is a great deal that has to do with parenting as well.
- As a result, youngsters are constantly present in our presentation.
- The NAACP and the journal were founded by W.E.B.
- “I came to the realization that this was one of the most amazing acts of collective parenting the world has ever witnessed.” They were there to safeguard the youngsters.
- We hear that Black families have always been divided and that Black dads have always been gone from their children’s lives, and this is true.
- (Image courtesy of Amazon Studios’ Atsushi Nishijima) Kim Whyte, a mental health counselor located in Georgia, was brought on board to help him create a safe and open setting for dealing with the challenging and often visceral subject matter.
According to Jenkins, Whyte’s involvement was not intentional: “I didn’t want these pictures to unravel us, even while we were unpacking them.” Whyte expressed gratitude to Jenkins for the confidence he placed in her, saying, “I couldn’t find a model before me in terms of being a mental health counselor on a set.” I was able to engage with everyone on the set because to Barry’s generosity.
- His permission to connect with them after takes and in between takes was very appreciated.” ‘It was eye-opening,’ she described her experience.
- However, they all had lives of their own.
- The material, on the other hand, was causing people to respond.
- “It’s a stain on humanity that we all share,” Whyte explained.
- ‘This character does not sit well with me.’ It was necessary for them to unravel the emotions that they were required to express at times.
- As we went through it, I told her, ‘Yes, you have every right to be unhappy about this,’ she said.
- ‘And you are a human being.’ They needed to realize that it wasn’t their own rage.
Imagining the Underground Railroad as an actual train system
JEFFREY BROWN: I’d want to thank you for your time. Allow me to ask you to give a brief overview of what you have accomplished here. Although it is a fiction, however — but. Colson Whitehead, author of “The Underground Railroad,” discusses the history of the railroad. Initially, it is presented as a classic, realistic portrayal of slavery. Cora is the name of the main character in our story. She is 16 or 17 years old and lives on a cotton plantation. And when the situation worsens, she is persuaded to go north via the Underground Railroad, which she does.
- COLSON WHITEHEAD: The subject is enormous, to put it lightly.
- How do you take people you care about, your characters, and place them in a dreadful system while still creating a realistic story?
- As a result, I believe that my experience would have been very different if I had tried it 16 years earlier.
- And I understand what it’s like to consider having your mother sold in front of you, having your children sold, watching your siblings, your friends tormented, abused, or otherwise victimized.
- COLSON WHITEHEAD: It’s a delicate situation.
- You know, the truth of the matter is that white people in positions of authority have been abusing the black body for hundreds of years.
- In the 1850s, before the establishment of any sort of police force in the South, the slave patroller served as the chief of police.
- And if you didn’t have your documents or an acceptable reason for being away from the plantation, you would be beaten, imprisoned, and eventually returned to your master.
- In my younger, more threatening-looking days, I would be stopped and searched by police officers.
- As a result, I’m dealing with issues that have existed since the founding of the country.
The Underground Railroad
At the time of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in their attempts to flee to freedom in the northern states.
Subjects History of the United States, Social StudiesImage
Home of Levi Coffin
Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist. This was a station on the Underground Railroad, a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in escaping to the North during the Civil War. Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography. “> During the age of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, locations, and individuals that assisted enslaved persons in the American South in escaping to the North, according to the Underground Railroad Museum.
Although it was not a real railroad, it fulfilled the same function as one: it carried passengers across large distances.
The people who worked for the Underground Railroad were driven by a passion for justice and a desire to see slavery abolished—a drive that was so strong that they risked their lives and jeopardized their own freedom in order to assist enslaved people in escaping from bondage and staying safe while traveling the Underground Railroad.
- As the network expanded, the railroad metaphor became more prevalent.
- In recent years, academic research has revealed that the vast majority of persons who engaged in the Underground Railroad did it on their own, rather than as part of a larger organization.
- According to historical tales of the railroad, conductors frequently pretended to be enslaved persons in order to smuggle runaways out of plantation prisons and train stations.
- Often, the conductors and passengers traveled 16–19 kilometers (10–20 miles) between each safehouse stop, which was a long distance in this day and age.
- Patrols on the lookout for enslaved persons were usually on their tails, chasing them down.
- Historians who study the railroad, on the other hand, find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.
- Eric Foner is one of the historians that belongs to this group.
- Despite this, the Underground Railroad was at the center of the abolitionist struggle during the nineteenth century.
- Levi Coffin’s residence in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lived as an American Quaker and abolitionist.
- Cincinnati Museum Center provided the photography.
- Person who is owned by another person or group of people is referred to as an enslaved person.
Slavery is a noun that refers to the act of owning another human being or being owned by another human being (also known as servitude). Abolitionists utilized this nounsystem between 1800 and 1865 to aid enslaved African Americans in their attempts to flee to free states.
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Gina Borgia is a member of the National Geographic Society. Jeanna Sullivan is a member of the National Geographic Society.
According to National Geographic Society’s Sarah Appleton, Margot Willis is a National Geographic Society photographer.
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The Underground Railroad’s Troubling Allure
The package came one spring evening in 1849, thanks to the overland express service. It was three feet long, two feet wide, and two and a half feet deep. It had been packed the previous morning in Richmond, Virginia, and then transported by horse cart to the local office of the Adams Express Company, which was located in nearby Richmond. When it arrived at the railroad terminal, it was loaded onto a train and then moved to a steamer, where it was placed upside down despite the label stating “THIS SIDE UP WITH CARE.” A fatigued passenger then flipped it over and used it as a seat.
After reaching the nation’s capital, it was put into a wagon, dropped at the railway station, loaded onto a luggage car, and then transported to Philadelphia, where it was emptied onto another wagon before being delivered at 31 North Fifth Street.
Upon opening it, a man named Henry Brown emerged: five feet eight inches tall, two hundred pounds, and, as far as anyone is aware, the first person in United States history to free himself from slavery by “getting myself conveyed as dry goods to a free state,” as he put it later in his autobiography.
Leigh GuldigMcKim, a white abolitionist with the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society who had by then been working for the Underground Railroad for more than a decade, was impressed by the heroism and drama of Brown’s escape, as well as the courage and drama of others like it.
After first appearing in our collective consciousness in the eighteen-forties, the Underground Railroad has become a fixture of both national history and local tradition.
On television, the WGN America network broadcasted the first season of “Underground,” a drama series that chronicles the lives of a group of slaves known as the Macon Seven as they leave a Georgia farm.
A collection of writings about the Underground Railroad was published in 2004 by Yale historian David Blight under the title “Passages to Freedom.” “Bound for Canaan,” written by Fergus Bordewich in the next year, was the first national history of the railroad in more than a century and was published in 1897.
The adult biographies of Harriet Tubman, the railroad’s most famous “conductor,” were published only twice between 1869 and 2002; since then, more than four times as many have been published, along with a growing number of books about her for children and young adults—five in the nineteen-seventies, six in the nineteen-eighties, twenty-one in the nineteen-nineties, and more than thirty since the turn of the century.
- Under addition, an HBO biopic of Tubman is now in preparation, and the United States Treasury confirmed earlier this year that she will be featured on the twenty-dollar note beginning in the next decade.
- Since 1998, the National Park Service has been attempting to establish a Network to Freedom, a nationwide network of Underground Railroad sites that have been officially recognized but are administered by local communities.
- The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park will be the first national monument dedicated to Tubman’s life and accomplishments.
- McKim hoped that by telling these stories, we would be moved to feelings of respect, adoration, and outrage, and he was right.
- No one knows who came up with the phrase.
It originally appeared in print in an abolitionist newspaper in 1839, at the close of a decade in which railways had come to represent wealth and development, and more than three thousand miles of real track had been completed throughout the country, according to the National Railway Historical Society.
- Colson Whitehead’s latest novel takes use of both of these characteristics by doing consciously what practically every young child learning about our country’s history does naively: taking the phrase “Underground Railroad” to its literal meaning.
- Whitehead has a fondness for fanciful infrastructure, which is initially exposed in his outstanding debut novel, “The Intuitionist,” through the use of psychically active elevators.
- In “The Underground Railroad,” he more or less reverses the strategy he used in his previous trick.
- It is an astute choice, as it serves to remind us that no metaphor has ever brought anyone to freedom.
- That set of questions was initially posed in a thorough and methodical manner by a historian at Ohio State University called Wilbur Siebert in the 1930s.
“The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom,” the history that resulted from the investigation, was published in 1898 and depicted a network of more than three thousand anti-slavery activists, the majority of whom were white, who assisted in the transportation of largely anonymous runaways to freedom.
- An abolitionist group working undercover (through tunnels, trapdoors, and hidden passageways) and using covert signals (lanterns placed in windows and quilts hung on laundry lines) to assist enslaved African-Americans in their journey to freedom is depicted in that image.
- Like so many other stories about our nation’s history, that one has a difficult relationship to the truth: it is not exactly incorrect, but it is simplified; it is not quite a myth, but it has been mythologized.
- Furthermore, even the most active abolitionists spent just a small percentage of their time on clandestine adventures involving packing boxes and other such contraptions; instead, they focused on important but mundane chores such as fund-raising, teaching, and legal help, among other things.
- Regarding the belief that travelers on the Underground Railroad communicated with one another through the use of quilts, that thought first surfaced in the 1980s, without any apparent evidence (thenineteen -eighties).
Nobody disputes that white abolitionists were involved in the Underground Railroad, but later scholars argued that Siebert exaggerated both the number of white abolitionists and the importance of their involvement, while downplaying or ignoring the role played by African-Americans in the Underground Railroad.
- However, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1816 in direct response to American racism and the institution of slavery, receives little mainstream attention.
- It is not only institutions but also people who are affected by this imbalanced awareness.
- His book about it was published a quarter of a century before Siebert’s, and it was based on detailed notes he kept while helping 639 fugitives on their journey to freedom.
- This distribution of credit is inversely proportionate to the level of danger that white and black anti-slavery advocates were exposed to.
- Some were killed, others died in prison, and others fled to Canada because they were afraid of being arrested or worse.
These, however, were the exceptions. Most whites were subjected to just penalties and the disapproval of some members of their society, but those who resided in anti-slavery strongholds, as many did, were able to go about their business virtually unhindered.
The Underground Railroad – Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
It was a late spring evening in 1849 when the container came by overland express. A three-foot-long, two-foot-wide, and two-and-a-half-foot-deep box, it had been packed the day before in Richmond, Virginia, and then transported by horse cart to the local headquarters of the Adams Express Company. As a result, it was transported to a railroad terminal, put onto a train and, upon reaching the Potomac, transferred to an ocean liner. There, despite the placard reading THIS SIDE UP WITH CARING, it was placed upside down until a fatigued passenger knocked it over and sat down on it.
When the box arrived, it was met by James Miller McKim, the person to whom the package had been addressed.
Storytelling about the Underground Railroad offers the opportunity of moral consolation in the face of a really difficult historical reality.
In an article he wrote some years later, he predicted that future generations of Americans would come to share his feelings: “Now considered unworthy of notice by anyone, except fanatical abolitionists, these acts of sublime heroism, of lofty self-sacrifice, of patient martyrdom, these beautiful Providences, these hair-breadth escapes, and these terrible dangers, will yet become the themes of popular literature in this country, and will excite the admiration, the reverence Fortunately, McKim’s forecast came true quite quickly.
- After first appearing in our collective imagination in the eighteen-forties, the Underground Railroad quickly became a cornerstone of both national history and local tradition.
- WGN America broadcasted the first season of the drama “Underground,” which chronicles the lives of a gang of slaves known as the Macon Seven as they leave a Georgia farm in the early 1900s.
- “Passages to Freedom,” an anthology of writings about the Underground Railroad, was compiled by Yale historian David Blight in 2004.
- The Railroad’s operations in New York City were chronicled in “Gateway to Freedom,” which was released last year by Eric Foner, a Columbia historian.
- Tubman is the subject of a forthcoming HBO biopic, and the United States Treasury announced earlier this year that she will be featured on the twenty-dollar note starting in the next ten years.
- For more than a decade, the National Park Service has worked to establish a Network to Freedom, a nationwide network of Underground Railroad sites that are both officially recognized and locally administered.
- The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park will be dedicated in March of the following year.
Our respect, reverence, and outrage were all expressed by McKim with the expectation that these stories would elicit our response.
It’s unclear who came up with the phrase.
At the conclusion of a decade during which railways had come to symbolize wealth and development and three thousand miles of real track had been constructed throughout the country, it made its first appearance in print in an abolitionist journal in 1839.
Both of these characteristics are exploited by Colson Whitehead in his latest work, which consciously does what nearly every young child studying our history does naively: adopting the phrase “Underground Railroad” literally.
It was the psychically active elevators in Whitehead’s outstanding debut novel, “The Intuitionist,” that first indicated his fondness for magical architecture.
The method that he used before in “The Underground Railroad” is more or less reversed in “The Underground Railroad.” As an alternative to infusing mystique into a mass-produced box, he transforms our most emotive national metaphor into a mechanical device.
The Underground Railroad is one of Whitehead’s primary concerns in this book, and he wants to discover how it truly operated, at what cost, and for whom, among other things.
For more than a decade in the late nineteenth century, when many parents of Civil War dead were still alive to mourn the loss of their children and former slaves still outnumbered freeborn African-Americans, Siebert sought information about their efforts to assist fugitive slaves from slavery from surviving abolitionists or their kinsmen.
- An abolitionist group working undercover (through tunnels, trapdoors, and hidden passageways) and using covert methods (lanterns placed in windows and quilts hung on laundry lines) to assist enslaved African-Americans in their journey to freedom is depicted in that image.
- In that narrative, like in so many others we tell about our country’s history, the truth is in a precarious relationship with the truth: not quite incorrect, but oversimplified; not quite mythical, but overmythologized; in short, not quite true.
- Furthermore, even the most active abolitionists spent just a small portion of their time on clandestine adventures involving packing boxes and other such contraptions; instead, they focused on important but routine chores like as fund-raising, teaching, and legal help, among other things.
- Similarly, the theory that travelers on the Underground Railroad communicated with one another through the use of quilts dates back to the 1980s, and has no apparent foundation (thenineteen -eighties).
No one denies that white abolitionists were involved in the Underground Railroad; nevertheless, following researchers contended that Siebert overstated both the number of white abolitionists and the importance of their involvement, while underplaying or neglecting the role performed by African-Americans.
- However, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded in 1816 in direct response to American racism and the institution of slavery, receives little mainstream attention.
- Individuals, as much as institutions, are affected by this unbalanced perception.
- His book on the subject, published a quarter of a century before Siebert’s, was based on detailed notes he kept while assisting 639 fugitives on their journey to freedom.
- When it comes to anti-slavery campaigners, the risk they endured is inversely proportionate to the amount of credit they are given.
- A handful were slain, some died in prison, and others escaped to Canada because they were facing imprisonment or worse.
Those, however, were the outliers. Most whites were subjected to just penalties and the disapproval of some members of their society, whilst those who resided in anti-slavery strongholds, as many did, were able to go about their business with little to no consequence.
The Fugitive Slave Acts
The crate arrived one spring evening in 1849, via the overland express. In Richmond, Virginia, it had been packed the previous morning. It had been transported to the Adams Express Company’s local office by horse-drawn cart the following day. When it arrived at the railroad depot, it was loaded onto a train and then transferred to a steamer, where it was placed upside down despite the label stating “THIS SIDE UP WITH CARE.” A tired passenger eventually tipped it over and used it as a seat. After arriving in the nation’s capital, it was loaded onto a wagon, dumped out at the train station, loaded onto a luggage car, sent on to Philadelphia, unloaded onto another wagon, and finally delivered to 31 North Fifth Street.
- It was a man named Henry Brown who walked out of the box when he opened it.
- Illustration by Leigh GuldigMcKim, a white abolitionist with the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, had by then been working for the Underground Railroad for more than a decade, and he was amazed by the heroism and drama of Brown’s escape, as well as those of others like it.
- Beginning in the 1840s, the Underground Railroad has been a pillar of both national history and local folklore.
- This year alone has seen the publishing of two significant Railroad books, including Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” which was selected by Oprah for her first book club selection in more than a year (Doubleday).
- Nonfiction authors, like fiction writers, have recently returned to the subject.
- Also in the last year, Eric Foner, a Columbia University historian, published a book titled “Gateway to Freedom,” which details the Railroad’s operations in New York City.
- Tubman is the subject of a forthcoming HBO biopic, and the United States Treasury confirmed earlier this year that she will feature on the twenty-dollar note starting in the next decade.
- Since 1998, the National Park Service has been attempting to establish a Network to Freedom, a nationwide network of Underground Railroad sites that are both officially recognized and locally administered.
- That there has been such a surge in interest implies that we have collectively realized what McKim had long ago: that the stories of people who left slavery and those who assisted them in their journey to freedom are among the most compelling in our nation’s history.
However, as more recent research has demonstrated, they should also arouse our curiosity and skepticism: about how the Underground Railroad actually functioned, why stories about it have such a consistent effect on us, and what they teach us—or prevent us from learning—about ourselves and our country.
Some believe it was the work of a thwarted slave owner, while others believe it was the work of a fugitive slave.
Frederick Douglass used the term in his autobiography in 1845, where he laments that indiscreet abolitionists are turning it into “anuppergroundrailroad,” and Harriet Beecher Stowe used it in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852, when one slave-catcher warns another not to delay pursuit of a fugitive “until the gal’s been carried on the underground line.” By the following year, the Times was reporting that the name had “came into extremely broad usage to indicate the organized arrangements made in various regions of the country to help fugitives from slavery.” Rarely has our national vernacular gained a term that is as enticing to the imagination as it is susceptible to misunderstanding.
- Colson Whitehead’s latest novel takes use of both of these characteristics by doing consciously what practically every young child learning about our history does naively: using the phrase “Underground Railroad” literally.
- Whitehead has a fondness for magical infrastructure, which was initially apparent in his outstanding debut novel, “The Intuitionist,” through the use of psychically active elevators.
- In “The Underground Railroad,” he essentially reverses the strategy he used before.
- It is a wise option, since it serves as a reminder that no metaphor has ever brought someone to freedom.
- Wilbur Siebert, a historian at Ohio State University, was the first to pose those problems in a comprehensive and methodical manner.
- The resultant book, “The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom,” was published in 1898 and presented a network of more than three thousand anti-slavery activists, the most of whom were white, who assisted in the transportation of mainly nameless runaways to freedom.
In that image, a clandestine organization of abolitionists—many of whom were Quakers or otherwise motivated by religious ideals—used covert methods (tunnels, trapdoors, concealed passageways) and secret signals (lanterns set in windows, quilts hung on laundry lines) to assist in the transportation of enslaved African-Americans to freedom.
In the first place, far from being a centrally structured system, the Underground Railroad was what we may today refer to as an emergent system: it emerged through the acts of individuals and small organizations, many of whom were unaware of the presence of one another.
Moreover, while fugitives did frequently need to disguise themselves en way to freedom, the majority of their hiding spots were unexceptional and haphazard—haylofts and spare bedrooms, bogs and caves, rather than custom underground caverns constructed by underground engineers.
The alleged importance of textiles and architecture in antebellum activism isn’t very significant; nevertheless, other inaccuracies in Siebert’s narrative are.
In terms of religious groups, the Quakers, for example, are generally credited with the most success in the fight against slavery, with secondary recognition going to the wave of evangelical Christianity that spread across the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century, in what is known as the Second Great Awakening movement.
The church played at least as important a role in raising funds, assisting fugitives, and assisting former slaves who had found their way to freedom in establishing a new life.
Many people are familiar with William Lloyd Garrison, one of the country’s most prominent white anti-slavery activists, but few are familiar with black abolitionist William Still, one of the most effective operators and most important historians of the Underground Railroad, whose book about it, published a quarter of a century before Siebert’s, was based on detailed notes he kept while assisting 639 fugitives on their way to freedom.
Similarly, more people are familiar with the name Levi Coffin, a white Midwestern Quaker, than they are with the name Louis Napoleon, a freeborn black abolitionist, despite the fact that both men sacrificed their lives in order to bring thousands of fugitives to safety.
The act of publicly opposing slavery required great courage practically everywhere in antebellum America, and some white abolitionists paid a heavy price for their efforts.
These were the exceptions, though. Most whites were subjected to just penalties and the disapproval of some members of their society, whilst those who resided in anti-slavery strongholds, as many did, were able to go about their business with little or no consequence.
Motivation of Freedom Seekers
Time period, geographic location, kind of agriculture or industry, size of the slaveholding unit, urban vs rural environment, and even the temperament and financial stability of the enslaver all influenced the degree to which people were enslaved. All of these experiences have one thing in common: the dehumanization of both the victim and the oppressor as a result of the demands of a system that treats human beings as property rather than as individuals. This element, probably more than any other, helps to explain why some people opted to escape and why their owners were frequently taken aback by their actions.
Many people were able to flee because they had access to knowledge and abilities, including reading, which gave them an advantage.
The slaves rebelled despite the fact that the slavery system was intended to train them to accept it.
Geography of the Underground Railroad
Wherever there were enslaved African Americans, there were those who were desperate to get away. Slavery existed in all of the original thirteen colonies, as well as in Spanish California, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as in all of the Caribbean islands, until the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and the British abolition of slavery brought an end to slavery in the United States (1834). The Underground Railroad had its beginnings at the site of enslavement in the United States. The routes followed natural and man-made forms of movement, including rivers, canals, bays, the Atlantic Coast, ferries and river crossings, as well as roads and trails and other infrastructure.
Freedom seekers used their inventiveness to devise disguises, forgeries, and other techniques, drawing on their courage and brains in the process.
Commemoration of Underground Railroad History
Commemoration may only take place if local Underground Railroad figures and events have been discovered and documented. Primary materials, such as letters from the time period, court testimony, or newspaper articles, are used to verify the historical record. Education and preservation of the public are the following steps, which will be accomplished through the preservation of major locations, the use of authentic history in heritage tourism and educational programs, museum and touring exhibits, and commemorative sculpture.
Whenever a site has been paved over, changed, or reconstructed, a pamphlet, walking tour, school curriculum, road marker, or plaque might be used to educate the public about the significance of the location.
A local festival might be organized to bring the history of the area to the attention of the general public.
Uncovering Underground Railroad History
Despite years of assertions that the Underground Railroad’s history was shrouded in secrecy, local historians, genealogists, oral historians, and other researchers have discovered that primary sources describing the flight to freedom of many enslaved African Americans have survived to the present day. It is becoming clearer that the slaves were determined to pursue their own and their families’ freedom, as evidenced by court documents, memoirs of conductors and freedom seekers, letters, runaway advertisements in newspapers, and military records.
A lot of the time, no one has been able to piece together the parts of freedom seekers’ narrative by looking at their starting and ending locations, let alone the moments in between.
Anthony Burns is a writer who lives in New York City.
Unknown Underground Railroad Heroes
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known as the “Moses of her people,” and Frederick Douglass, a freedom seeker who rose to become the greatest African American leader of his time, are two of the most well-known figures linked with the Underground Railroad. Both were from the state of Maryland. Those seeking freedom, on the other hand, came from every part of the world where slavery was legalized, even the northern colonies. Harriet Jacobs arrived from North Carolina, where she had spent the previous seven years hidden in her grandmother’s attic.
- Louis and journeyed 700 miles until she reached Canada, where she sought sanctuary.
- Lewis Hayden, his wife, and their kid were able to flee from slavery in Kentucky to freedom in Ohio thanks to the assistance of Delia Webster and Calvin Fairbanks.
- Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black businesswoman from San Francisco, took in a fugitive named Archy Lee and hosted him in her house, setting the stage for an important state court case.
- Coffin and Rankin are two white clergymen from the Midwest who aided freedom seekers in their efforts to gain their independence.
- Residents of Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, both black and white, stood up to slave hunters and refused to allow them to return John Price to his servitude in the state of Kentucky.
- Charles Torrey, Leonard Grimes, and Jacob Bigelow were among the members of a multiracial network in Washington, D.C., who worked for years to assist individuals like as Ann Marie Weems, the Edmondson sisters, and Garland White in their quest for freedom.
William and Ellen Craft managed to flee over one thousand miles from Georgia to Boston by putting on a convincing disguise.
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
In addition to coordinating preservation and education efforts across the country, the National Park Service Underground Railroad program integrates local historical sites, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of community, regional, and national stories. The Network also seeks to foster contact and collaboration between scholars and other interested parties, as well as to help in the formation of statewide organizations dedicated to the preservation and investigation of Underground Railroad locations.
In addition to coordinating preservation and education efforts across the country, the National Park Service Underground Railroad program integrates local historical sites, museums, and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad into a mosaic of local, regional, and national stories. As well as facilitating contact between scholars and interested parties, the Network contributes to the establishment of statewide organizations dedicated to the preservation and investigation of Underground Railroad locations.
When the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery was passed, a clause specified that any enslaved person who made it to Upper Canada would be declared free upon arrival. In response to this, a limited number of enslaved African Americans in quest of freedom were urged to enter Canada, mostly on their own. During and after the War of 1812, word traveled even further that independence was possible in Canada. The enslaved slaves of US military commanders in the South carried news back to the North that there were free “Black men in red coats” in British North America, which was confirmed by the British.
It gave slavecatchers the authority to track down fugitives in northern states.
This underground network of abolitionists was established in the early nineteenth century, with the majority of its members being based in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Within a few decades, it had developed into a well-organized and vibrant network of organizations. The phrase “Underground Railroad” first appeared in the 1830s and has been in use ever since. It had already begun to take shape at that point, an informal covert network to assist escaping slaves. The Underground Railroad was not a real train, and it did not operate on actual railroad rails like other railroads.
abolitionists who were devoted to human rights and equality were responsible for keeping the network running.
Its members comprised free Blacks, fellow enslaved individuals, White and Indigenous supporters, Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists, residents of urban centers and farmers, men and women, from all over the world (including the United States and Canada).
Symbols and Codes
In order to conceal the clandestine actions of the network, railroad language and symbols were employed. This also assisted in keeping the general public and slaveholders in the dark. Escaped slaves were referred to as “conductors” by those who assisted them on their voyage. It was their job to guide fugitives via the Underground Railroad’s routes, which included numerous kinds of transit on land and sea. Harriet Tubman was one of the most well-known conductors in history. The names “passengers,” “cargo,” “package,” and “freight” all referred to fugitive slaves on their way to freedom.
Terminals, which were stations located in numerous cities and towns, were referred to as “terminals.” Occasionally, lighted candles in windows or strategically positioned lanterns in the front yard may be used to identify these ephemeral havens of safety.
“Station masters” were in charge of running the safe houses. They welcomed fugitives into their house and gave them with meals, a change of clothing, and a safe haven to rest and hide from the authorities. Prior to delivering them to the next transfer location, they would frequently give them money. WilliamStill, a black abolitionist who lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was in command of a station there. He accompanied a large number of freedom seekers on their way to Canada. He kept a list of the men, women, and children that came to his station, including Tubman and her passengers, and he transcribed their names.
- He was the owner and operator of a radio station in Syracuse, New York.
- Catharines, both in Upper Canada, from 1837 until 1841, when he decided to permanently move there.
- A large number of women worked as station masters as well.
- A large number of other women worked alongside their spouses to own radio stations.
“Ticket agents” assisted freedom-seekers in coordinating safe excursions and making travel arrangements by putting them in touch with station masters or conductors, among other things. It was not uncommon for ticket agents to be people who traveled for a living, such as circuit preachers or physicians, to work. They were able to hide their abolitionist operations as a result of this. Among those who served on the Underground Railroad were doctors such as Alexander Milton Ross (born in Belleville).
He also gave them with a few basic items so that they could get started on their escape. Stockholders were those who made contributions of money or materials to help in the emancipation of slaves.
Ways to the Promised Land
“Lines” were the names given to the pathways that people took in order to reach freedom. In total, 14 northern states and two British North American colonies — Upper Canada and Lower Canada — were connected by the network of roads. At the end of the line lay “heaven,” also known as “the Promised Land,” which was undeveloped land in Canada or the Northern United States. A nod to the Big Dipper constellation, which points to the North Star and serves as a navigational aid for freedom-seekers seeking their way north, “the drinking gourd” was a reference to the Big Dipper.
A large number of people undertook the perilous journey on foot.
The Underground Railroad, on the other hand, did not simply operate on land.
They traveled at night and slept throughout the day on a regular basis.
The Canadian Terminus
During the last decades of enslavement in the United States, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 freedom seekers crossed the border into Canada. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 fugitives entered the Province of Canada between 1850 and 1860 alone. Because of this, it became the primary terminal for the Underground Railroad. The immigrants settled in various sections of what is now the province of Ontario. Among these were Niagara Falls, Buxton, Chatham, Owen Sound, Windsor, Sandwich (now a part of Windsor), Hamilton, Brantford, London, Oakville, and Toronto.
- Following this huge migration, Black Canadians assisted in the creation of strong communities and made significant contributions to the development of the provinces in where they lived and worked.
- The Provincial Freeman newspaper published a thorough report of a specific case in its publication.
- They were on the lookout for a young man by the name of Joseph Alexander.
- Alexandra was present among the throngs of people and had a brief verbal encounter with his previous owner.
- The guys were forced to flee town after the mob refused to allow them to steal Alexander’s possessions.
The Underground Railroad functioned until the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibited slavery, was ratified in 1865. Freedom-seekers, free Blacks, and descendants of Black Loyalists settled throughout British North America during the American Revolutionary War. It is possible that some of them resided in all-Black colonies, such as the Elgin Settlement and the Buxton Mission in Ontario, the Queen’s Bush Settlement and the DawnSettlement near Dresden in Ontario, as well as Birchtown and Africaville in Nova Scotia, although this is not certain.
Early African Canadian settlers were hardworking and forward-thinking members of society.
Religious, educational, social, and cultural institutions, political groupings, and community-building organizations were all founded by black people in the United States.
(See, for example, Mary Ann Shadd.) African-American men and women held and contributed to a diverse variety of skills and abilities during the time period of the Underground Railroad.
They also owned and operated saw companies, frozen food distributors, livery stables, pharmacies, herbal treatment services and carpentry firms.
Black people took an active role in the struggle for racial equality.
In their communities, they waged war on the prejudice and discrimination they met in their daily lives in Canada by getting meaningful jobs, securing homes, and ensuring that their children received an education.
Many people were refused the right to dwell in particular neighborhoods because of their color.
Through publications, conferences, and other public activities, such as Emancipation Day celebrations, Black groups expressed their opposition to racial prejudice and worked to make society a better place for everyone.
Beginning with their search for independence, security, wealth, and human rights, early Black colonists worked to create a better life for themselves, their descendents, and their fellow citizens in the United States.
In addition, see: Underground Railroad (Plain Language Summary); Black Enslavement in Canada (Plain Language Summary); Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada; Anti-slavery Society of Canada; Josiah Henson; Albert Jackson; Richard Pierpoint; and Editorial: Black Female Freedom Fighters (in English and French).