(Actual underground railroads did not exist until 1863.) According to John Rankin, “It was so called because they who took passage on it disappeared from public view as really as if they had gone into the ground. After the fugitive slaves entered a depot on that road no trace of them could be found.
Is the Underground Railroad based on fact?
Adapted from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-award-winning novel, The Underground Railroad is based on harrowing true events. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the new Amazon Prime series is a loyal adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name.
What are two facts about the Underground Railroad?
10 Things To Know About The Underground Railroad
- 1831 was the first time the term “Underground Railroad” was used.
- But Quakers had been operating escape routes for decades.
- Laws in the 18th and 19th Century forced these secret operations for freedom.
- Deciding to run was an illegal and fateful decision.
Does the Underground Railroad still exist?
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.
Was there an Underground Railroad during slavery?
During the era of slavery, the Underground Railroad was a network of routes, places, and people that helped enslaved people in the American South escape to the North. The name “Underground Railroad” was used metaphorically, not literally.
Why was it called the Underground Railroad?
(Actual underground railroads did not exist until 1863.) According to John Rankin, “It was so called because they who took passage on it disappeared from public view as really as if they had gone into the ground. After the fugitive slaves entered a depot on that road no trace of them could be found.
Why was the Underground Railroad created?
The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. Involvement with the Underground Railroad was not only dangerous, but it was also illegal. So, to help protect themselves and their mission secret codes were created.
Was the Underground Railroad 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. The Underground Railroad of history was simply a loose network of safe houses and top secret routes to states where slavery was banned.
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.
How many runaway slaves were there?
Approximately 100,000 American slaves escaped to freedom.
How many slaves died trying to escape?
At least 2 million Africans –10 to 15 percent–died during the infamous “Middle Passage” across the Atlantic. Another 15 to 30 percent died during the march to or confinement along the coast. Altogether, for every 100 slaves who reached the New World, another 40 had died in Africa or during the Middle Passage.
What role did the Underground Railroad play?
The Underground Railroad provided hiding places, food, and often transportation for the fugitives who were trying to escape slavery. Along the way, people also provided directions for the safest way to get further north on the dangerous journey to freedom.
How successful was the Underground Railroad?
Ironically the Fugitive Slave Act increased Northern opposition to slavery and helped hasten the Civil War. The Underground Railroad gave freedom to thousands of enslaved women and men and hope to tens of thousands more. In both cases the success of the Underground Railroad hastened the destruction of slavery.
The True History Behind Amazon Prime’s ‘Underground Railroad’
If you want to know what this country is all about, I always say, you have to ride the rails,” the train’s conductor tells Cora, the fictitious protagonist of Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novelThe Underground Railroad, as she walks into a boxcar destined for the North. As you race through, take a look about you to see the genuine face of America.” Cora’s vision is limited to “just blackness, mile after mile,” according to Whitehead, as she peers through the carriage’s slats. In the course of her traumatic escape from servitude, the adolescent eventually understands that the conductor’s remark was “a joke.
Cora and Caesar, a young man enslaved on the same Georgia plantation as her, are on their way to liberation when they encounter a dark other world in which they use the railroad to go to freedom.
” The Underground Railroad,” a ten-part limited series premiering this week on Amazon Prime Video, is directed by Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins and is based on the renowned novel by Alfred North Whitehead.
When it comes to portraying slavery, Jenkins takes a similar approach to Whitehead’s in the series’ source material.
“And as a result, I believe their individuality has been preserved,” Jenkins says Felix.
The consequences of their actions are being inflicted upon them.” Here’s all you need to know about the historical backdrop that informs both the novel and the streaming adaptation of “The Underground Railroad,” which will premiere on May 14th.
Did Colson Whitehead baseThe Underground Railroadon a true story?
“The reality of things,” in Whitehead’s own words, is what he aims to portray in his work, not “the facts.” His characters are entirely made up, and the story of the book, while based on historical facts, is told in an episodic style, as is the case with most episodic fiction. This book traces Cora’s trek to freedom, describing her lengthy trip from Georgia to the Carolinas, Tennessee and Indiana.) Each step of the journey presents a fresh set of hazards that are beyond Cora’s control, and many of the people she meets suffer horrible ends.) What distinguishes The Underground Railroad from previous works on the subject is its presentation of the titular network as a physical rather than a figurative transportation mechanism.
According to Whitehead, who spoke to NPR in 2016, this alteration was prompted by his “childhood belief” that the Underground Railroad was a “literal tunnel beneath the earth”—a misperception that is surprisingly widespread.
Webber Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons While the Underground Railroad was composed of “local networks of anti-slavery people,” both Black and white, according to Pulitzer Prize–winning historianEric Foner, the Underground Railroad actually consisted of “local networks of anti-slavery people, both Black and white, who assisted fugitives in various ways,” from raising funds for the abolitionist cause to taking cases to court to concealing runaways in safe houses.
Although the actual origins of the name are unknown, it was in widespread usage by the early 1840s.
Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, argues that the Underground Railroad should be referred to as the “Abolitionist Underground” rather than the “Underground Railroad” because the people who ran it “were not just ordinary, well-meaning Northern white citizens, activists, particularly in the free Black community,” she says.
As Foner points out, however, “the majority of the initiative, and the most of the danger, fell on the shoulders of African-Americans who were fleeing.” a portrait taken in 1894 of Harriet Jacobs, who managed to hide in an attic for nearly seven years after fleeing from slavery.
Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons “Recognizable historical events and patterns,” according to Foner, are used by Whitehead in a way that is akin to that of the late Toni Morrison.
According to Sinha, these effects may be seen throughout Cora’s journey.
According to Foner, author of the 2015 bookGateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, “the more you know about this history, the more you can appreciate what Whitehead is doing in fusing the past and the present, or perhaps fusing the history of slavery with what happened after the end of slavery.”
What time period doesThe Underground Railroadcover?
Caesar (Aaron Pierre) and Cora (Thuso Mbedu) believe they’ve discovered a safe haven in South Carolina, but their new companions’ behaviors are based on a belief in white supremacy, as seen by their deeds. Kyle Kaplan is a producer at Amazon Studios. The Underground Railroad takes place around the year 1850, which coincides with the adoption of the Fugitive Slave Act. Runaways who had landed in free states were targeted by severe regulations, and those who supported them were subjected to heavy punishments.
In spite of the fact that it was intended to hinder the Underground Railroad, according to Foner and Sinha, the legislation actually galvanized—and radicalized—the abolitionist cause.
“Every time the individual switches to a different condition, the novel restarts,” the author explains in his introduction.
” Cora’s journey to freedom is replete with allusions to pivotal moments in post-emancipation history, ranging from the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in the mid-20th century to white mob attacks on prosperous Black communities in places like Wilmington, North Carolina (targeted in 1898), and Tulsa, Oklahoma (targeted in 1898).
According to Spencer Crew, former president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and emeritus director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, this “chronological jumble” serves as a reminder that “the abolition of slavery does not herald the abolition of racism and racial attacks.” This problem has survived in many forms, with similar effects on the African American community,” says the author.
What real-life events doesThe Underground Railroaddramatize?
In Whitehead’s envisioned South Carolina, abolitionists provide newly liberated people with education and work opportunities, at least on the surface of things. However, as Cora and Caesar quickly discover, their new companions’ conviction in white superiority is in stark contrast to their kind words. (Eugenicists and proponents of scientific racism frequently articulated opinions that were similar to those espoused by these fictitious characters in twentieth-century America.) An inebriated doctor, while conversing with a white barkeep who moonlights as an Underground Railroad conductor, discloses a plan for his African-American patients: I believe that with targeted sterilization, initially for the women, then later for both sexes, we might liberate them from their bonds without worry that they would slaughter us in our sleep.
- “Controlled sterilization, research into communicable diseases, the perfecting of new surgical techniques on the socially unfit—was it any wonder that the best medical talents in the country were flocking to South Carolina?” the doctor continues.
- The state joined the Union in 1859 and ended slavery inside its borders, but it specifically incorporated the exclusion of Black people from its borders into its state constitution, which was finally repealed in the 1920s.
- In this image from the mid-20th century, a Tuskegee patient is getting his blood taken.
- There is a ban on black people entering the state, and any who do so—including the numerous former slaves who lack the financial means to flee—are murdered in weekly public rituals.
- The plot of land, which is owned by a free Black man called John Valentine, is home to a thriving community of runaways and free Black people who appear to coexist harmoniously with white residents on the property.
- An enraged mob of white strangers destroys the farm on the eve of a final debate between the two sides, destroying it and slaughtering innocent onlookers.
- There is a region of blackness in this new condition.” Approximately 300 people were killed when white Tulsans demolished the thriving Black enclave of Greenwood in 1921.
- Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons According to an article published earlier this year by Tim Madigan for Smithsonianmagazine, a similar series of events took place in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, which was known locally as “Black Wall Street,” in June 1921.
- Madigan pointed out that the slaughter was far from an isolated incident: “In the years preceding up to 1921, white mobs murdered African Americans on hundreds of instances in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Duluth, Charleston, and other places,” according to the article.
In addition, Foner explains that “he’s presenting you the variety of options,” including “what freedom may actually entail, or are the constraints on freedom coming after slavery?” “It’s about. the legacy of slavery, and the way slavery has twisted the entire civilization,” says Foner of the film.
How doesThe Underground Railroadreflect the lived experience of slavery?
In Whitehead’s envisioned South Carolina, abolitionists provide newly liberated individuals with education and work opportunities, at least on the surface of the page. However, as Cora and Caesar quickly discover, their new companions’ conviction in racial superiority is in stark contrast to the words they had said with such sweetness. The opinions conveyed by these fictional characters are reminiscent of those voiced by eugenicists and proponents of scientific racism in twentieth-century America.
- “Controlled sterilization, research into communicable diseases, the perfecting of new surgical techniques on the socially unfit—was it any surprise that the best medical talent in the country was flocking to South Carolina?” the doctor continues.
- The state joined the Union in 1859 and ended slavery inside its boundaries, but it also clearly inscribed the exclusion of Black people on its state constitution, which was only repealed in the 1920s after decades of resistance.
- In this image from the mid-20th century, a Tuskegee patient is shown having his blood taken.
- In the novel The Underground Railroad, white immigrants undertake the jobs previously performed by enslaved people in North Carolina, working off the debts incurred by their “journey, tools, and accommodation” as indentured slaves before claiming their rightful position in American culture.
According to the railroad conductor who conceals Cora in his attic, the “Freedom Trail,” a path paved with the remains of slain Black people, stretches “as far as there are bodies to feed it.” After narrowly evading the slave catcher Ridgeway at the conclusion of the tale, Cora decides to settle on a farm in Indiana.
Tensions soon rise to a boiling point, with residents disagreeing on whether they should continue to harbor fugitives at great risk to the rest of the community, or whether they should “put an end to relations with the railroad, the endless stream of needy, and ensure the longevity of the farm,” as one resident puts it.
According to Whitehead’s book, “Cora had grown to adore the improbable riches of the Valentine farm to such an extent that she’d forgotten how impossible they were.” It was too vast and too successful for the farm and the nearby ones run by colored interests.” An island of darkness in the midst of a newly created state.” In 1921, white Tulsans demolished the rich Black enclave of Greenwood, murdering over 300 individuals, according to historical estimates.
Attack on an Indiana farm is depicted in detail in the novel The Underground Railroad.
When a similar series of events transpired in the Greenwood area of Tulsa in June 1921 (also known as “Black Wall Street,” as described by Tim Madigan for Smithsonianmagazine earlier this year), it was a cause for celebration.
Moreover, as Madigan pointed out, the slaughter was not an isolated incident: The New York Times reports that “in the years preceding up to 1921, white mobs murdered African Americans on hundreds of instances in cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Duluth, Charleston, and other places.” As Sinha points out, Whitehead’s inclusion of incidents that occurred after the abolition of slavery serves to highlight the institution’s “pernicious and far-reaching tendrils.” In addition, Foner explains that “he’s showing you the variety of options,” including “what freedom may actually mean, or are the constraints on freedom coming after slavery.” “It’s about.
the legacy of slavery, and the way slavery has perverted the entire civilization,” says Foner of the film.
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.
‘The Underground Railroad’ Takes Liberties — But It’s More Fact Than Fiction
The winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is now available to watch on a screen near you via Netflix. It’s impossible not to be excited about the adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad into a limited series on Amazon Prime Video, which will premiere in the fall. What makes the novel so compelling is Whitehead’s imaginative take on the antebellum American South—but Whitehead’s magical realism may cause some readers (and now viewers) to wonder how much of The Underground Railroad is based on real history.
- Here’s all you need to know about the situation.
- This epic trip through the United States in quest of freedom is chronicled in The Underground Railroad, which follows Cora, a woman born into slavery on a Georgia farm, as she embarks on her journey.
- Cora is joined by a variety of companions, including Lovey and Caesar.
- The Underground Railroad, a Prime Video original film directed by Moonlight writer-director Barry Jenkins, is currently streaming on the service.
- Here’s everything you need to know about The Underground Railroad’s historical accuracy and fiction:
The Underground Railroad
So, let’s start with the actual railroad system. Although it’s widely known today, the real-life Underground Railroad was an interconnected network of white and BIPOC abolitionists — some of whom had been enslaved themselves — who collaborated to smuggle runaways from Southern plantations to free states, the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as Canada. The conductors of the railroad would conceal Black fugitives at “stations,” which included houses, churches, and businesses, and discreetly move them to the next station as soon as time and safety permitted.
With this history in mind, Whitehead’s novel transforms the real-life Underground Railroad into a true subway system, with routes connecting the southernmost states of the United States to Canada.
For its conductors and passengers, Whitehead’s Railroad is as hazardous for Cora and her companions as the real-life routes were for enslaved people and those who assisted them in their emancipation.
During the Underground Railroad, the slave catcher who was hired to bring Cora back to the Randall farm plays an important role. Ridgeway was unable to locate Cora’s mother, Mabel, after she escaped from Randall, and he sees Cora’s recovery as an opportunity to make up for his previous mistakes. He is introduced immediately after Cora and Caesar begin their journey north, and he catches Cora on multiple occasions throughout the novel, finally stopping when she abandons him to die on an Underground Railroad platform in Indiana at the end of the story.
Among the features of that system were organized and armed nightly patrols, as well as legal responsibilities for white residents to hold and report any unknown Black person they came across.
As a result, the slave patrol system paved the way for the post-Civil War rise of the Ku Klux Klan — who figure in The Underground Railroad as the night riders Cora sees in North Carolina — and for the establishment of police agencies across the country.
The history of South Carolina is intricately intertwined with the history of slavery in the United States of America. Early American slave trade routes passed via Charleston, South Carolina, which served as a major hub for the kidnapping, purchasing, and selling of Black and Indigenous people. It was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it has been in operation as the Old Slave Mart Museum since 2007. The Old Slave Mart Museum is housed in Charleston’s Old Slave Mart, which is commonly thought to be the only remaining slave auction site in the state.
- When it joined the Confederacy in February 1861, it was the location of the opening fight of the United States Civil War, which took place in April of that year when the South Carolina militia opened fire on Union forces stationed at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor.
- Upon arriving at their first station on the railroad, Cora and Caesar are surprised to discover that the state government has purchased all enslaved people and provided them with paying jobs, housing and medical treatment.
- Although the living circumstances of enslaved people in the novel’s depiction of South Carolina aren’t based on truth, all of the atrocities committed against Black people in the state are.
- The alternative to living without, as many of her new neighbors have chosen, is to take on debt in the form of “scrip,” which was a primitive type of shop credit that was popular in the 1800s.
- In South Carolina’s working class, textile mills were a major employment from the late nineteenth century through the mid-20th century, especially during the Great Depression.
- What was left over was almost never provided to them in cash.
- As a result of finding that the state of South Carolina is forcefully sterilizing Black people and utilizing them for medical research, Cora resolves to flee.
- The statute that made such sterilizations possible remained on the books until 1985, and South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges issued a public apology for “decades of sorrow and anguish inflicted by eugenics” in 2003, according to the Associated Press.
- The Post and Courier reported in 2017 that Dr.
J. Marion Sims, dubbed “South Carolina’s most infamous physician” for his experiments on enslaved women in the 1840s, performed up to 30 unanesthetized vaginal surgeries on each of his victims and kept them at his makeshift hospital for the duration of their treatment, which could last for years.
North Carolina, on the other hand, is a very different story, where being Black has been rendered functionally illegal as a result of a combination of legislative and extralegal efforts. In order to escape being discovered by night riders—white proto-Klansmen who prowl the streets in search of Black people to harass, abuse, and even murder—she is forced to take refuge in the attic of a white couple’s home. In the 1860 census, there were 30,000 free Black people residing in North Carolina, second only to the population of neighboring Virginia, which had 58,000 free Black people.
However, the state soon passed sweeping restrictions to control when a slaveholder could free an enslaved person.
During the first year after the conclusion of the Civil War, former Confederate states began drafting “Black codes,” which were a collection of legislation that restricted the rights of African-Americans.
The Thirteenth Amendment permitted — and continues to permit — governments to compel jailed prisoners to work for no compensation.
Cora’s adventures in Indiana begin in ideal fashion, as she finds herself in a tiny community of free Black people, led by a white-passing farmer who assists Cora in mending fences with the white population. Tragic events unfold as the commune is the target of a terrorist attack that results in the death of Cora’s love interest, Royal, and her subsequent captivity by Ridgeway. Although Indiana abolished slavery in 1820 and subsequently fought for the Union during the Civil War, the state retained a majority-white population during the ensuing century.
Despite the fact that Catholics were the primary target of the Indiana Klan, the KKK remained a white supremacist organization, even in states that had previously been part of the Union.
According to James H. Madison of Indiana University, a Klan member’s so-called “100 percent American identity” depended on their being a white, native-born, English-speaking Protestant who was raised in the United States.
The final time Cora emerges from the Underground Railroad is when she encounters Ollie, a Black wagon driver who offers her a ride. Cora accepts his offer. Thousands of African-Americans moved to California between 1850 and 1860, with 2,000 of them “settling in San Francisco and Sacramento, establishing the first English-speaking Black urban communities in the Far West,” according to In Motion. Ollie, like many Black Americans during the mid-19th century, is headed for California, which experienced an influx of 4,000 Black migrants between 1850 and 1860.
The Underground Railroad is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.
‘Their stories need to be told’: the true story behind The Underground Railroad
Don’t be deceived by the railway carriage’s appearance. A railroad museum may be situated within one, however the content of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum has nothing to do with railroads. Its original origins may be traced across the street to the Pamlico River, which was formerly utilized as a route of escape by enslaved African Americans seeking freedom in the 19th century. The museum’s cofounder and executive director, Leesa Jones, explains that after reading a slew of documents and old slave ads from Washington newspapers that would say things like, “My slave has escaped, they’re going to try to get to Washington in order to board a ship to get to their freedom,” they realized that they wanted to tell an accurate story about how freedom seekers left from the Washington waterfront.
- Jones points out that the first misconception many have about the underground railroad is that it was a system of subterranean trains, tunnels, and platforms that branched out like the London Underground or the New York subway.
- There actually existed a network of hidden routes and safe homes that thousands of enslaved persons used to travel from the southern United States to the free states and Canada during the early and mid-19th centuries.
- The Underground Railroad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead published in 2016, examined the divide between the real and the metaphorical by reimagining genuine trains booming beneath the soil.
- However, in addition to depicting cotton fields, plantations, and forests, it is as effective in depicting subterranean steam trains that provide a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
- I don’t want a blue screen of death.
- It had everything to do with the time, the place, and the fact that they were chatting in code.
- For example, a depot may have been anything other than a railroad station; it could have been a graveyard, a river, a barn, or a location in the woods.
As a result, individuals were free to talk about it, and those who overheard the conversation may have assumed they were talking about a railroad line or a train station, which they were not talking about.
Tracks and trains aren’t the only thing that people have misconceptions about.
Political influence and legal help were provided by African-Americans with access to education and resources, such as Robert Purvis and William Whipper, both of whom were from Philadelphia.
Photograph courtesy of MPI/Getty Images “In many of the narratives that you read, the abolitionists appear to be the heroes, and, without taking anything away from their noble deeds, what the freedom seekers accomplished is underestimated,” Jones adds.
Their situation was not that of helpless slaves on a plantation, waiting for the white abolitionists to arrive and take them away.
Thinking about the freedom seekers and the stories they recounted after achieving freedom, it becomes clear who the true hero of the story was very fast.
A tear fell from Jones’s eye during the film Harriet, which was released in 2019 and starred Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, one of the most well-known conductors of the subterranean railroad.
While she is not a fan of Whitehead’s use of artistic license, she is looking forward to watching the Amazon version and participating in the discussion that it will elicit.
According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, the most organized networks were in Pennsylvania and New York, with many of them centered on local churches.
Free Black people who liberated enslaved individuals from plantations in Maryland and Virginia ran an underground railroad station near the US Capitol in Washington, which was managed by free Black people.
‘One has to pay particular attention to the Black communities in the northern hemisphere, since they are the foot troops of this movement,’ he explains.
Image courtesy of Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios It was they who ensured that people were securely hidden, who resisted attempts to apprehend fugitives, who showed up at court hearings, who spent cold nights standing outside these hearings to ensure that people were not sent away before the hearing was completed.” Understanding the underground railroad requires an understanding of the people who worked on the network.
We must also remember those whites, particularly lawyers, who took the lead in defending these escaped slaves in the courtrooms of the northern states.
The extent of the brutality and persecution, as well as the deliberate efforts to return freedom seekers to servitude, are still not completely appreciated by the international community.
It was a risky move on their part.
These individuals are fleeing their homes, their families, and the locations that they are familiar with in an attempt to gain their freedom. It dawned on me that one must grasp their notion of freedom via their actions in order for freedom to become both a goal and an action.”
- A new episode of Amazon Prime’s The Underground Railroad is now available.