Why Was The The Underground Railroad Important In Gettysburg? (Professionals recommend)

This organization helped fund a cemetery, the Lincoln Cemetery, for African-American veterans who fought in the civil war and were banned from being buried in the Soldier’s National Cemetery. Basil Biggs died at the age of 87 on June 6, 1906 and is buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Gettysburg.

What is the history of the Underground Railroad?

  • The earliest mention of the Underground Railroad came in 1831 when slave Tice Davids escaped from Kentucky into Ohio and his owner blamed an “underground railroad” for helping Davids to freedom.

Why was the Underground Railroad important?

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.

Why was the Underground Railroad important to the Civil War?

The Underground Railroad physically resisted the repressive laws that held slaves in bondage. By provoking fear and anger in the South, and prompting the enactment of harsh legislation that eroded the rights of white Americans, the Underground Railroad was a direct contributing cause of the Civil War.

What role did the location of Gettysburg play in the Underground Railroad?

In the mid-1800’s, a secret crawl space, featured in “National Geographic”, served as a “station” for hiding runaway slaves on their perilous journey to freedom on the “Underground Railroad.” After the battle of Gettysburg ceased, and the armies had departed, it served as a hospital for wounded soldiers of both the

What was the Underground Railroad and how did it impact the freedom movement?

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of abolitionists (people who wanted to abolish slavery). They helped African Americans escape from enslavement in the American South to free Northern states or to Canada. The Underground Railroad was the largest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America.

Why was the Underground Railroad important to slaves?

The Underground Railroad was a secret system developed to aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. The free individuals who helped runaway slaves travel toward freedom were called conductors, and the fugitive slaves were referred to as cargo.

Was the Underground Railroad effective?

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.

Why is the Underground Railroad important to Canadian history?

Citizens of what soon became Canada were long involved in aiding fugitive slaves escape slave-holding southern states via the Underground Railroad. In the mid-1800s, a hidden network of men and women, white and black, worked with escaped slaves to help them to freedom in the northern U.S. and Canada.

How did the Underground Railroad help end 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. According to some estimates, between 1810 and 1850, the Underground Railroad helped to guide one hundred thousand enslaved people to freedom.

How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans?

How did the Underground Railroad help enslaved African Americans? It provided a network of escape routes toward the North. In his pamphlet Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, on what did David Walker base his arguments against slavery? They feared that the abolition of slavery would destroy their economy.

Why was the Underground Railroad protected in Pennsylvania?

The runaways crossed into Pennsylvania not only because it was close, but also because it contained the North’s largest free African-American population, more than 56,000 residents by the eve of the Civil War. They also came to Pennsylvania because the state had a reputation for being antislavery.

Was Lancaster County part of the Underground Railroad?

By the 1830s, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the surrounding area became one of the seedbeds of our nation’s early freedom movement, sheltering many travelers on the early Underground Railroad and defying federal law to help enslaved people escape to freedom.

What are the routes of the Underground Railroad?

These were called “stations,” “safe houses,” and “depots.” The people operating them were called “stationmasters.” There were many well-used routes stretching west through Ohio to Indiana and Iowa. Others headed north through Pennsylvania and into New England or through Detroit on their way to Canada.

What happened in the Underground Railroad?

The Underground Railroad— the resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, through the end of the Civil War—refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Wherever slavery existed, there were efforts to escape.

How did the Underground Railroad lead to the Civil War quizlet?

How did the Underground Railroad cause the Civil War? *The Underground Railroad was a escape route for fugitive slaves in America. *Slaves would be helped by Northerners or “Quakers” who help slaves escape to Canada. *John Brown believed that this would bring an end to slavery.

What happened after the Underground Railroad?

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850 the Underground Railroad was rerouted to Canada as its final destination. Thousands of slaves settled in newly formed communities in Southern Ontario. Suddenly their job became more difficult and riskier.

Underground Railroad

“How can I construct a psychologically plausible plantation?” Whitehead is said to have pondered himself while writing the novel. As he explained to theGuardian, rather of portraying “a pop culture plantation where there’s one Uncle Tom and everyone is just incredibly nice to each other,” the author preferred to think “about individuals who’ve been traumatized, brutalized, and dehumanized their whole lives.” “Everyone is going to be battling for that one additional mouthful of breakfast in the morning, fighting for that one extra piece of land,” Whitehead continued.

If you bring a group of individuals together who have been raped and tortured, that’s what you’re going to get, in my opinion.

She now lives in the Hob, a derelict building reserved for outcasts—”those who had been crippled by the overseers’ punishments,.

As Cora’s female enslavers on the Randall plantation, Zsane Jhe, left, and Aubriana Davis, right, take on the roles of Zsane and Aubriana.

  1. “Under the pitiless branches of the whipping tree,” the guy whips her with his silver cane the next morning, and the plantation’s supervisor gives her a lashing the next day.
  2. It “truly offers a sense of the type of control that the enslavers have over individuals who are enslaved and the forms of resistance that the slaves attempt to condition,” says Crew of the Underground Railroad.
  3. By making Cora the central character of his novel, Whitehead addresses themes that uniquely afflict enslaved women, such as the fear of rape and the agony of carrying a child just to have the infant sold into captivity elsewhere.
  4. The author “writes about it pretty effectively, with a little amount of words, but truly capturing the agony of life as an enslaved lady,” adds Sinha.
  5. Amazon Studios / Atsushi Nishijima / He claims that the novelist’s depiction of the Underground Railroad “gets to the core of how this undertaking was both tremendously brave and terribly perilous,” as Sinha puts it.
  6. Escapees’ liminal state is succinctly described by Cora in her own words.

that turns a living jail into your sole shelter,” she muses after being imprisoned in an abolitionist’s attic for months on end: ” How long had she been in bondage, and how long had she been out of it.” “Being free has nothing to do with being chained or having a lot of room,” Cora says further.

  • Despite its diminutive size, the space seemed spacious and welcoming.
  • Crew believes the new Amazon adaption will stress the psychological toll of slavery rather than merely presenting the physical torture faced by enslaved folks like it did in the first film.
  • view of it is that it feels a little needless to have it here.
  • In his words, “I recognized that my job was going to be coupling the brutality with its psychological effects—not shying away from the visual representation of these things, but focusing on what it meant to the people.” “Can you tell me how they’re fighting it?

History of the United States of America True Story was used to inspire this film. Books Fiction about the Civil War Racism SlaveryTelevision Videos that should be watched

Quaker Abolitionists

The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.

What Was the Underground Railroad?

The Underground Railroad was first mentioned in 1831, when an enslaved man named Tice Davids managed to escape from Kentucky into Ohio and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his liberation. When a fugitive slave called Jim was apprehended in 1839 in Washington, the press said that the guy confessed his plan to travel north along a “underground railroad to Boston” while under torture. The Vigilance Committees, which were established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard escaped enslaved persons from bounty hunters, rapidly expanded their duties to include guiding enslaved individuals on the run.

MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman and her fellow fugitives used the following strategies to escape through the Underground Railroad:

How the Underground Railroad Worked

Enslaved man Tice Davids fled from Kentucky into Ohio in 1831, and his master blamed a “underground railroad” for assisting Davids in his release. This was the first time the Underground Railroad was mentioned in print. In 1839, a Washington newspaper stated that an escaped enslaved man called Jim had divulged, after being tortured, his intention to go north through a “underground railroad to Boston” in order to avoid capture. After being established in New York in 1835 and Philadelphia in 1838 to safeguard fugitive enslaved individuals from bounty hunters, Vigilance Committees quickly expanded its duties to include guiding runaway slaves.


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

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.

Frederick Douglass

In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.

See also:  How Did The Underground Railroad Affect The Civil War? (Perfect answer)

Agent,” according to the document.

John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.

William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.

Who Ran the Underground Railroad?

The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.

Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.

Finally, they were able to make their way closer to him. Coffin eventually relocated to Indiana and then Ohio, where he continued to assist fugitive enslaved individuals no matter where he was.

John Brown

Ordinary individuals, farmers and business owners, as well as pastors, were the majority of those who operated the Underground Railroad. Several millionaires, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who campaigned for president twice, were involved. For the first time in his life, Smith purchased and freed a whole family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, was one of the earliest recorded individuals to assist fleeing enslaved persons. Beginning in 1813, when he was 15 years old, he began his career.

They eventually began to make their way closer to him and eventually reached him.

End of the Line

Operation of the Underground Railroad came to an end in 1863, during the American Civil War. In actuality, its work was shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s overall campaign against the Confederate States of America. Once again, Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution by organizing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people who had been freed. MORE INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: Harriet Tubman led a daring Civil War raid after the Underground Railroad was shut down.


During the American Civil War, the Underground Railroad came to an end about 1863. When it came to the Union fight against the Confederacy, its activity was carried out aboveground. This time around, Harriet Tubman played a critical role in the Union Army’s efforts to rescue the recently liberated enslaved people by conducting intelligence operations and serving in the role of leadership. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE READ THESE STATEMENTS. Harriet Tubman Led a Brutal Civil War Raid Following the Underground Railroad.

Uncovering the Underground Railroad in Adams County

During the Civil War, the Underground Railroad came to an end about 1863. Rather than remaining underground, its operations were shifted aboveground as part of the Union’s campaign against the Confederacy. Harriet Tubman made a crucial contribution once more, this time by overseeing intelligence operations and serving as a commanding officer in Union Army efforts to rescue the liberated enslaved people. READ MORE ABOUT IT: Harriet Tubman Led a Brutal Civil War Raid Following the Underground Railroad

Anti-slavery sentiment freed slave from Kentucky

During the summer of 1806, according to Wingert, a fugitive slave called Charles went from Kentucky to the Gettysburg region while still wearing a large iron collar around his neck. Despite the fact that Charles was taken to a Gettysburg prison, the jailer’s personal anti-slavery stance proved to be advantageous for Charles, as he published an advertisement in the local newspaper requesting that Charles’ owner collect the slave within four weeks, knowing that the information would not reach Kentucky.

In order to legally allow Charles to go free, Wingert claimed, “it was necessary to take this step.” The impact of several highly famous abolitionists and their families who maintained positions of public authority in Adams County was similar to that in other parts of the country at the time.

Declaration of anti-slavery principals developed in Two Taverns

According to Wingert, Two Taverns, a little community on the Baltimore Pike southeast of Gettysburg, was the focal point of the abolitionist movement in south central Pennsylvania during the American Civil War. On September 17, 1836, a group of Adams County inhabitants, including farmers, Quakers, and citizens of Gettysburg, got together to embrace a set of anti-slavery principles, which included “the Golden Rule,” as part of their anti-slavery platform. ‘This was only one of the many principles they established here in 1836 at Two Taverns, years before the Battle of Gettysburg was fought and years before the Civil War was finally brought to a close with passage of the Thirteenth Amendment,’ he explained.

Literal underground railroad cut existed in Gettysburg

  • Thaddeus Stevens exerted considerable power in Gettysburg and the surrounding areas for many years, according to Wingert, in order to help the anti-slavery effort. Stevens began his legal career in the 1810s, and went on to represent Gettysburg in the state legislature before becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives. Stevens was able to continue his influence in the community by serving on the boards of Gettysburg College, later Pennsylvania College, and the Gettysburg Savings and Loan Association. In order to dissuade people who were aware of runaway slave actions from coming out, Wingert claims that he utilized “veiled threats of foreclosure” to deter them from speaking out. Additionally, in the late 1830s, he oversaw the construction of the “Tapeworm” railroad cut, which ran from western Adams County near Cashtown to Gettysburg. The railroad cut may have been used by Stevens’ allies to transport slaves from western Adams County to Gettysburg and into northern portions of the county, such as Quaker Valley and Biglerville, according to Wingert’s research. “So here in Gettysburg, we can truly say that we have the only Underground Railroad in the country that is genuinely underground,” he explained.

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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Underground Railroad

See how abolitionists in the United States, like as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Thomas Garrett, assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape to freedom. Learn about the abolitionist movement in the United States, as well as the importance of the Underground Railroad in this historical period. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. is a publishing company that publishes encyclopedias. View all of the videos related to this topic. When escaped slaves from the South were secretly assisted by sympathetic Northerners, in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Acts, to reach safe havens in the North or Canada, this was referred to as the Underground Railroad in the United States.

Even though it was neither underground nor a railroad, it was given this name because its actions had to be carried out in secret, either via the use of darkness or disguise, and because railroad words were employed in relation to the system’s operation.

In all directions, the network of channels stretched over 14 northern states and into “the promised land” of Canada, where fugitive-slave hunters were unable to track them down or capture them.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, obtained firsthand experience of escaped slaves via her association with the Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived for a time during the Civil War.

The existence of the Underground Railroad, despite the fact that it was only a small minority of Northerners who took part in it, did much to arouse Northern sympathy for the plight of slaves during the antebellum period, while also convincing many Southerners that the North as a whole would never peacefully allow the institution of slavery to remain unchallenged.

When was the first time a sitting president of the United States appeared on television? Return to the past for the really American responses. Amy Tikkanen has made the most current revisions and updates to this page.

Underground Railroad

When describing a network of meeting spots, hidden routes, passages, and safehouses used by slaves in the United States to escape slave-holding states and seek refuge in northern states and Canada, the Underground Railroad was referred to as the Underground Railroad (UR). The underground railroad, which was established in the early 1800s and sponsored by persons active in the Abolitionist Movement, assisted thousands of slaves in their attempts to escape bondage. Between 1810 and 1850, it is estimated that 100,000 slaves escaped from bondage in the southern United States.

See also:  When Was The Underground Railroad First Used? (TOP 5 Tips)

Facts, information and articles about the Underground Railroad

Aproximate year of birth: 1780


The beginnings of the American Civil War occurred around the year 1862.

Slaves Freed

The commencement of the American Civil War occurred around 1862.

Prominent Figures

Harriet Tubman is a historical figure. William Still is a well-known author and poet. Levi Coffin is a fictional character created by author Levi Coffin. John Fairfield is a well-known author.

Related Reading:

The Story of How Canada Became the Final Station on the Underground Railroad Harriet Tubman’s Legacy as a Freedom Fighter and a Spion is well documented.

The Beginnings Of the Underground Railroad

Even before the nineteenth century, it appears that a mechanism to assist runaways existed. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance provided to one of his escaped slaves by “a organization of Quakers, founded for such purposes.” The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are more officially known, were among the first abolitionist organizations to emerge. Their influence may have played a role in Pennsylvania becoming the first state to abolish slavery, which was home to a large number of Quakers.

In recognition of his contributions, Levi is often referred to as the “president of the Underground Railroad.” In Fountain City, Ohio, on Ohio’s western border, the eight-room Indiana home they bought and used as a “station” before they came to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark.

The Underground Railroad Gets Its Name

Owen Brown, the father of radical abolitionist John Brown, was a member of the Underground Railroad in the state of New York during the Civil War. An unconfirmed narrative suggests that “Mammy Sally” designated the house where Abraham Lincoln’s future wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, grew up and served as a safe house where fugitives could receive food, but the account is doubtful. Routes of the Underground Railroad It was not until the early 1830s that the phrase “Underground Railroad” was first used.

Fugitives going by water or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t give themselves away by wearing their worn-out job attire.

Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their rightful owners.

The slave or slaves were forced to flee from their masters, which was frequently done at night. It was imperative that the runaways maintain their eyes on the North Star at all times; only by keeping that star in front of them could they be certain that they were on their trip north.

Conductors On The Railroad

A “conductor,” who pretended to be a slave, would sometimes accompany fugitives to a plantation in order to lead them on their journey. Harriet Tubman, a former slave who traveled to slave states 19 times and liberated more than 300 people, is one of the most well-known “conductors.” She used her shotgun to threaten death to any captives who lost heart and sought to return to slavery. The Underground Railroad’s operators faced their own set of risks as well. If someone living in the North was convicted of assisting fugitives in their escape, he or she could face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, which was a significant sum at the time; however, in areas where abolitionism was strong, the “secret” railroad was openly operated, and no one was arrested.

His position as the most significant commander of the Underground Railroad in and around Albany grew as time went on.

However, in previous times of American history, the phrase “vigilance committee” generally refers to citizen organizations that took the law into their own hands, prosecuting and hanging those suspected of crimes when there was no local government or when they considered the local authority was corrupt or weak.

White males who were found assisting slaves in their escape were subjected to heavier punishments than white women, but both were likely to face at the very least incarceration.

The Civil War On The Horizon

Events such as the Missouri Compromise and the Dred Scott decision compelled more anti-slavery activists to take an active part in the effort to liberate slaves in the United States. After Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Southern states began to secede in December 1860, putting an end to the Union’s hopes of achieving independence from the United States. Abolitionist newspapers and even some loud abolitionists warned against giving the remaining Southern states an excuse to separate. Lucia Bagbe (later known as Sara Lucy Bagby Johnson) is considered to be the final slave who was returned to bondage as a result of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Her owner hunted her down and arrested her in December 1860.

Even the Cleveland Leader, a Republican weekly that was traditionally anti-slavery and pro-the Fugitive Slave Legislation, warned its readers that allowing the law to run its course “may be oil thrown upon the seas of our nation’s difficulties,” according to the newspaper.

Following her capture, Lucy was carried back to Ohio County, Virginia, and punished, but she was released at some time when Union soldiers took control of the region. In her honor, a Grand Jubilee was celebrated on May 6, 1863, in the city of Cleveland.

The Reverse Underground Railroad

A “reverse Underground Railroad” arose in the northern states surrounding the Ohio River during the Civil War. The black men and women of those states, whether or not they had previously been slaves, were occasionally kidnapped and concealed in homes, barns, and other structures until they could be transported to the South and sold as slaves.

What Was the Underground Railroad? – History, Facts & Route – Video & Lesson Transcript

Amy Lively is the instructor. Include a biography Amy holds a Master’s degree in American history. She has experience teaching history at various levels, ranging from university to secondary school. The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and sympathetic persons that assisted slaves in their escape from slavery in the South to freedom in the North during the American Civil War. Discover the facts behind the Underground Railroad and instances of routes that were used to aid in the delivery of enslaved people from their bonds in this interactive exhibit.

What Was the Underground Railroad?

Rather than being a physical railroad, the Underground Railroad was a hidden network of passageways, safe houses, and individuals who assisted slaves in their attempts to flee the South in the years leading up to the American Civil War. Most likely, it began in 1830 and persisted until slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, when the Civil War ended. Despite the fact that it was led by prominent persons such as Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad was not controlled by a single organization or leader in the traditional sense.

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How the Underground Railroad Worked

The initial step toward becoming a member of the Underground Railroad was sometimes the most difficult. Slaves were forced to flee from their masters. Slaves who are apprehended while attempting to flee might lose their lives if they are captured. Once they had managed to flee, slaves needed to find a conductor, who was someone who would accompany them out of the South in a secure manner. The use of normal railroad terms and phrases was necessary since it was unsafe to speak openly about the Underground Railroad at the time.

The job of a conductor was extremely perilous.

Communication was one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome on the Underground Railroad.

To solve this, hidden codes and symbols were developed to provide slaves with directions and to assist them in determining which way to travel.

In many cases, these codes and symbols were buried inside quilt designs since it was highly customary for quilts to be hung out on fences or over window sills to air out during this time period.

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Sometimes the most difficult step was taking the initial step towards joining the Underground Railroad. Escape from their masters was necessary for slaves. A slave’s life might be taken away if he or she is captured while attempting to flee. As soon as they managed to flee, slaves needed to find a conductor, who was someone who would accompany them out of the South in the most secure manner. The use of conventional railroad terms and terminology was necessary since it was unsafe to openly discuss the Underground Railroad.

  • A conductor’s position was extremely hazardous.
  • Keeping in touch with one another was one of the most difficult aspects of the Underground Railroad.
  • The use of hidden codes and symbols was developed to help slaves navigate their way through the maze of matrimonial law.
  • Because it was quite usual to hang quilts out on fences or over window sills to air them out, these codes and symbols were frequently disguised in quilt designs.

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Franklin County, PA

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Franklin County’s geographic position close north of the Mason-Dixon line has long been recognized as one of its most distinguishing features. It is a border region of a border state that is firmly a part of the North but has significant cultural, physical, and economic links to the South. It is also a border region of a border state. Many African American communities, including those made up of liberated former slaves and their descendants as well as fugitive slaves who decided to remain in Pennsylvania, flourished in Franklin County during the decades preceding the Civil War.

A significant free black population could be found in several towns around the county, but the community in and around Mercersburg, which is just a few miles from Maryland on the hilly western end of the county, is particularly noteworthy in terms of its historical significance.

It was Mercersburg’s robust African American population, which was known locally as “Little Africa,” that left a lasting legacy—not just in the history of our region, but also in the success of the Underground Railroad and the cause of the Union during the American Civil War.

Slavery in Pennsylvania and Franklin County

slavery existed in Pennsylvania from the time of the state’s founding in the 1640s, and it was practiced even among Quakers, who later became its most vocal opponents. William Penn himself was a slave owner, and it is reported that he preferred owning black slaves over employing white indentured servants throughout the course of his career. Even as additional slaves were brought into the area, however, significant religious and moral opposition to slavery arose within a few decades of its introduction.

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During the Pennsylvania legislative session of 1780, the Pennsylvania legislature passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, which sought to make the process of abolition less disruptive to the state’s economy than immediate emancipation, while also respecting the property rights of slaveholders.

  • Children, on the other hand, were legally obligated to work as indentured slaves until they reached the age of 28, while adults were enslaved for the rest of their lives.
  • Inevitably, the abolition of slavery didn’t herald the abolition of racism or prejudice, and these close-knit communities provided them with some kind of protection.
  • Pennsylvania enacted its own personal liberty legislation, both at the state and regional levels, that was in contradiction with the new federal statute, but the danger remained in place.
  • So Franklin County was an especially hazardous battlefield, pitting anti-slavery campaigners against slave hunters and their spies in a series of bloody battles.

The Underground Railroad in Franklin County

When I was going through Orangetown, Pennsylvania, I stopped in at a bakery to pick up a treat for myself. Two musket-wielding soldiers trailed behind me. A group of people had tracked me down from a village I had traveled through a short time ago. They kidnapped me and claimed they were going to transport me to Chambersburg, where I would appear before a magistrate. I had just finished a stroll. By and by, keeping an eye on my opportunity, I leapt the fence and ran. They were riding horses at the time.

  • till dark.
  • I continued my journey through the night, traveling until daylight, when I arrived at a colored man’s home in the highlands.
  • The Underground Railroad was eventually located by me, after a long and arduous search.
  • -adapted from a personal narrative by immigrant Sam Davis The concealment required by the Underground Railroad was critical to its success.
  • Following the natural geography of the Appalachian Mountains, which carried them northward, some fugitive slaves were able to make their way to freedom with little assistance, allowing them to escape slavery.
  • In fact, the Mason and Dixon line that divided freedom from slavery, and at times even life from death, was a man-made boundary that was not based on natural geographic characteristics in any way.
  • In addition to being located in the center of Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, which reaches across the border into Maryland, Franklin County is also home to the Appalachian Mountain range.
  • This was a major reason why so many freed slaves chose to remain in Franklin County rather than continue northward to New York or Canada.
  • In our area, the paths used by runaway slaves changed regularly, but they typically followed the direction of these mountains.

These, in turn, corresponded to intuitive, well-worn pathways that Native Americans had used in the past to travel. These identical routes are still in use today, since they served as the foundation for Routes 75, 30, and 11 in the United States.

Mercersburg’s “Little Africa”

By 1850, the African American population in and around Mercersburg, which is located just eight miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, was by far the greatest in Franklin County, with around 400 persons living in and around the city. Mercersburg was also in the vanguard of Franklin County’s Underground Railroad, providing sanctuary for slaves shortly after they crossed the border into the United States. During the 1820s, there were two related communities in the area that began to settle and expand: one in Mercersburg itself along Fayette Street, and another to the west of town, which locals referred to as “Africa” or “Little Africa.” The two communities were related because they were both founded in the same year.

  • Farm workers and house servants were the most common types of jobs available in the region, but there were also skilled tradespeople available, such as carpenters and blacksmiths.
  • According to the same census, there were a total of 26 African American households, six of which were home owners.
  • Among the persons listed in the tax documents was a barber named George Bizan or Bezan, who was participating in the Underground Railroad.
  • On various “stops” along the Underground Railroad, free African Americans provided refugees with food, shelter, and support, and even assisted in the rescue of those who had been seized by slave-catchers.
  • Because slave-catching was a profitable business, highly driven slave catchers were frequently the ones who discovered the well-traveled routes.
  • The fact that much of the information about the Underground Railroad was passed orally and kept secret means that we don’t have many names of participants and supporters.
  • McCulloh of the Mercersburg Historical Society that details the activities of three Underground Railroad “conductors” who operated in and around Mercersburg.
  • Acheson Ritchey, who lived on a farm outside of Mercersburg and assisted many runaway slaves, according to legend, was one of the men who assisted many runaway slaves.
  • The Ritchey family welcomed into their house an eleven-year-old African-American girl who had been assigned the responsibility of caring for the newborns and small children of the individuals passing through on the underground railroad system in their neighborhood.
  • Ritchey was said to have dissuaded Brown from proceeding with the plot.
  • Bezan was a short guy with a modest stature, while his son, George, was a tall man with a huge size.

When fugitives approached, Jacob kept a close eye out for them, while George defended the residence. When the father and son swapped roles on one occasion, the slaves seeking refuge were alarmed because they had expected to find a little guy in their midst.

The 54th and 55th Massachusetts and the Zion Union Cemetery

MILITARY UNIFORMS OF THE 54th MASS. INFANTRY REGIMENT, US COLORED TROOPS The 54th Massachusetts Regiment was one of the first Civil War fighting regiments to accept African Americans when it was formed in 1863. Soldiers from Pennsylvania made up more than a quarter of the highly regarded unit’s membership. Mercersburg came in second only to Philadelphia in terms of assembling volunteers from around the state. The regiment’s bravery helped to raise the general public’s opinion of black troops and to increase recruitment.

  • After the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, African Americans were granted the opportunity to serve in the Union Army for the first time.
  • The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Unit, which was the first all-African American regiment, was made famous by the 1989 filmGlory, which starred Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman as members of the regiment.
  • On the battlefield, the 54th is most renowned for its courageous but fatal attack on Fort Wagner, which guarded the port of Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Despite their defeat, the damage they caused to the fort resulted in the Confederacy’s eventual abandonment of the structure.
  • After the war, the African American community needed a larger burial ground for their dead, and they pooled their resources to purchase about three acres south of the Mercersburg Borough in 1876.
  • There are at least 38 Civil War servicemen buried there, including thirteen members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
  • The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicated the memorial depicted above in November 2009, according to their website.

Southern Invasion and Aftermath

In 1863, the Gettysburg Campaign and the subsequent invasion of Franklin County, which culminated in the Burning of Chambersburg, brought the relative stability of Franklin County’s free African American community to a crashing halt. Confederate forces unleashed a reign of brutality and terror, seizing free African Americans and transporting them back to the South, where they were put to work or sold for profit to the highest bidder. After the Civil War, white Pennsylvanians were keen to reestablish economic and social links with Maryland and the rest of the South.

  • Relations between whites and African Americans deteriorated as a result of the lack of a shared moral purpose to unite them.
  • Despite this, the history of African American Mercersburg is still very much alive and thriving today.
  • Also still there are descendants of the original African-American population, including relatives of African-American Union troops, who reside in the neighborhood and pay honor to their rich cultural history.
  • It was a simple matter of following the map and visiting the locations marked on this leaflet, which was developed by the Mercersburg Historical Architectural Review Board and distributed by the Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau.

During my stay, as well as during my research and writing for this piece, it proved to be a wonderful resource. It is strongly recommended that you take the same guided tour that I did if you find this material as intriguing as I do.

Sources and Suggested Reading

“African Americans in Pennsylvania: Slavery and Resistance, 164401865,” according to the bibliography. Pennsylvania has a rich history of African-Americans. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is a state agency. Edward L. Ayers’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 is a history of the American Civil War. The W. W. Norton Company published a book in 2003 titled “The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War,” an electronic archive (Barnes, Roscoe III.

  • “The Mercersburg family remembers the United States Colored Troops.” Public Opinion, published on November 11, 2010.
  • The Franklin County Visitors Bureau is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tourism in the county.
  • McCulloh is the author of this work.
  • The Mercersburg Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Mercersburg.
  • A Living Legacy: African American Historic Sites in Mercersburg, Mercer County, Pennsylvania Smith, David G., et al.
  • Switala, William J., “Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania,” in Switala, William J.
  • “The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment,” the caption reads.
  • A E Television Networks is a television network owned by AEG.
  • Mercersburg’s historic district.

Introduction-Aboard the Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad refers to the effort -sometimes spontaneous, sometimes highly organized – to assist persons held in bondage in North America to escape from slavery.While most runaways began their journey unaided and many completed their self-emancipation without assistance, each decade in which slavery was legal in the United States saw an increase in the public perception of an underground network and in the number of persons willing to give aid to the runaway.

Although divided, the abolitionist movement was successful in expanding the informal network known as the underground railroad and in publicizing it.The term “underground railroad” had no meaning to the generations before the first rails and engines of the 1820s, but the retrospective use of the term in is made so as to include incidents which have all the characteristics of underground railroad activity, but which occurred earlier.These activities foreshadowed and helped to shape the underground railroad.The origin of the term “underground railroad” cannot be precisely determined.What is known is that both those who aided escapees from slavery and those who were outraged by loss of slave property began to refer to runaways as part of an “underground railroad” by 1840.The “underground railroad” described an activity that was locally organized, but with no real center.It existed rather openly in the North and just beneath the surface of daily life in the upper South and certain Southern cities.The underground railroad, where it existed, offered local service to runaway slaves, assisting them from one point to another.Farther along, others would take the passenger into their transportation system until the final destination had been reached.

The rapidity with which the term became commonly used did not mean that incidents of resistance to slavery increased significantly around 1830 or that more attempts were made to escape from bondage.

The primary importance of the underground railroad was that it gave ampleevidence of African American capabilities and gave expression to AfricanAmerican philosophy.

The secondaryimportance of the underground railroad was that it provided an opportunityfor sympathetic white Americans to play a role in resisting slavery.It also brought together, however uneasily at times, men and women ofboth races to begin to set aside assumptions about the other race andto work together on issues of mutual concern.

While most ofthe accounts of secret passageways, sliding wall panels, and hiddenrooms will not be verified by historic evidence, there were indeed sufficientdramas to be interpreted and verified.Visitors may be interested inHistoricHotels of America, a program of the National Trust for HistoricPreservation, located near the places featured in this itinerary.List of Sites|HomeComments or Questions Last Modified:EST

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