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 did the slaves want to come to Canada?
Fearing for their safety in the United States after the passage of the first Fugitive Slave Law in 1793, over 30,000 slaves came to Canada via the Underground Railroad until the end of the American Civil War in 1865.
Why did slaves escape using the Underground Railroad?
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.
Why did the Underground Railroad lead to Canada?
After 1850, most escaping enslaved people traveled all the way to Canada. They had to go to Canada to make sure they would be safe. The reason was that the United States Congress passed a law in 1850 called The Fugitive Slave Act. So, you could say that the Underground Railroad went from the American south to Canada.
How many slaves escaped to Canada?
Up to thirty thousand slaves fled to Canada and, as in the northern U.S., many free blacks joined together to provide aid and advice.
When was slavery ended in Canada?
Judges who favored abolition were handing down more and more decisions against slave owners; as a result, when the British Imperial Act of 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire, very few slaves remained in Upper and Lower Canada.
How many slaves escaped to Canada using the Underground Railroad?
In all 30,000 slaves fled to Canada, many with the help of the underground railroad – a secret network of free blacks and white sympathizers who helped runaways.
How did the Underground Railroad affect Canada?
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. It brought between 30,000 and 40,000 fugitives to British North America (now Canada).
What caused the Underground Railroad?
The Underground Railroad was established to aid enslaved people in their escape to freedom. The railroad was comprised of dozens of secret routes and safe houses originating in the slaveholding states and extending all the way to the Canadian border, the only area where fugitives could be assured of their freedom.
What happened to black slaves in Canada?
Many enslaved Black people were subjected to cruel and harsh treatment by their owners. Some Black slaves were tortured and jailed as punishment, others were hanged or murdered. Enslaved Black women were often sexually abused by their masters. Families were separated when some family members were sold to new owners.
Was there slavery in Canada?
The historian Marcel Trudel catalogued the existence of about 4,200 slaves in Canada between 1671 and 1834, the year slavery was abolished in the British Empire. About two-thirds of these were Native and one-third were Blacks. The use of slaves varied a great deal throughout the course of this period.
During the 1850s and 1860s, slaves fleeing the hardships of plantation life in the American South found shelter in British North America, which became a favorite destination for them. In all, 30,000 slaves escaped to Canada, many with the assistance of the underground railroad, which was a hidden network of free blacks and white supporters who assisted runaways in their escape. Canada was seen as a secure sanctuary where a black person may live without fear of persecution. Slavery has been banned in Upper Canada (formally known as Canada West) since the end of the 1700s, according to historical records.
Mary Ann Shadd was a freeborn black lady from Delaware who was not born into slavery and who eventually migrated in Canada.
“In Canada, like in other newly populated nations, there is a lot of work to be done, but there are only a few people available to do it.
In exchange for a shot at freedom, many black people were ready to risk everything, and one of their heroes was a black lady named Harriet Tubman.
- After fleeing to the north in search of freedom, she rose to become one of the most important organizers of the underground railroad.
- If I couldn’t have one, I’d take the other, because no man should be allowed to steal my life “Tubman shared his thoughts.
- They followed rivers, concealed in bogs and forests, and were continually on the lookout for slave-hunters lurking behind them.
- Tubman made 19 visits to the South between 1850 and 1860, resulting in the liberation of around 300 persons.
- Anti-slavery societies arose in the cities and towns of British North America as a response to the influx of newly arrived Africans.
- Each pro-elimination assembly was followed by one advocating for the abolition of black immigration.
- The people of the United States should carry the weight of their misdeeds, according to one colonist.
- Uncertain opinions concerning blacks and their status in the colonies were brought to light by one particular instance.
- If the slave-hunters were unable to locate the individual they were seeking for, they would occasionally take someone else to sell into slavery.
- According to the plan, the youngster would be transported to the Southern states aboard a train that would pass via Chatham, a town of 3,585 people in which half the population was black.
- The raid on the train, despite the fact that Venus turned out to be a freeborn black woman, nonetheless caused consternation among some white Canadians.
Some Negroes made the discovery here and telegraphed it to the coloured people in Chatham, who gathered a mob of three hundred people and, when the train arrived at the station, they forcibly removed the boy from his master, despite the fact that the child cried and expressed his reluctance to be taken away.
When they were unable to pay the hefty penalties, some of them were sentenced to prison.
William, Isaac’s aunt, wrote to him from her residence in Delaware.
The American gold rush will eventually come to an end, and Canada will be transformed into a hunting field for the American bloodhound.” Despite this, many slaves were able to find refuge in Canada, where they became a part of a new country that was on the cusp of transformation.
Underground Railroad was a network of people, both black and white, who helped escaped enslaved persons from the southern United States by providing them with refuge and assistance. It came forth as a result of the convergence of numerous separate covert initiatives. Although the exact dates of its inception are unknown, it was active from the late 18th century until the Civil War, after which its attempts to weaken the Confederacy were carried out in a less-secretive manner until the Civil War ended.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) is often regarded as the first organized group to actively assist escaped enslaved persons. In 1786, George Washington expressed dissatisfaction with Quakers for attempting to “liberate” one of his enslaved servants. Abolitionist and Quaker Isaac T. Hopper established a network in Philadelphia in the early 1800s to assist enslaved persons who were on the run from slavery. Abolitionist organisations founded by Quakers in North Carolina lay the basis for escape routes and safe havens for fugitive slaves during the same time period.
What Was the Underground Railroad?
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. More information may be found at The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico.
Fugitive Slave Acts
The Fugitive Slave Acts were a major cause for many fugitive slaves to flee to Canada. This legislation, which was passed in 1793, authorized local governments to catch and extradite fugitive enslaved individuals from inside the borders of free states back to their places of origin, as well as to penalize anybody who assisted the fleeing enslaved people. Personal Liberty Laws were introduced in certain northern states to fight this, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1842. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was intended to reinforce the preceding legislation, which was perceived by southern states to be insufficiently enforced at the time of passage.
The northern states were still considered a danger zone for fugitives who had managed to flee.
Some Underground Railroad operators chose to station themselves in Canada and sought to assist fugitives who were arriving to settle in the country.
Harriet Tubman was the most well-known conductor of the Underground Railroad during its heyday. When she and two of her brothers fled from a farm in Maryland in 1849, she was given the name Harriet (her married name was Tubman). She was born Araminta Ross, and she was raised as Harriet Tubman. They returned a couple of weeks later, but Tubman fled on her own again shortly after, this time making her way to the state of Pennsylvania. In following years, Tubman returned to the plantation on a number of occasions to rescue family members and other individuals.
Tubman was distraught until she had a vision of God, which led her to join the Underground Railroad and begin escorting other fugitive slaves to the Maryland state capital.
In his house in Rochester, New York, former enslaved person and celebrated author Frederick Douglasshid fugitives who were assisting 400 escapees in their journey to freedom in Canada. Reverend Jermain Loguen, a former fugitive who lived in the adjacent city of Syracuse, assisted 1,500 escapees on their journey north. The Vigilance Committee was established in Philadelphia in 1838 by Robert Purvis, an escaped enslaved person who later became a trader. Josiah Henson, a former enslaved person and railroad operator, founded the Dawn Institute in Ontario in 1842 to assist fugitive slaves who made their way to Canada in learning the necessary skills to find work.
Agent,” according to the document.
John Parker was a free Black man living in Ohio who worked as a foundry owner and who used his rowboat to ferry fugitives over the Ohio River.
William Still was a notable Philadelphia citizen who was born in New Jersey to runaway slaves parents who fled to Philadelphia as children.
Who Ran the Underground Railroad?
The vast majority of Underground Railroad operators were regular individuals, including farmers and business owners, as well as preachers and religious leaders. Some affluent individuals were active, including Gerrit Smith, a billionaire who stood for president on two separate occasions. Smith acquired a full family of enslaved people from Kentucky in 1841 and freed them from their captivity. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, is credited with being one of the first recorded individuals to assist escaped enslaved persons.
Coffin stated that he had discovered their hiding spots and had sought them out in order to assist them in moving forward.
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.
Abolitionist John Brown worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and it was during this time that he founded the League of Gileadites, which was dedicated to assisting runaway enslaved persons in their escape 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 at gunpoint. Brown’s soldiers were beaten, and Brown was executed for treason in 1859.
- In 1844, he formed a partnership with Vermont schoolteacher Delia Webster, and the two were jailed for assisting an escaped enslaved woman and her child in their escape.
- Charles Torrey was sentenced to six years in jail in Maryland for assisting an enslaved family in their escape across Virginia.
- Massachusetts sea captain Jonathan Walker was jailed in 1844 when he was apprehended with a boatload of freed slaves who were on their way to the United States from the Caribbean.
- John Fairfield of Virginia turned down the opportunity to rescue the enslaved individuals who had been left behind by their relatives as they made their way north.
- He managed to break out of jail twice.
To Canada and Back Again: Immigration from the United States on the Underground Railroad (1840-1860)
The MA Public History Program at Western University students created this video.
Fugitive or Free?
Prior to 1850, runaway slaves who managed to make their way from the southern United States to the northern states were regarded to have gained their freedom. However, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the northern states were no longer considered a safe haven for fugitive slaves. Slavecatchers may be able to apprehend and return escaped slaves to their respective masters. In addition, anyone who had escaped slavery by emigrating to a free state years previously may be deported back to servitude under certain circumstances.
The same threat existed for all free blacks, regardless of race.
Once they had crossed into Upper Canada, all men, women, and children were free to go wherever they wanted.
In his artwork “Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law,” artist Theodore Kaufmann expressed his opposition to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. LC-USZC4-4550 is the Library of Congress’s catalog number for this item.
The Underground Railroad
Feuding slaves who managed to flee from the southern United States and make their way north were considered free up to the year 1850. However, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the northern states were no longer considered a safe refuge for fugitive slaves and their families. Slavecatchers may be able to apprehend and return escaped slaves to their masters if they are identified. The consequences of this were that those who had managed to escape slavery by joining a free state years earlier may now find themselves back in the grip of slavery.
The same danger loomed over all free blacks at the time.
All men, women, and children were free once they crossed into Upper Canada.
LC-USZC4-4550 from the Library of Congress.
New Land, New Life
Prior to 1850, runaway slaves who made their way from the southern United States to the northern United States were considered free. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, the northern states were no longer considered a safe sanctuary for fugitive slaves. Escaped slaves might be apprehended and returned to their masters by slavecatchers. As a result, persons who had escaped slavery by joining a free state years earlier may now find themselves back in servitude. A white slave owner could easily claim that someone was their runaway slave because of the bigotry prevalent in American culture at the time, but a black person could easily establish that they were not.
Upper Canada (part of what is now Ontario) became the first British province to outlaw slavery when the Act Against Slavery was established in 1793.
In his artwork “Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law,” artist Theodore Kaufmann denounced the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.
Did You Know?
The province of Upper Canada was renamed Canada West in 1841, and now it is a component of the modern-day Canadian province of Ontario.
When escaped slaves first arrived in Canada West, the vast majority of them chose to live near the United States border. Because of this, they were able to remain closer to family relatives who were distributed around the United States. During this time period, white folks acted in a largely neutral manner toward them. When fugitive slaves began to arrive in greater numbers in the United States around 1840, white residents began to feel threatened. Some people were concerned that these escaped slaves would be unable to work and would be forced to rely on government help instead.
The petition was eventually signed by over 100,000 people. Following the abolition of slavery, they were concerned about an uncontrollable flood of freshly liberated blacks.
Black immigrants settled in a variety of towns and communities, including Hamilton, St. Catharine’s, Windsor, and Toronto, as well as other locations. The Chatham-Kent region of Canada West has the highest population of black immigrants and refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. In the 1820s, a handful of all-black towns were formed in the United States. William Wilberforce, a former slave who created Wilberforce, was the world’s first community of this type. The Dawn Settlement was established in 1834 by escaped slave Josiah Henson.
- Later, the towns of Wilberforce and the Dawn Settlement were either abandoned or incorporated into other cities.
- The Buxton Mission is still in operation today in the town of North Buxton, Ontario.
- Some claimed it was the most effective means of protecting oneself, while others were concerned that it was contributing to the continuation of inequality.
- Elgin Settlement, located in what is now Chatham, Ontario, was established in 1849.
- The Elgin Settlement as seen on a map from 1860.
Josiah Henson was born a slave in Maryland in 1789, and he and his family finally escaped to Canada in 1830, where they settled. Dawn Township, which later became known as the Dawn Colony, was built by him as an all-Black settlement. Henson made a name for himself as a Methodist preacher in the area, and he believed strongly in the significance of providing work and educational opportunities for black immigrants. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was first published in 1852, was based on the life of Uncle Tom.
A neighborhood leader and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, Josiah Henson was well-respected in his day.
Making Their Mark
Wherever they landed across Canada, black immigrants who arrived to the country via the Underground Railroad made significant contributions to the well-being of their respective communities. Many of them went on to become farmers, raising crops such as wheat, peas, tobacco, and hemp. Others were experienced tradespeople who worked as blacksmiths, shoemakers, and wagon makers, among other things. The majority of black women, like their white counterparts, did not have jobs outside the house.
They cared for their children or earned a living as seamstresses and washerwomen in the factories. What’s more, they demonstrated that, when given the opportunity, they were capable of creating and engaging in community activities.
Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893), the daughter of an Underground Railroad “station master,” was an abolitionist pioneer and advocate for black refugees who came to Canada during the American Civil War. C-029977 is the number assigned by Library and Archives Canada. A number of publications were established in order to raise awareness of the opportunities available to black people in Canada, to disseminate news, and to advocate for the abolition of slavery. One of the early black newspapers in Canada, The Voice of the Fugitive was established in Sandwich, Canada West, in 1851 and was one of the country’s first black publications.
Following that, Mary Ann Shadd Cary started another newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, which she published until her death.
Shadd Cary was the first black woman to be elected to political office in the United States.
The Voice of the Fugitive was one of the first periodicals in Canada West to be published in order to raise awareness of the possibilities and services available to African-Americans.
Did You Know?
Mrs. Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893), the daughter of an Underground Railroad “station master,” was an abolitionist pioneer and advocate for black refugees who fled to Canada during the American Civil War. A copy of the C-029977 is available at Library and Archives Canada. Many publications were established in order to raise awareness of the opportunities available to black people in Canada, to disseminate news, and to advocate for the end of slavery, among other purposes. One of the oldest black journals in Canada, The Voice of the Fugitive was established in Sandwich, Canada West, in 1851 and was one of the country’s first.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary went on to start a second newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, a few years later.
Shadd Cary was the daughter of Abraham Shadd, who was the first black man elected to political office in Canada.
A publication called Voice of the Fugitive was one of the first to be published in Canada West to raise awareness of the possibilities and resources available to African-Americans. Amistad Research Center/American Missionary Association Archives ama0015, “Voice of the Fugitive,” 1851
While on the surface, life looked to be far better in Canada, this newfound independence had its limitations. Despite the fact that slaves were granted freedom in Canada, they were nevertheless subjected to racism, persecution, and discrimination. Blacks were pushed away from Canada as a result of these beliefs, while other circumstances drew them back towards the United States over time. The passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which ended slavery, resulted in a significant improvement in the conditions of black people in the United States.
Those who remained in Canada continued to make contributions to their communities, and over time, they were successful in breaking down many racial barriers.
While on the surface, life looked to be far better in Canada, this newfound independence had its limits. Despite the fact that slaves were granted freedom in Canada, they were subjected to racism, tyranny, and segregation across the country. Blacks began to migrate out from Canada as a result of these feelings, while other circumstances drew them back to the United States. The passage of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which ended slavery, resulted in a significant improvement in the lives of African-Americans.
These individuals continued to contribute to their communities and, over time, were successful in breaking down numerous racial barriers.
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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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.
A Meme Is Born
Following is a brief list of the most popular misconceptions regarding the Underground Railroad, which includes the following: There were several reasons for this. 1. It was run by well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers. In addition, there were Underground Railroad stations all across the Southern states. fugitive slaves who made their way north sought refuge in secret quarters hidden in attics or cellars, while many more managed to escape through underground passageways.
- In addition, the Underground Railroad was a large-scale operation that enabled hundreds of thousands of individuals to flee from their slavery.
- Seventh, the spiritual “Steal Away” was chanted to warn slaves that Harriet Tubman was on her way to town or that an ideal opportunity to run had arrived.
- First, a brief overview of the Underground Railroad’s historical development.
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.
Fugitive Slaves in Canada, African American Community during Slavery, African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865, Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature, Toolbox Library, National Humanities Center
|8.||CanadaWhen Great Britain abolished slavery in its empire in 1834,thus making all its possessions free territory, thousands of African Americans escaped to the refuge of Canada. The migration was further spurred in 1850 with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that permitted the capture and return of escaped slaves anywhere in the U.S.—thus the North was no longer a safe haven for escaped slaves. Up to thirty thousand slaves fled to Canada and, as in the northern U.S., many free blacks joined together to provide aid and advice. Henry Bibb and Josiah Henson, themselves escaped slaves (whose narratives are excerpted in this Toolbox), formed the Refugees’ Home Colony in Canada in 1851, and Bibb established the first black newspaper in Canada, theVoice of the Fugitive. In an anti-slavery meeting (ca. 1850), Bibb delivered a welcome statement to fugitive slaves arriving in Canada. Interwoven in his brief statement are the themes of self-determination, self-respect, and, at last, self-ownership.Fugitive settlements in Canada grew steadily, primarily in western Ontario. In 1855 the white abolitionist Benjamin Drew travelled through “Canada West” to interview fugitive slaves who had settled there, publishing theirnarratives inA North-Side View of Slavery: The Refugee(the narratives of John Little and his wife are included in Theme I: ENSLAVEMENT: Runaways). In these selections we read from Drew’s descriptions of seven fugitive communities—from large planned settlements developed by anti-slavery activists, to groups of African Americans in large Ontario cities, to isolated backcountry groups of black farmers—and of the “True Bands” which he describes as “colored persons of both sexes, associated for their own improvement.” Brief excerpts from fifteen of the fugitives’ narratives are included. How did newly free African Americans create communities for themselves in the safe haven of Canada? (8 pages.)Discussion questions|
- What strategies did escaped slaves use to establish communities for themselves in Canada’s safe haven? What kind of assistance did they receive from others (both black and white)? What was the difference between their experiences and those of fugitive slaves who remained in the northern United States
- Was the sense of community among runaway slaves impacted by their slave past, their escape experience, and the dangers to their security, even if they were operating in free territory? Compare and contrast the “True Bands” in Canada with other groups formed by African Americans for the benefit of both communities (see5: Mutual Benefit.) What needs and goals were identified as being of the utmost importance by these groups
- What was the motivation for Benjamin Drew’s publication of The Refugee, and who was the intended audience? To eliminate what rumors, “doubt, and bewilderment” was he attempting to achieve
- What both hampered and aided the attempts of antebellum African Americans to unite their communities
- Comparisons may be made between the migration experiences of these African Americans and those who moved to the northern United States in the early twentieth century (see The Making of African American Identity, Vol. III, Theme II: MIGRATIONS).
|Supplemental SitesCanada: The Promised Land, in In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library)The Black Canadian Experience in Ontario, 1834-1914: Flight, Freedom, Foundation, from Archives of OntarioThe Underground Railroad: Niagara’s Freedom Trail, from the City of St. Catharines, Ontario, CanadaA North-Side View of Slavery: The Refugee, 1856, by Benjamin Drew, full text in Documenting the American South, from the University of North Carolina LibraryInterviews with five fugitive slaves in Canada, in Drew,A North-side View of Slavery, 1856, in From Revolution to Reconstruction, University of Groningen, The NetherlandsAccount of escape to Canadathrough Wisconsin, from the Wisconsin Historical SocietyHistory of Buxton, early African American community in Ontario, Canada, from the Buxton National Historic Site and MuseumOn fugitives in Mexico:Rebellion: John Horse and the Black Seminoles, from J. B. Bird and the Southwest Alternate Media ProjectGeneral Resourcesin African American HistoryLiterature, 1500-1865|
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.
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.
Estimates range between 6,000 and 10,000.
From 6,000 to 8,000 people are expected to attend
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
Abolitionist John Brown’s father, Owen Brown, was involved in the Underground Railroad movement in New York State during the abolitionist movement. 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 haven where fugitives could obtain food, but the account is untrustworthy. Railway routes that run beneath the surface of the land. It was in the early 1830s when the name “Underground Railroad” first appeared.
They were transported from one station to another by “conductors.” Money or products were donated to the Underground Railroad by its “stockholders.” Fugitives going by sea or on genuine trains were occasionally provided with clothing so that they wouldn’t be recognized if they were wearing their old job attire.
Many of them continued on to Canada, where they could not be lawfully reclaimed by their families.
To escape from their owners, the slave or slaves had to do it at night, which they did most of the time.
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.