The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was formed in the early 1800's, and reached its peak sometime between 1850 and 1860. Some estimates suggest that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped using the Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad was a network created by people who helped slaves of all ages to freedom. It ran before the Civil War (which began in 1861), which ended Slavery in all of the United States. To cut down the possibility of invasion, most of those associated with the Underground Railroad only knew their specific jobs, and not the entire scheme.

People called "Conductors" transported the slaves from station to station; sometimes pretending to be a slave in order to infiltrate a plantation.

Once a part of said plantation, the conductor would point the fugitive slaves to the North. They traveled at nighttime, usually about 10-20 miles from station to station. After daybreak, they would rest, and then a message was delivered to the next station master to let him or her know that the runaways were on their way.

So, about these "stations" I keep mentioning: The slaves would stop at "stations" or "depots" during the day and rest. They were often located in barns, caves, and under church floors.

Routes were purposely indirect to confuse anyone trying to shut them down. Most slaves escaping were in either very small groups or in no group at all. On occasion, there were mass escapes.

The escape was often considered more dangerous for females and children; kids were sometimes too slow or too loud, and women were rarely allowed to leave the plantation, making it nearly impossible for them to escape in the same ways that men did.

Despite the fact escaping was harder for women, some women did find success in escaping. In fact, one of the most famous escapees was Harriet Tubman, who even went as far as to go back for others and help them escape, as well.

Harriet Tubman, (c.1820-1913) was born Araminta Ross. She was an Abolitionist, an armed spy for the Civil War, and a humanitarian. She was born into Slavery, escaped, and went on about 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved families.

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. He was an orator, a writer, a statesman, a social reformer, and an Abolitionist. After escaping slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the Abolitionist movement in New York and Massachusetts, gaining note for his amazing oratory and wonderful antislavery writings. Back in his time, he was described by other Abolitionists as a living counter-example to a Slave owner's arguments that all Slaves lacked the cognitive ability needed to act as a normal, independent citizen in everyday society. Northerners found it hard to believe that such a great orator had been a slave.

Thomas Garrett (1789-1871) was an American Abolitionist and leader in the Underground railroad movement before the Civil War. He was born into a very wealthy landowning Quaker family on their homestead, named Riverview Farm, located in Delaware County., Pennsylvania. When Garrett was a little boy, one of his family's free black female servants was kidnapped by men who were intending to sell her back into slavery. The Garretts rescued her, thereby confirming them in their Abolitionist views. All of the sons would later become involved in Abolitionism; Thomas on a very large scale.

William Still (1821-1902) was an Abolitionist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a conductor of the Underground Railroad, a businessman, a writer, a historian, and a Civil rights activist. Before the Civil War, he was chairman of the Vigilance Community of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, and he directly helped runaway slaves and kept records to help them reunite with their families. After the Civil War, he remained a businessman and philanthropist, and also used his records to write an account of the Underground Railroad system along with the experiences of refugee slaves, entitled The Underground Railroad Records (which was published in 1872).

Samuel Burris (1809-1863)was a Barbados- Native American member of the Underground Railroad. Sam was a free black man when slavery was at its peak. He decided to move both himself and his family to the safe city of Philadelphia. However, he would make trips back and forth to and from the South to free slaves. Him and his partner, John Hunn, started working on the Underground Railroad system in 1845. They worked closely together freeing slaves escaping from both Delaware and Maryland.

The reason the South hated the Underground Railroad so much was because by freeing the slaves, you were effectively ridding them of their free labor, which also happened to be their main source of profit. Slaves mostly did the jobs no one else wanted to do, and by getting rid of them, they needed to do the jobs themselves... or PAY someone to do it.


Created with images by ArtsyBee - "african-american slavery man" • dennisflarsen - "plantation slave quarters slavery" • FotoGuy 49057 - "Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad" • TradingCardsNPS - "Frederick Douglass" • Boston Public Library - "Thomas Garrett"

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