The Underground Railroad was a loose network of routes, hiding places, and people who helped enslaved African Americans escape from southern states to freedom in the North or Canada. This system helped get hundreds of slaves to the north every year. Some slaves settled in the northern "free" states, but many kept traveling north to Canada.
Why is it called the Underground Railroad?
The term "underground" refers to the secret nature of the network, since anyone caught escaping or helping runaways was in great danger. The system was called a "railroad" because many railroads were spreading across the nation during this period.
When did it begin?
It began at the end of the 18 th century. Overall, it lasted a until it was no longer needed when The Union soldiers won in the Civil War and slavery was finally abolished in 1865.
In the end, the Underground Railroad helped free about 100,000 slaves from the south from 1810 to 1850.
Slavery was very common in the 1800’s. Especially in the South. Many people owned slaves to help them pick tobacco and cotton in the fields which were the biggest exports in the Unites States at the time. Since the plantation owners had slaves who did not get paid to work, they in turn would collect more money and profit from selling their goods.
Slaves picking cotton Tobacco plant Cotton plant END
Living a life of slavery was not a good life. Most masters were not kind to their slaves and if a slave showed up late to work or did something the owner thought was wrong they were punished. Sometimes they were not given food, but most commonly they were severely whipped . Not only did most owners treat their slaves like animals, but slaves also had hard working conditions with a hot sun beating down on them in the field all day long while they had to do hard labor . The living conditions were usually poor as well as most slaves lived in little huts with one or two more families so it was very cramped and there was little or no privacy . Although most slaves were happy to be with their family as many families were split up and sold to different places/owners.
A whip like the one slave owners would use Scarring from getting whipped Families being split up when they are sold at the slave market END
As many slaves were treated badly, or they did not want to be kept in slavery they would try to escape. It was hard, however, for the slaves to run away to the north through the Underground Railroad. It was hard to escape because slavery was allowed at the time and owners saw slaves as property as they had paid hefty sums for them. Some owners even went as far as to brand their slaves with a hot iron to know the slave was theirs. So if a slave escaped, The slave owners would pay money or put up rewards for people to read so they could get their slaves back. Many southerners would keep an eye out for runaway slaves but people who specifically would look out to catch the slaves and get money for catching them were called bounty hunters .
The first step for the slaves was to escape from their owners. The slaves had to take all their belongings and their children and would escape at night. Many times they would look for the North Star in the sky to guide them. The slaves would travel 10 or 20 miles to the next station. A station was a place for the slaves to rest and eat and sometimes be given money. They would get to the stations by following the station owner’s directions. While they waited at a station, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its station’s owner that the slaves were on their way, so the station owner could then start getting the food and hideout ready.
Sometimes slaves, along with traveling by foot would travel by boat or train, which would be paid for by slave abolitionists. Money was also donated to improve and rebuild some parts of the Underground Railroad such as the stations’ walls and flooring.
What Routes Were Taken? Thousands of routes were taken during the time of the Underground Railroad. There were some specific routes, but not many, because bounty hunters and slave owners would soon figure out a common route used. Most people believe there were four main routes, two led North and the other two led to Mexico and Florida. It was harder for slaves in the most southern states to reach freedom in the North as they had a longer way to go to get there, so some went to Mexico and Florida to escape. Routes Of the Underground Railroad Sweet video! Click Here: END
If slaves were successful in reaching the North without getting caught along the way their troubles were not all over as many times they had little money and had to find a job. Many times people from the Underground Railroad would help the prior slaves with money and shelter until they could get back on their feet and were able to make a living by what they made. They also still had to be on the lookout for bounty hunters who would come into the North and bring wanted slaves back to the South.
Thousands of people helped out in the Underground Railroad and helped many slaves become free. Some people became well known for the help they gave to the Underground Railroad. Some of these people include John Brown who was a strong abolitionist, Thomas Garrett who was a Quaker and did very well in the iron industry and used his money to help slaves become free, William Purvis who was the President of the Anti-slavery Society, Henry David Thoreau who made his anti-slavery views known as a writer, Susan b. Anthony who was highly involved in anti-slavery movements and women’s suffrage and Harriet Tubman who played a major role in the underground railroad by being a “conductor” who would go down South and lead slaves North to freedom.
In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, where she worked to save up some money and then she returned to Maryland to rescue her family, which included her husband John Tubman. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state using the Underground Railroad, and overall in her lifetime made a total of thirteen missions rescuing over seventy slaves and bringing them to freedom
*Interesting Fact* Harriet Tubman was also nicknamed “ Moses ” , because like Moses she helped rescue slaves from captivity.
When she brought her passengers to the North and Canada she would help them find work. Heavy rewards were offered for many of the people she helped bring away, but no one ever knew it was Harriet Tubman who was helping them.
When the American Civil War began, Tubman also worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then later as an armed scout and spy.
Born into slavery in Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various owners as a child. The worst injury she ever had was when an angry slave owner threw a heavy metal weight at her, intending to hit another slave. The injury caused disabling seizures, headaches, and spells of hypersomnia which occurred throughout her entire life. However, she never let this get in the way of dreaming of a better life, not only for herself, but for others as well. END
The Civil War started in 1861 when the southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. The Northern States were called the “Union.”
A year after the war had started in 1862, Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation which declared all slaves to be free, but many people ignored this Proclamation and slavery continued to exist. However, it was still a major step towards ending slavery in the United States.
Finally in 1865 the Civil War ended with the North (The Union)defeating the South (Confederates) . With the Union winning, Abraham Lincoln, who was president of the United States at the time was able to promote the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment which abolishes slavery and still prohibits it today. It states that “every man is equal.” There was now longer a need for the Underground Railroad.
The End of The Underground Railroad Abraham Lincoln-The 16 th President of The United States END
Aboard the Underground Railroad Underground Railroad Routes of 1860 National Geographic’s Underground Railroad The Civil War Africans In America The Underground Railroad The Underground Railroad Escape From Slavery Journey END