Introduction The Underground Railroad, the pathway to freedom which led a numerous amount of African Americans to escape beginning as early as the 1700's, it still remains a mystery to many as to exactly when it started and why. (Carrasco). The Underground Railroad is known by many as one of the earliest parts of the antislavery movement. Although the system was neither underground nor a railroad, it was a huge success that will never be forgotten. I chose to research the Underground Railroad because I have heard so much about it, but my knowledge about the subject was very minimal. I found the Underground Railroad very interesting at first.
The more I learned about this movement, the more interested I became. When I chose this topic, I was interested in learning about the entire movement in general. I wanted to learn more about the locations of the slave hideouts, and who was involved. I wanted to find what led to the start of this movement, and when it started. I was successful with my research, and learned about all the things I was hoping to find. The Underground Railroad was a remarkable pathway to freedom which freed many from slave states and left behind an incredible story to show the importance of this event to history today.
Body First of all, the impact of the Underground Railroad has helped form America's legacy like no other event in our nation's former times. (Dewine par. 4). No one knows exactly when it started, but there were definitely advanced cases of help given to runaways as early as the 1700's. (Carrasco). Slaves had more than one reason for turning to freedom.
Most were scared of being parted from friends and family, but some just wanted to live a normal life. Some slaves had it so bad that they had to escape just to stay alive. There are several different myths as to where this legendary path to freedom got its name. Some say the name probably originated from the popularity of the new railroads. (Carrasco). Other people say it was called the Underground Railroad because of the swift, secret way in which slaves escaped.
(Donald par. 1). The Underground Railroad began in the 1700's under Quaker support. The activity gained recognizable fame after the 1830's. (Underground).
Details of escaped slaves were highly exposed and overstated in the North and South. (The Columbia). The phrase 'Underground Railroad' was first divulged during the early 1840's. (The Columbia). Other railroad terms were soon added. There was no specific location for the Underground Railroad because of the fact that the members collaborated and traveled all over the country bound for freedom.
The various paths to freedom led through the North East and Mid West to Canada, and headed South to Mexico or Florida. The final destination point for the trip would be the Caribbean Islands. For over 100 years the landmarks of the Underground Railroad have perished in dimness. (Mallory par. 2, 4). Several buildings standing today during that time served as stations.
This movement was a free group of antislavery northerners, mostly blacks, that illegally helped runaway slaves find security in the free states or Canada before the Civil War. (Underground). Not only did the Underground Railroad have a huge impact on history, one of the most questioning characteristics of the Underground Railroad was its lack of formal organization. (Carrasco). When possible, conductors met at border points in Cincinnati Ohio, Wilmington Delaware, lake ports of Detroit, Sandusky Ohio, Erie Pennsylvania, and Buffalo New York. These were all locations for a quick escape to Canada.
(Underground). The Underground Railroad created a very clever way of communication with the slaves on the journey. They created so called "code words" by using railroad terms for their secret organization to protect the fugitives and other people involved. (Donald par. 1). For example, slaves were referred to as passengers.
Guides were known as conductors, and homes were called stations. (The Columbia). A successful escape was usually less the product of coordinated assistance and more a matter of the runaways resourcefulness and a great deal of luck. (The Reader's). The Underground Railroad was an accordance of trails through the woods and fields, river crossings, boats and ships, trains and wagons, all fearing recapture. (Carrasco).
All railroad lines headed North from Southern plantations to stations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Canada. (The Underground). Railways were made up of back roads, water ways, mountains, forests, and swamps. (Dewine).
Slaves main escape destinations on their way to freedom were either in the Northern states or Canada. (The Reader's). The slaves would travel by whatever means they could. They would move fast in the night, and hide during the day. To avoid detection, slaves would travel by night relying on the north star to guide them. (Underground).
Normally runaways would travel alone or in small groups. It is said that approximately 40, 000 slaves traveled to free soil on the Underground Railroad. (Dewine). After receiving food and comfort during the day, runaways were either covered with carpets and straw and hidden on wagons, or smuggled in boats that traveled the Wissahickon Creek. (Mallory par.
11). Slaves were provided with food and a place to hide by free blacks and some whites in the North and South. (Donald par. 2). According to Warren Van Tine, "Ohio was perhaps the key state in regards to the success of the Underground Railroad because of its location." Ohio was helpful in more ways than one. The Ohio river and Lake Erie gave access to Canada and Virginia.
(Winbush). It is said that more than 150 key Underground Railroad sites have been identified in Ohio. (Dewine). Van Tine also noted that "Ohio was very important to the success of the Underground Railroad." (Winbush). Although Ohio played a big role in the flight to freedom, Pennsylvania was the first taste of freedom.
(Mallory par. 10). The state of North Carolina was very dominate on their opposition to slavery. Roughly 50, 000 people left for Ohio and Indiana to object slavery before the Civil War. (The Underground). Following the freedom celebration, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed.
This act passed in 1850 allowed slave traders and bounty hunters to enter free states and recapture runaways. (Mallory par. 9). In addition to the impact on history and questioning characteristics, the slaves' flight to freedom was made possible by the noble men and women who believed in the right of all humans to be free from domination. (Carrasco). The most involved workers were free Northern blacks who had little or no support from white abolitionists.
(The Reader's). Slaves were also assisted by African Americans and whites who risked their lives to rescue slaves to freedom. (Carrasco). Some Southern slaves helped runaways escape also. (Donald par. 2).
Harriet Tubman who is famous for her heroic actions in this movement was the railroads most valuable conductor. She escaped in 1849 from the Eastern shore of Maryland and later became known as "Moses." (Carrasco). She often stopped in the Philadelphia suburb of Germantown, arriving during the middle of the night. (Mallory par. 11). Tubman once said "I have seen hundreds of escaped slaves, but I never saw one who was willing to go back and be a slave." Another person who had a huge impact of the success of the Underground Railroad was a man named Levi Coffin.
Coffin was a Quaker who was named the President of the Underground Railroad because he helped more than 3, 000 slaves escape. (Donald par. 5). The amount of slaves assisted was very unbalanced.
Only a small amount of those being held ever escaped. (The Reader's). It was once thought that more than 60, 000 slaves gained their freedom through the Underground Railroad. (Underground). The Underground Railroad showed how much determination there was to end slavery. (Donald par.
6). The Underground Railroad was a widely arranged, national, confidential organization that achieved numerous goals in capturing slaves from the South. (The Columbia). Although women's rights were limited during this time, that did not stop many from giving their assistance. (Buckmaster 68).
William Good stated, "I think the operation of the Underground Railroad is a very important part of American history." (Winbush). The Underground Railroad is taught in many schools and many adults study this movement as well. This movement is remembered by many as a great success. The heroic actions made by the courageous men and women will be will never be forgotten. And so, the Underground Railroad, also known as the Liberty Line (Underground), promised freedom to slaves who ran away to fight with British. (Buckmaster 19).
Following this, the Freedmen's Bureau Bill was created and guaranteed certain protection to slaves. (Buckmaster 191). This bill allowed slaves to end the fight and continue their way to freedom. The need for the railroad slowly began to decrease as the fight for abolishment grew stronger. The final action that brought the railroad to it's final stop was the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln, ending all slavery in our now free country, forever. (Buckmaster 171).
Conclusion While doing this research paper, I have learned so much more information about this movement than I ever expected to learn. Before I had researched this project, I assumed the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad. I never realized how drastic this movement was, nor the amount of courage the men and woman had to have to participate in the act. I had never realized how callous the slave owners acted toward their slaves, or how emotionally strong the slaves had to be to put up with the abuse. I was extremely fortunate while writing this paper. I found all the information I had been looking for, although it wasn't quite what I had expected.
The outcome of this event was so much worse than I had ever imagined it to be. I feel that the Underground Railroad was an incredible movement and if this act had never started, I believe that the many escapees would not have made it out alive.