The Underground Railroad There are probably many people who wonder about the Underground Railroad or how slaves could travel on trains and ships without being discovered. Well, for those who may not know, the Underground Railroad was a secret network organized by people who helped men, women, and children escape from slavery to freedom. It existed before the Civil War ended slavery in the Unites States. The Underground Railroad gave hiding places, food, and transportation for the people who were trying to escape slavery. Equally important, slaves trying to escape to freedom were also given directions for the safest way to get further North on the risky road trip to freedom. The people who helped slaves escape were called conductors or engineers.
The places where people stayed on their way to escape were called stations. Escaping slaves were called passengers, cargo, or goods. Conductors helped passengers get from one station to the next, and traveled with escaping slaves from the South, where they had been slaves, to the North where they would be free. Sometimes, the conductors traveled a certain amount of distance and then handed the escaping slaves to another conductor. Besides wondering what the Underground Railroad was about, a question that may remain in people's minds is, "How could slaves travel on trains or ships without being discovered?" A large number of slaves who escaped in trains or ships borrowed or forged legal papers that said that they were free. One of the reasons that slaveholders did not want -2- slaves to learn how to read and write was because they were afraid that slaves would forge these papers.
Surprisingly, slaves borrowed papers from free blacks. An example of this is Frederick Douglas. When Frederick Douglas escaped by riding the train from Baltimore to New York, he borrowed the freedom papers of a black sailor. Obviously, he could show these to the train's conductor, as evidence that he had the right to be going northward. He later mailed these back to his friend.
One way to free slaves out of the South was to pack them up and ship them as packages. For example, in the winter of 1857, a young woman in Baltimore was boxed up by her friend, taken to a train station, and sent to Philadelphia. The woman did not have a lot of air, water, and food. The box rolled over numerous amounts of times in which the woman tumbled along. The following day, the box got to Philadelphia around ten in the morning. The free friend traveled to Philadelphia to be there when the box came.
He hired a man who drove a one-horse wagon to pick up the box and bring it to Mrs. Myers' house, a free black woman. She received many people traveling on the Underground Railroad. Mrs. Myers was afraid that the woman could be dead after the long ride, but she survived, although she was very weak.
She could not speak at first, and it took her three days to become strong enough to talk in a normal way. She almost died in the box, but the eagerness to become free was so strong that she risked it and was successful. The work of the Underground Railroad helped earn freedom for many men, women, and children. It also helped reduce slavery, which was finally stopped in the United States during the Civil War.
-3- In my opinion, a lot of slaveholders must have been angry at the success that the Underground Railroad had, but in reality, what the slaveholders were doing was wrong. I'm glad that many people had the opportunity to become free. There are people today that take living a free life for granted and put it into jeopardy by doing inappropriate things like using drugs, using weapons for violence etc... and do not realize that people like the slaves in the Underground Railroad risked their lives by trying to travel North in boxes as freight and forging papers saying they were free.
You only live once and what better way to enjoy it while being free.