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The Underground Railroad: A Perilous Journey to Freedom. Liz Butler Kristie Varghese Chavi St. Hill Jake Waldron Seun Odusola. Frederick Douglas: A Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Frederick Douglass is one of the famous abolitionists and conductors of the Underground Railroad.

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the underground railroad a perilous journey to freedom

The Underground Railroad:A Perilous Journey to Freedom

Liz Butler

Kristie Varghese

Chavi St. Hill

Jake Waldron

Seun Odusola

frederick douglas a conductor of the underground railroad
Frederick Douglas: A Conductor of the Underground Railroad
  • Frederick Douglass is one of the famous abolitionists and conductors of the Underground Railroad.
  • Douglass helped many slaves get freedom by helping them get to Canada safely.
  • His main job as a conductor of the Underground Railroad was to protect the slaves and himself from being captured and to safely get them to land where they would be free.


frederick douglass journey to the north
Frederick Douglass’ Journey to the North

“On Monday, the third day of September, 1838, in accordance with my resolution, I bade farewell to the city of Baltimore, and to that slavery which had been my abhorrence from childhood…But I had one friend-a sailor-who owned a sailor’s protection…certifying to the fact that he was a free American sailor…In my clothing I was rigged out in sailor style. I had on a red shirt and a tarpaulin hat and black cravat tied in sailor fashion…When the conductor left me with the assurance I was all right, though much relieved, I realized that I was still in great danger: I was still in Maryland, and subject to arrest at any moment…After Maryland I was to pass through Delaware, another slave state, where slave catchers generally awaited their prey, for it was on its borders that these human hounds were most vigilant and active. The border lines between slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones for the fugitives…I reached New York Tuesday morning, having complete the journey in less than twenty four hours…Such is briefly the manner of my escape from slavery--and the end of my experience as a slave.”

  • In this excerpt from The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass recounts his experiences of escaping slavery. He describes all his anxiety that he was going through and all the fear and apprehension he had during his journey to the north. He constantly had to worry about his safety and if he would finally escape the torture and terrible life of being a slave. Since this was his second attempt at escaping slavery, he had to be extra careful as well.
  • After Douglass reached New York, he began his work with the Underground Railroad.
frederick douglass involvement in the underground railroad
Frederick Douglass’ involvement in the Underground Railroad

“One important branch of my anti-slavery work in Rochester, in addition to that of speaking and writing against slavery, must not be forgotten or omitted. I was on the southern border of Lake Ontario, -and my prominence as an abolitionist, and as the editor of an anti-slavery paper, naturally made me the station-master and conductor of the underground railroad passing through this goodly [Rochester]. Secrecy and concealment were necessary conditions to the successful operation of this railroad, and hence its prefix "underground." My agency was all the more exciting and interesting, because not altogether free from danger. I could take no step in it without exposing myself to fine and imprisonment, for these were the penalties imposed by the fugitive-slave law for feeding, harboring, or otherwise assisting a slave to escape from his master…On one occasion I had eleven fugitives at the same time under my roof, and it was necessary for them to remain with me until I could collect sufficient money to get them on to Canada. It was the largest number I ever had at any one time, and I had some difficulty in providing so many with food and shelter, but, as may well be imagined, they were not very fastidious in either direction, and were well content with very plain food, and a strip of carpet on the floor for a bed.”

  • This excerpt from Douglass’ book narrates to the readers what Douglass’ and the other conductors of the Underground Railroad actually had to do to get the other slaves to safety and freedom.
  • Douglass at one time, had 11 slaves under his care and he says that he had to keep them all together under his roof because he had to get the money to send them safely to Canada without getting caught.
  • Douglass almost got caught once when the slave owner, whose slave Douglass had under his watch, worked at the United States commissioner's office and he put out a bounty on his slave. Fortunately, another worker warned Douglass and he got the slave free just in time.
anti slavery convention
Anti-Slavery Convention
  • Frederick Douglass is seen in this picture at the Anti-Slavery Convention during 1845 in the New York.
  • Gerrit Smith, a white abolitionist, also attended this convention, who is above Douglass.
  • Another important figure who should’ve been at this convention, William Champlain, another white abolitionist who was a ‘conductor’ of the Underground Railroad, was captured in Washington along with six escaped slaves. This goes to show that everything that these men and women were doing was risking their lives to set others free.

Frederick Douglass

the meaning of july fourth for the negro
"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?...”

  • This excerpt from one of Douglass’ most famous speeches, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” was delivered at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1852.
  • He asks the people if the basis that our new government was built on, that all men are equal, applies to them.
  • Douglass was basically telling the people that they do not fall under the category of “people.”
  • By Douglass giving such a moving speech, other people who listened to this speech were so moved that they joined the abolitionist and aided them with housing and caring for the runaway slaves.
maps of the underground railroad
Maps of the Underground Railroad
  • These maps show the routes and stations that runaway slaves took to reach freedom. Frederick Douglas, who was stationed at Rochester, New York, was at one of the last and most difficult stations.
  • Since Douglas was the last station he was the last stop for the slaves before freedom so he had to be the very careful and secretive in the way he went about his business and dealings with slaves and other conductors on the Underground Railroad.
portrait of harriet tubman
Portrait of Harriet Tubman
  • This photograph features a portrait of Harriet Tubman, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, from when she was about middle aged .
  • Harriet Tubman has a huge historical influence on the Underground Railroad, because she was its primary leader. She was born a slave and eventually managed to find the bravery to escape. She is very well known and respected when it comes to slavery and African American history. She is widely known as “The Moses of African Americans.” Her story is not just about slaves, it’s also about human beings putting themselves aside and caring for others, and having the courage to do what is right.
  • I chose to include her as a source in my research because she is the face of the Underground Railroad. She escaped slavery herself, and then went back to help slaves get on the path to freedom. This shows a real connection from her and to the many people that were in her shoes as slaves trying to reach the land of freedom.


100 reward
$100 REWARD!
  • This is a $100 reward poster that was posted up for display in Missouri after a slave had run away from his master. The source describes the slave as: a Negro man, 30 years old, weighs about 160 pounds, high forehead with a scar on it, was wearing brown pants with a worn out coat and black wool hat and a shoe size of eleven. The poster also describes what other rewards will be given out if the runaway slave was found and captured.
  • Throughout the times of slavery, many slaves have ran away in an attempt to seek their chance at freedom, and the numbers of runaway slaves significantly increased during the time of the Underground Railroad. Some slaves were caught along the journey and brought back to misery and torture, but many others were lucky and made it to the North.
  • I chose to include this primary source because it showed the Underground Railroad from the white’s perspective. The slave masters viewed their slaves as property and I thought it was interesting that they would go around town and hang up posters that described their runaway slave, similar to how someone would about a lost dog.
The photograph is of Reverend Alexander Dobbin’s basement, in which he used as a hiding spot for slaves during the Underground Railroad. He hid several slaves in a crawl space.
  • This shows that not all white people were against the Underground Railroad. There were some, such as Reverend Alexander Dobbin, who risked their lives and reputations to help slaves on their path to freedom. He was well aware of the consequences that would fall upon him if he were caught, such as being thrown in jail, fined, dubbed from society, or even executed.
  • I chose to include this primary source because it shows that not all white people were against slavery. There were very few that were willing to help, but the ones that did assist had a profound effect on the Underground Railroad.
  • Although Harriet Tubman is most likely the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, she was not the only one who helped the slaves along their journey. They could not reach the north all by themselves, so some people, like Reverend Alexander Dobbin, created hiding spots along the way.
The source is actually a sign that was directed to colored people in Boston, Massachusetts. Whoever designed the poster was cautioning colored people to avoid the Watchmen and Police Officers of Boston because they were given power, by the town’s Mayor, to act as kidnappers and slave catchers.
  • This time, during the Underground Railroad, is what may have sparked the drive for the country to go into civil war. There were many other influences that forced most of the country to pick a side, (North or South) but this is how most of the violence started. Many people in the north posted up warning signs for free African Americans, so that they know what to look out for. Some people still showed fairness to African Americans, but that number of people was very low.
  • I chose to include this primary source because it shows that even slaves that escaped through the Underground Railroad and made it to the north still had to worry about their freedom.
The source features an advertisement for William Still’s book, The Underground Railroad.
  • William Still was a free African American man who lived in Philadelphia, and was a great helper in the Underground Railroad activities in the East of the United States. He received many fugitives who stayed in Philadelphia, and helped them find homes and jobs. He also assisted the escaping slaves in continuing their journey to Canada.
  • I chose to include this primary source, because it shows the Underground Railroad from a different person’s point of view. Also, because William Still was a very important helper during the Underground Railroad. His book, The Underground Railroad, includes notes of the fugitives he took in, letters from other fugitives and Underground Railroad helpers such as Thomas Garrett and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
  • Many people contributed to the Underground Railroad; it was clearly not an easy process. Even once the escaped slaves reached free land, they still had many troubles to worry about, that we today don’t pay any mind to.
William Burke created this in 1838.
  • It shows how the slave owners did not want their slaves to leave them and how important their slaves were to them. They could go to any extent to find their slaves and stop them from escaping.
  • I choose this source because it is an example of how the slaves owners looked for their slaves and tried to get them.
  • Viewers can learn more about what the slaves could pass through when they are caught escaping; they could be put to jail, killed or shot.
a stop in the railroad
A Stop in the Railroad
  • Minister John Rankin’s House (also a church) is where the people who wanted to escape through the underground railroad stop or hide. He was an abolitionist and he and his wife were sometimes beaten by the slave owners when they come to look for their slaves.
  • This is one of the most important places that helped the slaves to escape.
harriet tubman
Harriet Tubman
  • This photograph was taken in 1880.
  • Harriet Tubman was the Moses of her people, she helped thousands of Slaves escape through the Underground railroad and be free.
  • Harriet Tubman is one of the most important people that helped the slaves to be free.
. . . God won't let Master Lincoln beat the South until he does the right thing. Master Lincoln, he's a great man, and I'm a poor Negro but this Negro can tell Master Lincoln how to save money and young men. He can do it by setting the Negroes free. Suppose there was an awful big snake down there on the floor. He bites you. Folks all scared, because you may die. You send for doctor to cut the bite; but the snake is rolled up there, and while the doctor is doing it, he bites you again. The doctor cuts out that bite; but while he's doing it, the snake springs up and bites you again, and so he keeps doing it, till you kill him. That's what Master Lincoln ought to know. . . . 


In 1824, Harriet Tubman proposed this to Lincoln. It shows how the black feel about how they are treated and how they need the help of the President for their freedom.
  • I choose this source because it shows how the president also has helped the slaves to become free and how the President is important to the slaves.
  • Viewers can learn about how the slaves felt about how they are treated and how they need the help of a leader and a president.
From the years: 1820-1913

These were the ideas of Harriet and what she believed in. It shows people who she really was.

“Never wound a snake; kill it.”

“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”

“Quakers almost as good as colored.... They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time.”

All by Harriet Tubman


This Anti-Slavery poster is from 1850.

  • This poster was produced by abolitionists in Salem, Ohio. It was created by the Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Many supporters of Anti-Slavery in the North would create pamphlets, posters, ads, and hold meetings for everybody who wanted to help promote Anti-Slavery.
  • I chose to include this source because this was one of the most common things you would see that had to do with anti-slavery. Most people would create posters about it.
  • The North strongly supported Anti-Slavery, and encouraged everyone to join the fight against slavery.

This picture was taken in the 1890’s.

This is a photograph of Laura Smith Haviland.

Laura Smith Haviland was an abolitionist from Michigan. She set up the first Underground Railroad Station in Michigan.

Laura Smith Haviland set up the first Underground Railroad Station in Michigan. She would also go down South to help runaway slaves.

I included this source because it shows one of the most important abolitionists in the Underground Railroad. She was also one of the biggest Anti-Slavery activists.

Laura Smith Haviland was one of the biggest contributors to the Underground Railroad and Anti-Slavery in general.


This photograph is from the general time of 1850-1880.

This photograph shows the “Freedom Stairway”, the passage to make it up to the Rankin Underground Railroad house.

This Stairway was the passage way through the forest to make it to the Rankin Underground Railroad house. This house was right near the border of the North and South so it was close to getting the runaway slaves closer to freedom.

This is what most runaway slaves would go through to get to the Rankin House. It was their signal that they were almost there.

This shows what most runaway slaves would see and it lets us see what they saw as they neared freedom.

There were many signals that they were close to where they were going or at least on the right track.


This poster was posted on April 19, 1926.

This poster was created by the a slave owner in Maryland to give information that his slaves were missing.

This poster was posted to inform the public that there were slaves missing and he would give a reward to whoever found them.

This poster shows how the slave owners would react when one of their slaves escaped and badly they wanted them back.

This poster lets you see what would be posted if you lived back in that time and if a slave had escaped.

This can teach how much of an impact slaves had on the economy. They did all of the farming on the plantations and without them, there was no product to sell.


This picture was taken around 1850.

This picture was taken of Rev. John Rankin and his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Rev. John Rankin and his wife were two big abolitionists and conductors in the Underground Railroad.

The Rankins’ house was on the border of the North and South right on the Ohio River which separated the free states from Kentucky. Many slaves would pass through their house on their way to freedom.

These two abolitionists were very important on slaves’ ways to freedom and a big part of the railroad.

There were many families that helped along the Underground Railroad and this was one of the most important ones.

Samuel J. May and other abolitionists created this letter.
  • This is an example of a broadside used to raise money for use by the Underground Railroad. It cautions people not to donate money to the Reverend William Brown.
  • This source shows how certain aspects of the Underground Railroad worked and how abolitionists raised money for the cause.
  • The document describes how the abolitionists went about raising money. It also shows that there were disagreements amongst abolitionists and sows that some people tried to take advantage of the abolitionist movement.


letter to reverend hiram wilson
Letter to Reverend Hiram Wilson
  • Amos Dresser created this letter which was sent to Hiram Wilson, a Reverend.
  • Amos Dresser sends two slaves to Reverend Wilson who are traveling via the Underground Railroad. He speaks of their attributes and qualities. He directs Wilson to ask for the names of the Underground Railroad contacts in Buffalo, NY.
  • This letter shows the personal involvement of people in the Underground Railroad.
  • People along the Underground Railroad took a personal interest in the slaves they helped to escape. It shows that they took the time to get to know the slaves and listen to their stories.
the underground railway in wi
The Underground Railway in WI
  • This speech was read at the meeting of the Waukesha County Historical Society. It was created by with the help of Rev/Dr. Jeremiah Porter, Dora Putnam, Mrs. A.H. Woodruff, and Caroline Quarles.
  • This describes the abolitionist’s movement and role of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin. It provides specific examples of slaves that were passed through as well as slaves that were kidnapped from Wisconsin and returned to slavery.
  • This piece gives specific examples of slaves that were helped by the Underground Railroad. It also gives more details about the case of Joshua Glover that tested the Constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Act.
  • This article gives information on how the Underground Railroad operated in Wisconsin. It provides insight into the individual stories that made up the Underground Railroad as well as the emotions and feelings of the people involved.
slave ads
Slave Ads
  • The Runaway Slave Ads are from the years, 1852- 1857.
  • This showed the value of slaves to southern owners and the extent to which they would go to recover their property.
  • It shows the extent to which southern owners would go to regain their slaves. It also demonstrates what they remembered about their slaves.
  • These ads demonstrate how southern slave owners viewed their slaves and what they remembered or noticed about them. It also shows that the owners did not care about breaking up families, as in several ads they referenced wives, mothers, or fathers, living at other owners’ properties.
  • In 1856, David Hunter Strother, an artist for Harper's Magazine, captured the alarm and determination of this runaway slave in the Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.
  • This is a depiction of a slave hiding in the Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. Strother attempts to capture the emotions of the runaway, which mingles fear of being caught and the strength and energy to remain free. The Dismal Swamp was difficult to search, but also difficult to survive in.
  • It shows the extent of what slaves would do to gain their freedom in America. All can see the determination of the slave to be free. It puts a face on the runaway slave and makes the discussion more real.
follow the drinking gourd
Follow the Drinking Gourd


When the Sun comes backAnd the first quail callsFollow the Drinking Gourd,For the old man is a-waiting for to carry you to freedomIf you follow the Drinking Gourd

The riverbank makes a very good road.The dead trees will show you the way.Left foot, peg foot, travelling on,Follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river ends between two hillsFollow the Drinking Gourd.There’s another river on the other sideFollow the Drinking Gourd.

When the great big river meets the little riverFollow the Drinking Gourd.For the old man is a-waiting for to carry to freedomIf you follow the Drinking Gourd.

the underground railroad spiritual
The Underground Railroad Spiritual
  • A one-legged sailor, known as Peg Leg Joe, worked at various jobs on plantations as he made his way around the South. At each job, he would become friendly with the slaves and teach them the words to the song, Follow the Drinking Gourd. Each spring following Peg Leg Joe’s visit to these plantations, many young men would be missing from those plantations.
  • This song was taught to slaves on plantations in Alabama to provide them with directions for escaping to freedom. Pieces of the song contained information about when to escape as well as where to go and what to look for on their journey.
  • Viewers learn the tools that abolitionists used to teach the slaves how to escape and where to go once they had escaped. Since most slaves could not read, they used songs that were easily remembered to provide direction. In this specific song, slaves were encouraged to follow the North Star.
  • For more spirituals, visit: