The Underground Railroad. Escape to Freedom. The Underground Railroad. What was it? An informal network of secret routes and safe houses Used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states (or as far north as Canada)
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The Underground Railroad Escape to Freedom
The Underground Railroad • What was it? • An informal network of secret routes and safe houses • Used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states (or as far north as Canada) • A network of people would helped fugitive slaves escape • Not run by any single organization or person • It consisted of many individuals -- many whites but predominantly black • Estimate - the South lost between 50,000 and 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850.
Underground Railroad Terms • “Underground Railroad” – The System used to help slaves escape • “Stations" and “Depots” - The homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat • “Stationmasters” – People who ran the Stations and Depots • “Stockholders” – People who contributed money or goods • “Conductor” – People responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next. • “Passengers” and “Cargo” – The fugitive slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad • “Bounty Hunters” – Those who set out to capture fugitive slaves
Organizing the Railroad • The Railroad began towards the end of the 18th century. • 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a "society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.“ • The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed "The Underground Railroad," after the then emerging steam railroads.
Running Away • Running away was a very difficult step in starting on the Underground Railroad. • The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. • For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. • Sometimes a "conductor," posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. • The fugitives would move at night. • 10 and 20 miles to the next “station” • They would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. • While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its “stationmaster”.
The Fugitive Slave Act • Trying to stop the “Underground Railroad” • In 1850 Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law • The law stated that in future any federal marshal who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave could be fined $1,000 • People suspected of being a runaway slave could be arrested without warrant and turned over to a claimant on nothing more than his sworn testimony of ownership • Any person aiding a runaway slave by providing shelter, food or any other form of assistance was liable to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine • Officers capturing a fugitive slave were entitled to a fee and this encouraged some officers to kidnap free Negroes and sell them to slave-owners
Starting A New Life • Organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community • Helped them find jobs and provided letters of recommendation to obtain new jobs
Famous Underground Railroad Workers • William Still • Gerrit Smith • Salmon Chase • David Ruggle • Thomas Garrett • William Purvis • Jane Grey Swisshelm • William Wells Brown • Frederick Douglass • Henry David Thoreau • Lucretia Mott • Charles Langston • Levi Coffin • Susan B. Anthony.
Railroad Quilts • Monkey Wrench - Prepare the tools you’ll need for the long journey • Bear’s Paw Take a mountain trail, out of view. Follow the path made by bear tracks; they can lead you to water and food. • Log Cabin A secret symbol that could be drawn on the ground indicating that a person is safe to talk to. It also advises seeking shelter
Railroad Quilts • Flying Geese Points to a direction to follow, such as where geese would fly during spring migration. • Drunkard’s Path Create a zig-zag path, do not walk in a straight line, to avoid pursuers in this area. • Star Follow the North Star. Worked in conjunction with the popular song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” a reference to the Big Dipper constellation.