Underground Railroad Road To Freedom dbays/teacherspayteachers.com Underground Railroad (UGRR) is a term for the network of people and places who assisted fugitive slaves as they escaped from slavery in the South. Underground Railroad activity did not literally take place underground or via a railroad, nor was it an official organization
with defined structure. It was a loose network of people who attempted to move enslaved individuals escaping from slavery to and from safe places in a quick and largely secretive manner. Terminology People involved with the Underground Railroad developed their own terminology to describe participants, safe places, and other codes that needed to be kept secret. Conductors: People who guided slaves from place to place.
Safe House or Stations: locations where slaves would safely find protection, food, or a place to sleep Station Masters: People who hid fugitive slaves in their homes, barns, or churches Cargo: Slaves who were in the safekeeping of a conductor or station master Most widespread during the three decades prior to the Civil War, this activity primarily took place in the regions bordering slave states, with the Ohio River
being the center of much of the activity. The actual routes of the Underground Railroad were determined chiefly by three factors: Geographical location Availability of workers, and Political climate in North America. Geographical Location The first factor was
geographical location: a border state en route to Canada. The Underground Railroad encompassed an area generally above the Ohio River in the Midwest, along the state line of Pennsylvania in the East, and stretching into Canada. There was
heavy activity in IL, IN, OH, PA, DE, and the New England states. Availability of Workers: Abolitionists and Conductors Underground Railroad conductors were free individuals who helped fugitive slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Conductors helped runaway slaves by providing them with safe
passage to and from stations. They did this under the cover of darkness with slave catchers hot on their heels. Many times these stations would be located within their own homes and businesses. These conductors were They included people of different races, occupations and income levels. There were also former slaves who had escaped
using the Underground Railroad and voluntarily returned to the lands of slavery, as conductors, to help free those still enslaved. Slaves were understood to be property; therefore, the freeing of slaves was viewed as stealing slave owners personal property. If a conductor was caught helping free slaves they would be fined, imprisoned, branded, or even hanged.
Quakers and UGRR Abolitionists and members of various religious groups, including Mennonites, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and others participated in the Underground Railroad. The Quakers (the Society of Friends), however, played the biggest role throughout the United States, and a significant role locally. The Quakers believed that no man should own another. Early on, in America, some Quakers actually owned slaves, but by 1782, a form of "friendly persuasion was used to convince them to set their slaves free. First, there was a visit by other Quakers to persuade them nicely to set their slaves free.
If this friendly, private visit failed, they took it public, testifying against slave-holding Quakers in open meetings. Then, if they remained unconvinced, the slave-owners were partially excluded from the society. Finally, if they refused to free their slaves, they were disowned completely John Rankin In Ripley Ohio, Rankin, a Presbyterian minister served as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad and opened his home to African Americans seeking
freedom. His home stood on a three hundred-foot high hill that overlooked the Ohio River. Rankin would signal runaway slaves in Kentucky with a lantern, letting them know when it was safe for them to cross the river. He kept the runaways hidden until it was safe for them to travel further north. William Still Often called "The Father of the Underground Railroad," Still
helped as many as 800 slaves escape to freedom, interviewing each person and keeping careful records, including a brief biography and the destination of each person, along with any alias that they adopted, though he kept his records carefully hidden. Harriet Tubman Moses Tubman is perhaps the most well-known
of all the Underground Railroad's "conductors." During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. And, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she "never lost a single passenger." Political Climate: Dangerous Path To Freedom Traveling along the Underground Railroad was a long a perilous journey for fugitive
slaves to reach their freedom. Runaway slaves had to travel great distances, many times on foot, in a short amount of time. They did this with little or no food and no protection from the slave catchers chasing them. Slave owners were not the only pursuers of fugitive slaves. In order to entice others to assist in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering payment for the capture of their property. If they were caught, any number of terrible things could happen to
them. Many captured fugitive slaves were flogged, branded, jailed, sold back into slavery, or even killed. Code Words Code words were also used to enable fugitive slaves to find their way North. Of necessity, both fugitive slaves and members of the Underground Railroad learned to code and decode hidden messages, to disguise signs and themselves to avoid capture or worse.
There were signs. A quilt hanging on a clothesline with a house and a smoking chimney among its designs indicated a safe house. There were signals. Each house had its own combination of knocks. For example, (three knocks), "Whos there?" "A friend with friends." A friend with friends: An Underground Railroad conductor would use this password as a signal that fugitive slaves had arrived. Baggage: escaping slaves Bundles of wood: fugitives to be expected Canaan: Canada (usually found in spirituals) Drinking Gourd: refers to the constellation known as the Big Dipper, which includes the
North Star. The North Star was the escaping slaves main navigational tool as they travelled North to freedom, usually Canada Freedom Seekers: the thousands of escaped slaves who risked their lives travelling North to Canada and personal liberation Freedom Train: The Underground Railroad Heaven or Promised Land: Canada (usually found in spirituals) Left foot, peg foot: A visual clue for escapees to follow. The trail was left by an Underground Railroad worker, a sailor named Peg Leg Joe, famous because of his wooden leg. Travelled through the South, used the song, Follow the Drinking Gourd, teach it to the slaves, who would later escape. Load of Potatoes: In a wagon, escaping slaves hidden under farm produce Moses: Harriet Tubman, a conductor who aided escaping slaves and was a former
slave Parcels: fugitives to be expected River Jordan: The Mississippi River or the Ohio River Shepherds: people escorting slaves Stations: the places of safety and temporary refuge where slaves hid along the escape route. Safe-houses. They could be churches, barns, or houses. Station names were referred to in code, such as: Pennsylvania - #10 Ohio - #20 Cleveland Hope Sandusky Sunrise
Detroit Midnight The dead will show you the way: If the stars werent visible, this phrase was a reminder that moss grows on the North side of dead trees. The friend of a friend sent me: Escaping slaves, travelling alone, used this password to indicate they were sent by the Underground Railroad network The river bank makes a mighty good road: A reminder that tracking dogs are unable to track the scent through water. The river ends between two hills: A clue for the directions to the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers The wind blows from the South today: A phrase informing Underground Railroad workers that escaping slaves were in the vicinity. When the sun comes back and the first quail calls: An especially good time of year to
escape (early spring) Quilts As Codes It is believed that quilts were also used as a communication tool for the Underground Railroad. Monkey Wrench This meant the slaves were to gather all the tools they might need on the journey to freedom.
Tools meant something with which to build shelters, compasses for determining directions, or tools to serve as weapons for defending themselves Crossroads Once through the mountains, slaves were to travel to the crossroads. The main
cross road was Cleveland, Ohio. Any quilt hung before this one would have given directions to Ohio. Flying Geese This pattern told the slaves to follow migrating geese north towards Canada and to Freedom. The
pattern was used as directions as well as the best season for slaves to escape. Log Cabin This pattern was used to let the slaves know where safe houses were. People who helped the Underground Railroad may have identified themselves as friends to
slaves on the run by tracing this pattern in dirt as a signal. The quilt told slaves to look for this symbol on their journey to freedom. It was also a symbol to set up a home in a free state. Songs Perhaps no song is more closely associated with the Underground
Railroad than this one. To follow the North Star was the message embedded in this spiritual; instructions are included in the song to follow the points of the drinking gourd (the Big Dipper) to the brightest star, which is the North Star. The first verse instructs slaves to leave in the winter When the sun comes back refers to winter and
spring when the altitude of the sun at noon is higher each day. Quail, a migratory bird, spends the winter in the South. The drinking gourd refers to the Big Dipper, the old man means Peg Leg Joe, and the great big river refers to the Ohio River. The second verse told slaves to follow the bank of the Tombigbee River north. They were to look for dead trees marked with the
drawings of a left foot and a round mark, denoting a peg leg. In the third verse, the hidden message instructed the slaves to continue north over the hills when they reached the Tombigbees headwaters. From there, they were to travel along another river the Tennessee. There were several Underground Railroad routes that met up on the Tennessee. Slaves were told that the Tennessee joined another river in the songs last verse. Once they crossed that river, a guide would meet them on the north bank and guide them on the rest of their journey to freedom.
Disquises In addition to coded messages and signals, disguises were also used. A successful disguise was the inconspicuous clothes of the Quakers: a light gray dress and a bonnet with a heavy veil. Or just the opposite worked equally well: rich looking clothes. Slave catchers would be looking for fugitives in rags. Hiding Places Hiding places were essential. False walls were built
into attics. Secret chambers, sometimes referred to as "liberty rooms, were included as floor plans. There were fake closets, trapdoors, hidden tunnels, church belfries, and empty schoolhouses. The woodpile outside might have a room in its center. The bank of coal might be hollow. One fugitive lived in a haystack for six weeks. Even funeral processions served as hiding places, with fugitives placed in the coffins. Fugitive Slave Acts It is important to realize that while conductors and fugitive slaves were participating on the
Underground Railroad, all of their actions were illegal. The federal government had passed Fugitive Slave Acts as early as 1793 that allowed slave catchers to come north and force runaways back into slavery. By the 1830s and 1840s, these laws were expanded in reaction to increased Underground Railroad activity. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, assisting or helping hide fugitive slaves became a federal offense, making all Underground Railroad activity subject to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Escaping from slavery or helping someone to escape from slavery was a very difficult and dangerous task. Journey to Freedom During these 30 years, it has been reported that over 100,000 slaves made the journey via the Underground Railroad to Freedom.
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