Underground Essay Research Paper The Underground Railroad

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Underground Essay, Research Paper The Underground Railroad was a secret pathway organized by abolitionists–many of them free blacks and Quakers. Its purpose was to help runaway slaves escape to freedom in the North or in Canada. Often, the passage to freedom followed natural boundaries, such as a river. Usually, slaves relied on secret helpers in towns scattered along the route to freedom. These “conductors” would help a slave move from one safe house to another, usually under cover of darkness. One daring conductor, Harriet Tubman, led hundreds of slaves to the North. Antislavery groups sent agents south to tell slaves about the Underground Railroad. The agents pretended to be census takers, mapmakers, or peddlers. Ohio was probably the busiest haven for runaway

slaves. It bordered two southern states and had a long river boundary. The route along the Appalachian Mountains was another often-used pathway to freedom. The large number of Quakers in Philadelphia made that area a likely source of safe houses for escaping slaves, too. By 1860, as many as 100,000 enslaved African Americans may have escaped to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, but a secret network of safe houses and antislavery activists – black, white, and Native American – who helped slaves escape to freedom. Every home that welcomed runaways and every individual who offered food, clothing, or other assistance could be considered part of the railroad. Though never formally organized, tens of thousands of

slaves, aided by more than 3,200 railroad “workers,” escaped to the northern states, Canada, Texas, Mexico, and through Florida to the Caribbean. The activity of the Underground Railroad reached a peak from 1830 to 1860, though it was operating as early as the 1500s, from the time the first African captives were brought to Spanish colonies in the New World. Much of the railroad’s history was passed down orally through generations. Not only were many slaves who made the trek illiterate, but also those who aided them didn’t write about it, or destroyed their records, because they feared detection. During their time of servitude, many of the runaway slaves had been forced to labor as field hands and endured harsh treatment from their owners. They longed to escape the

grueling hours of fieldwork; the lack of proper diet, and the fear of beatings and of being sold away from loved ones. Although these inhumane conditions inspired some to flee, the desire for personal liberty was the greatest motivator of all. Escaping slaves typically had to travel many hundreds of miles to reach freedom. Their escape routes ran through woods, over fields, and across rivers. Often they traveled at night to avoid detection, using the North Star as a compass. Since they could carry little food, they had to make their journey weakened by hunger. They traveled on coaches, trains, and steamships, but most often by wagon or on foot. The homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and were run by “stationmasters”; those who

contributed money or goods were “stockholders” and the “conductor” moved fugitives from one station to the next. The fugitive slaves were known as “packages” or “freight.” The term Underground Railroad may have originated when a slave, Tice Davids, fled from Kentucky and took up refuge with John Rankin, a white abolitionist in Ripley, Ohio. Davids’s owner chased him to the Ohio River, but Davids managed to disappear without a trace. His owner was left bewildered and wondering if the slave had “gone off on some underground road.” Slaves from the Deep South often took refuge with Creek and Muscogee Indians, and intermarriages were common. Some escaping slaves never left the South. Free settlements of former slaves emerged in North Carolina’s Great Dismal