The Underground Railroad was a secret network of people, routes, and homes used by slaves in the southern United States to escape to freedom. The activity began around 1810 and ran up until the American Civil War in the 1860s. Thousands of slaves escaped using the Underground Railroad. This picture shows laves arriving at an Underground Railroad station after a hard trip hidden in a wagon. They must hide quickly before they are seen.
The Underground Railroad consisted mostly of homes, farms, churches, and other safe places where escaped slaves could hide. These hideouts were called stations or depots. People from the North, called conductors, who knew the routes and where to hide would help lead the fugitives. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act made it more difficult for escaped slaves in the North. After that, slaves had to make it all the way to Canada or Mexico to find freedom.
William Still is sometimes called the "Father of the Underground Railroad". Still worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and helped as many as 800 slaves to freedom. He kept detailed records of those he helped so he could reunite families who escaped separately once they arrived in the north.
Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad and then became a conductor. She led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. She was so successful she earned the nickname "Moses" and the South offered a $40,000 reward for her capture. During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a spy for the North.
Thomas Garrett helped to provide food and lodging for runaway slaves and their conductors at his farm in Pennsylvania. He was good friends with Harriet Tubman and was instrumental in helping her parents to escape.
Lewis Hayden and his family escaped from slavery in Kentucky to the north using the Underground Railroad in 1944. Lewis and his wife Harriet used their home to harbor fugitive slaves who had recently escaped from the South. He once threatened to blow up his house if slave catchers tried to enter.
Samuel Burris was a free black man who helped slaves escape using the Underground Railroad. He was caught while helping a slave to escape and was sold into slavery as punishment. Fortunately, one of his abolitionist friends bought Samuel at a slave auction and set him free.
Levi Coffin House
Homes, farms, and churches were used as stations along the Underground Railroad. The Levi Coffin house earned the nickname the "Grand Central Station" of the Underground Railroad because of the number of escaped slaves that came through the house. It is located in Fountain City, Indiana. It was owned by Quaker abolitionist Levi Coffin and his wife Catherine.
Bethel AME Church
The Bethel AME Church in Indianapolis, Indiana was a stopping point for slaves on the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. The church was burned down in 1862, likely because of its involvement in the Underground Railroad.
John Rankin House
The John Rankin House located on the Ohio River in Ripley, Ohio was home to Presbyterian minister John Rankin. Rankin and his family helped hundreds of slaves escape working as conductors and using their home as a station. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, first heard stories of escaping slaves at the John Rankin House.
The Lewis and Harriet Hayden house was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is located in Beacon Hill, Boston.
This detailed map shows several of the common routes taken by slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Slaves took a variety of routes to freedom including land routes and ocean routes.
Ride For Liberty
Slaves riding on a horse to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
The Liberator was an anti-slavery newspaper run by William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp.
Henry Box Brown
Henry "Box" Brown was a slave who escaped from the South by mailing himself in a crate to Philadelphia. He was in the crate for 27 hours traveling by trains, steamboats, and wagons. Sometimes the crate was placed upside down and Henry had to remain that way for hours.
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