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					 Underground Railroad
         • History 115

  • African American History

• Slavery begins to come undone
               Underground Railroad
• From the beginning of
  class, the theme has been
  and remains to thwart evil
  good people must act.

• Regardless of indenture of
  slavery, people have
  sought to free themselves.

• We now see a concerted
  effort to thwart the slave
  owners.
       Underground Railroad and Abolition
• As we have already seen, some
  good people did step up and
  voice concerns and outrage at
  the system.

• The Quakers, Mennonites, and
  German Dunkers were early
  prominent voices espousing
  emancipation.

• These were the first groups to
  actually organize and begin a
  process that would become the
  frontrunner to the abolition
  movement
                Road to Abolition
• Quakers urged members to emancipate their
  slaves.

• Could be ex-communicated;

• Teach slaves to become literate and work for their
  own labor

• By 1782, Quakers had dedicated their lives to
  abolition of slavery.
               Road to Abolition
• 1st abolition society organized in Philadelphia
  1775;
• The society made Benjamin Franklin President.

• The aims of the first society:
   • Make public aware with speeches, essays and
                      pamphlets;
      • Petition courts for more humane laws;
  • Aid and assist blacks to assimilate and become
           productive members of society.
      Peaceful Alternatives for Abolition
• In the beginning, the Abolition societies tried to
  convince slave owners to allow slaves to work
  one per week for their own labor—this would
  allow them to save money to purchase their
  freedom.

• Another option offered to end slavery peaceably,
  was to sell the slaves to the West Indies;

• There was also the colonizing option being
  bantered around.
         Peaceful Alternatives Cont‟d
• Compensate slave owners for freeing slaves with
  western lands or money;

• Establish a law that slaves must be freed by the
  age of 21;

• Make them literate—more productive to society;

• Boycott all plantation products and commodities.
                      Cont‟d

• Because slavery, though tied to race, was always
  explained in economic terms, the Quakers
  conceded that to end slavery, the slave owners
  economic ledgers had to be hurt—

• The new idea,now became abscond with their
  property depriving the slave owner of the saves
  economic value.
             Going Underground
• The actual term “Underground Railroad”
  probably began sometime in the early 19th
  century.

• A slave owner was following closely on the heels
  of a runaway—as the slave David Tice came to
  the Ohio, he had no choice but to swim for it.

• Slave owner close behind on a skiff, upon
  approaching shore he could find evidence of
  Tice—”must‟ve gone off underground …”
               Underground Cont‟d

• As the society became more organized and
  efficient, there would appear rumors that there
  was an underground railway system running
  underground all the way to Boston.

• In fact the society organized itself based on
  principles of the railroad system—using railroad
  nomenclature, such as conductors, etc …
                         Cont‟d



• As slave codes and Laws
  became more harsh and
  restrictive; more and more
  good people, White and
  Free black and ex-Slaves
  joined the ranks of the
  underground railroad.
                     Cont‟d
• Once the “tracks” became laid and more
  organized, many people joined the ranks.

• Some were government officials, others were
  ordinary folks;

• Some members were more enthusiastic and
  motivated than others;

• These guys desired immediate action and results.
                     John Fairfield
• Daring and apparently did
  not fear death;
• He possessed no
  compulsion to use
  violence to free slaves;
• He would go into the
  South disguised and
  abscond with slaves;
• Many times he returned
  with his charges with
  bullet holes in his clothes
  and even wounded
  several times.
                    John Brown
• A Ne‟er do well who
  committed his soul and
  conscience to the
  abolition of slavery;
• He did a great deal to
  ignite the Civil War
  because of his deeds at
  Harpers Ferry Arsenal;
• He had hoped his actions
  would ignite an
  insurrection and lead to
  violent abolition.
                   Laura Haviland

• Though daring,
  aggressively action-
  oriented, The John
  Browns and John
  Fairfield's were the
  exception, Most
  conductors and members
  of the railroad were less
  conspicuous and more
  peaceful.
                 Laura Haviland
• Petite Michigan Quaker;

• Spent most of her energies raising money to
  become a primary “stock holder” in underground
  railroad stock;

• She helped ex-slaves to finance the purchasing of
  family members.
                William McKeever
• The most active railroad
  worker in Pennsylvania;

• Gave money, led slaves to
  freedom personally;

• His house and property
  one of the mainstay
  depots or stops on the
  way North.
                      Levi Coffin
• Leading Early
  Abolitionist;
• Born in NC in 1789;

• As a child bought and
  sold produce from slaves;

• Heard their stories and
  resolved to act;

• He would be called the
  President of the railroad
           Runaways and the Railroad
• Many fugitives, once free placed their freedom in
  jeopardy to become very active members of the
  railroad;

• John Mason, an ex-slave slipped back into
  Kentucky many times eventually leading 265
  slaves to freedom;

• Frederick Douglass, though very active in the
  awareness phase of speaking, writing and raising
  funds, never went back South until after the war.
                 Other Runaways
• Caveat—many runaways had to stay hidden or
  move on to Canada because as the „Fugitive
  Clause‟ became more strict, many slave catchers
  would grab free blacks off the streets and re-sell
  them into slavery. Why the strong movement
  was so important.
• Ermene Cain a runaway actively worked for 45
  years covertly;
• Samuel Dorsey, barber, also worked covertly in
  the network; more famously was “Old Naylor”
  William Still and Josiah Henson.
                Reverend Josiah Henson
• He began a Black Community
  to help assimilate ex-slaves to
  a free society;

• Formed Tobacco Co-ops to
  provide economy for ex-
  slaves;

• Personally made trips to
  secure freedom at risk of his
  own freedom;

• First ex-slave to have
  audience with Queen Victoria
                    William Still
• Became executive
  secretary of the
  Philadelphia Anti-Slave
  Society;

• He kept meticulous
  records giving us much of
  what we know now;

• Wrote Book,
  Underground Railroad in
  1872.
                    Harriet Tubman
• The most acclaimed and
  celebrated Railroad
  member;
• Born in Maryland; was
  subjected to a brutal attack
  by an overseer, which
  caused her to often fall
  into a sudden swoon or
  altered state of
  consciousness; after her
  escape, she helped her
  sister and family escape.
                 Harriet Tubman
• She was a fervent and very successful
  “Conductor.”

• She was no none sense; she carried a revolver for
  any circumstance, which one time required her to
  impress upon some slaves in her charge to keep
  going or she would shoot them—freedom was to
  important to everyone for a few to spoil it by
  complaining—if she felt they were endangering
  the group. “You go on or die.”
                Harriet Tubman
• No one really knows how many trips she made
  South to Conduct slaves to freedom or how many
  she actually led, some say around 300—suffice it
  say it was a lot and often.

• She became to be called “General Tubman” and
  “Moses.” The higher the price on her head
  ($40,000), the more times she returned to the
  South;

• Sometimes lucky to get out without capture.
                      Tubman Cont‟d
• William Still author of The
  Underground Railroad stated
  she was the most unassuming,
  non-pretentious, and ordinary
  specimen of humanity, to be
  found among the farm hands
  of the South … She blended
  well and was seen as no threat
  to anyone—

• She often disguised herself as
  an old „Granny‟ to hide her
  athleticism and strong gait.
                      Tubman
• She didn‟t just simply „Conduct‟ them to freedom,
  she saw them all the way to Canada;

• At the Court House in Auburn New York there is
  a quote on her statue, “On my underground
  railroad, I never run my train off the track, and I
  never lost a passenger.”

• Her famous quip to new slaves when entering free
  soil, “You done shook the Lion‟s Paw.” He was
  free.
               Reality of the Railroad
• Dangerous and
  treacherous;

• Disputes about funding
  and financing;

• Charges of corruption;

• Traitors and Money
  Grubbers
                      Cont‟d
• There was claims that these agents of the railroad
  were leaving the slaves destitute without any
  financial help and pocketing the money for
  themselves;
• Was a direct cause of breaking up families, by
  their presence slave owners were forced to sell
  slaves deep into the interior to avoid escape;
• All money raised in these abolition societies
  should be used for emancipation of all slaves, not
  just feeing some through clandestine means.
                    Cont‟d
• Largest complaint—was accountability and the
  corruption of funds.

• Railroad workers suffered ridcule from others,
  were shouted down at meetings, their children
  were harassed; many were shunned at work and in
  the community.

• Some were even asked to withdraw from their
  church membership.
                     Social Effects
• The biggest assumed cause was the Civil War itself—the
  losses of slave property escalated the chances of war;

• It was also argued that the railroad by aiding so many
  runaways, it eliminated any chance for insurrection and
  rebellion ending the institution earlier than the 1860s.

• George W. Williams, A Black scholar, argued that the
  railroad provided a safety valve to the slave institution.
  Many of the slaves prone to rebellion and and desiring to
  throw off the yoke of slavery just absconded North,
  rather than a Haiti type rebellion in the South.
                     Personal Cost
• Because of the harsher penalties for assisting fugitive
  slaves, many railroad workers suffered terrible financial
  hardship;

• They were incarcerated; had their businesses impounded;
  forced to seek expensive legal counsel;

• In other cases when an underground worker saw an
  advertisement in the paper for the sale of slaves, they
  would use their own money to buy and then fee the
  slave—this caused financial hardship
               Physical Hardship
• Black and White railroaders alike suffered
  physical abuse, threats, and sometimes death;

• Rewards were offered for the capture of railroad
  workers; Thomas Garrett had $20,000 placed on
  his head—Tubman had $40,000 placed on her
  head.

• Garrett responded in the paper that he was worth
  twice that.
                Hardship Cont‟d
• Abolitionist Lewis Tappan barely escaped with
  his life as Slave Catchers tore down his house and
  destroyed his belongings;

• He was hanged in effigy and threatened with tar
  and Feathering.

• William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the abolitionist
  paper The Liberator, also barely escaped an angry
  Pro-Slavery mob with his life on several
  ocassions..
                        Elijah Lovejoy
• The first Whiteman to die in
  the cause of Abolition,
  polarizing the camps;

• Editor of the Observer;

• More and more Whites began
  to put their life on the line for
  abolition;

• It became a cause celebre’
  and not just some local
  community cause.
                  Imprisonment
• Others were imprisoned such as Charles Torren.
  He was caught assisting fugitive slaves. He died
  in prison.

• Seth Concklin traveled to Alabama to rescue Peter
  Sill‟s family. Sill a free ex-slave solicited
  assistance. Concklin rescued the family but was
  overtaken in Indiana. He was found later,
  drowned and still in chains.
• Regardless of the hazards, white and black alike
  continued to fill the ranks of the railroad.
                 Underground Railroad
• To establish a link in the
  railroad system, two
  factors were necessary:

• 1) Geographical location

• 2) Availability of
  Underground workers and
  sympathizers
                         Cont‟d
• One of the most well
  known and largest staging
  areas of the Underground
  Railroad was in New York
  City located at the 42nd St
  Station—We know it as
  Grand Central Station.

• The trip could take days,
  months, even up to a year.
                       Cont‟d


• The name of the game
  was surreptition and
  concealment—getting
  to “Shake the Lion‟s
  Paw” Not in how fast
  it could be achieved.

• Haste makes waste.
                       Cont‟d
• One Alabama runaway took a year to get to Ohio;

• Another runaway traveled some 1200 miles
  before arriving in Pennsylvania;

• Factors to a successful flight: Proximity of slave
  owner and catcher, the route taken, Weather,
  mode of transportation (water, foot, or actual
  railroad).
       Specific Routes and Modes of Escape
• Waterway was the
  conventional choice; it was the
  fastest, but also the most
  guarded and watched;

• Unfortunately many runaways
  would be recaptured wasting
  time looking for a boat, skiff,
  log any flotation device.

• Many slaves were not raised
  around or near water and could
  not swim, or knew nothing
  about navigation.
                   Escape Modes Cont‟d
• Many slaves with the help of
  abolitionist used Steamboats,
  Roads and canals to avoid
  slave catchers.

• Levi Coffin would receive a
  telegram suggesting he go to
  box 72 (berth), at P.O.(dock),
  take charge of letters
  (fugitives), and pay postage of
  $43 (stateroom) to a Mr.
  Peck(usually Ship captain)—
  this was code.
                        Betrayal
• Many times, if the
  Captain was offered more
  money by slave catchers,
  they betrayed their
  fugitives and kept both
  parties money;

• But, Northerners were the
  owners of most of the
  River Boat lines—plus
  freedom was worth it.
                       Betrayal
• Any kind or mode of absconding, the slave was
  dependent on the morality and veracity of the
  Underground workers.

• The greatest tragedy was when Free blacks (some ex-
  slaves) accepted money and bribes betraying the
  fugitives.

• Slaves were ignorant of the geography and had little
  choice but to believe when told about a certain route—
  the end could be freedom or a return to bondage.
                   Deception
• To aid in deception and avoid capture, the
  Railroad used secret codes and signs. They also
  used disguises and subterfuge.

• They used code numbers signifying friendly
  houses and communities—10 was Philadelphia,
  20 for Seville, Ohio, and 27 for Medina, Ohio.
• The Good Ship Zion meant rescue was soon.
• A Quilt hanging on a clothesline with an
  embroidery of a Chimney with white smoke
  meant friendly confines …etc …
          Emancipation Proclamation
• Ended the need for the Underground Railroad.

• The railroad was more than a Society of high
  moral fiber, it was a belief and an act that all men
  white and black could join together in common
  cause to right a dreadful wrong.
• “It was an opportunity for the bold and
  adventurous, it had the excitement of piracy,
  burglary, the daring of insurrection … and the
  added triumph of snapping one‟s fingers in the
  face of the slave owner …

				
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