and the Underground Railroad
Awesome Stories Underground Railroad
Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave from Maryland who became known as the "Moses" of her people, helped slaves attain freedom in Canada and the northern states. As a young woman, she had experienced the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery firsthand when she refused to help an overseer whip another young slave who had gone to the store without permission.
When the offending slave tried to run away from his punishment, the overseer threw a heavy iron weight at him. It hit Tubman (known then by her birth name “Araminta Ross”), nearly crushing her skull, leaving a deep scar, and causing seizures which she endured for the rest of her life.
Knowing the risk of helping runaways was high, Tubman - it is said - would not allow people to change their minds once she agreed to help. If slaves tried to turn back, she reportedly pointed a gun at them and said:
You’ll be free or die a slave.
Harriet Tubman was called The Moses of Her People because she led so many to safety. After escaping herself, she returned to the South nineteen times. More than 300 former slaves, including her own parents, owed their freedom to her. In her biography of Tubman, Sarah H. Bradford notes:
"As states united edged closer to becoming states divided, more and more people fled America’s system of chattel slavery. By the time the war between the states was over, at least 100,000 people had exchanged bondage for freedom by making an arduous, risk-filled trip on one of the Underground Railroad’s routes." from awesome stories
The Underground Railroad was the network used by enslaved black Americans to obtain their freedom in the 30 years before the Civil War (1860-1865). The “railroad” used many routes from states in the South, which supported slavery, to “free” states in the North and Canada.
Sometimes, routes of the Underground Railroad were organized by abolitionists, people who opposed slavery. More often, the network was a series of small, individual actions to help fugitive slaves.
Using the terminology of the railroad, those who went south to find slaves seeking freedom were called “pilots.” Those who guided slaves to safety and freedom were “conductors.” The slaves were “passengers.” People’s homes or businesses, where fugitive passengers and conductors could safely hide, were “stations.”
Stations were added or removed from the Underground Railroad as ownership of the house changed. If a new owner supported slavery, or if the site was discovered to be a station, passengers and conductors were forced to find a new station.
Establishing stations was done quietly, by word-of-mouth. Very few people kept records about this secret activity, to protect homeowners and the fugitives who needed help. If caught, fugitive slaves would be forced to return to slavery. People caught aiding escaped slaves faced arrest and jail. This applied to people living in states that supported slavery as well as those living in free states. from National Geographic
“On my Underground Railroad I [never] run my train off [the] track [and] I never [lost] a passenger.”
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