Underground Railroad Facts

Underground Railroad Facts
the Underground Railroad was not a railroad but instead a series of safe houses and people who provided safe passage for slaves wanting to escape the South to go to the North or to go to Canada where slavery did not exist. The safe houses were essentially stations where slaves seeking freedom could rest and eat before heading for the next station on route to their destinations. Slaveholders and law officials were hunting for the slaves and those who helped them escape, ultimately planning to return the slaves to their 'owners'. The Underground Railroad began in the early 1800s and in the course of its existence more than 100,000 slaves were freed.
Interesting Underground Railroad Facts:
Slavery existed in the United States even before it was established as a country.
Slavery evolved from the practice of indentured servitude. Prior to slavery, an individual who wished to come to the New World who did not have the funds would work for someone until their debt was paid off. Slavery became the new trend in 1700 when it became legal to own someone instead of the practice of indentured servitude.
Slavery was a brutal way of life. Blacks were mistreated, overworked, underpaid (if paid at all), physically and brutally beaten and sometimes even killed. Their lives were at the mercy of their 'owners'.
The Underground Railroad passed through 14 Northern States and into Canada.
Most of those involved in the Underground Railroad's system were members of the free black community as well as abolitionists, church leaders and philanthropists.
One of the most famous members of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave. She helped to free more than 300 slaves.
Quakers in the North, who believed that slavery was wrong, also helped escaping slaves to freedom.
Most travel from one safe house to the next was done at night and on foot.
If caught, slaves trying to escape were sent back to their owners.
If 'conductors' (those helping to free the slaves) of the Underground Railroad were caught they were at risk of being hung.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it law that if slaves were caught, even in the North where slavery was illegal, they would still have to be returned to their owners in the South.
Well known figures in the Underground Railroad include Harriet Tubman (an escaped slave), Frederick Douglass (an escaped slave, activist, and underground leader in New York), Levi Coffin (a Quaker and the unofficial ‘President of the Underground Railroad), and John Fairfield (abolitionist raised in a slave-holding family).
Sometimes slavery fugitives were given clothing to wear so that they would not draw attention to their 'slave' work clothing. This was important especially if they were traveling by way of boat instead of in the dark of night.
Along the Ohio River a reverse Underground Railroad began. Free blacks were kidnapped and kept in hideouts until they could be shipped down South and sold to slaveholders.
Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, meant to free all slaves in the United States. Unfortunately this proclamation only freed a small percentage of the country's slaves.
In 1865 slavery was abolished with the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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