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Introduction

Harriet Tubman

William Still

NJ Celebrates the Underground Railroad

 

 

 

Underground Railroad Routes (pdf):

NJ Underground Railroad Routes

US Underground Railroad Routes

 

Introduction
February 2003

The Underground Railroad was an informal escape network that helped fugitive slaves reach freedom. Also called the Liberty Line, this loosely organized system was neither "underground" nor a "railroad." Rather, it was a network of escape routes that originated in the southern slave states in the period of American history that led up to the Civil War. The railroad led the slaves to freedom in the northern free states, Canada, Mexico, the western territories, and the Caribbean.

Although Quakers started this anti-slavery movement in the 1780s, the Underground Railroad became legendary after the 1830s, when abolitionists and other sympathizers began helping slaves escape to freedom. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 - federal legislation that allowed slave hunters to capture an escapee in any territory or state with only oral proof that the person was a runaway - increased tensions between North and South, thereby moving the country closer to war.

Runaway slaves generally came from the upper South and were mostly skilled males without families. Whole families fled the region as well, but because the route was so dangerous, these instances of flight were rare. Fugitives traveled at night so they could avoid bounty hunters and other southern sympathizers. They followed the North Star to the northern states in places like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Wilmington, Delaware. There, "conductors" met them and directed them to freedom.

Next: Harriet Tubman


 
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