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.
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.
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.