Back to top

Underground Railroad (Cayton, 2003)


Andrew Cayton et al., America: Pathways to the Present: Modern American History (Needham: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2003).

Risking arrest, and sometimes risking their lives, abolitionists created the Underground Railroad, a network of escape routes that provided protection and transportation for slaves fleeing north to freedom. The term railroad referred to the paths that African Americans traveled, either on foot or in wagons, across the North-South border and finally into Canada, where slave-hunters could not go. Underground meant that the operation was carried out in secret, usually on dark nights in deep woods. Men and women known as conductors acted as guides. They opened up their homes to the fugitives and gave them money, supplies, and medical attention. Historians' estimates of the number of slaves rescued vary widely, from about 40,000 to 100,000.

The most famous conductor was a courageous famous slave named Harriet Tubman, who herself had escaped from a plantation in Maryland in 1849 and fled north on the Underground Railroad. Tubman…returned just the next year to rescue family members and lead them to safety. Thereafter, she made frequent trips to the South, rescuing more than 300 slaves and gaining the nickname ‘the Black Moses.'

How to Cite This Page: "Underground Railroad (Cayton, 2003)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,