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Underground Railroad (Skelton, 2005)

Textbook

Rene Skelton, Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage, 1st ed., (New York: Harper Collins, 2005), 14-15. 

The Underground Railroad wasn’t a real railroad with tracks and trains. It was a network of people and routes – on land and water – that helped slaves escape from the South in the mid-1800s.

Thousands of people in cities, villages, and farm areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico were part of the network.

Between 30,000 and 100,000 slaves escaped to freedom on the “Railroad” between the 1830s and the end of the Civil War.

“Conductors” were people who helped the runaways. “Stations” were places such as overgrown areas in forests or attics or cellars in houses where slaves could hide.

Conductors gave escaping slaves food, shelter, and clothing. They also helped the slaves get to the next station. At night conductors snuck the slaves out of their hiding places. Most of them went on foot, although some traveled in wagons, sleighs, and boats.

Most conductors on the Underground Railroad were African Americans who lived in the North. But whites and others became part of the network, too. The conductors took great risk to help escaping slaves. If they were found out, the conductors could lose their jobs.

And if escaping slaves were caught, they’d be dragged back to their owners and punished.

How to Cite This Page: "Underground Railroad (Skelton, 2005)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/17131.