Interesting Facts about the Underground Railroad

  • The Underground Railroad (UR) was not underground nor was it a railroad. It was called “underground” because of its secretive nature and “railroad” because it was an emerging form of transportation.
  • The UR was an informal network and had many routes. Most routes went to northern states and after 1850, to Canada. Others went south to Mexico or the Caribbean.
  • Historians estimate that about 100,000 slaves escaped using the UR network.
  • Most actions by people who helped slaves escape were spontaneous actions of generosity. They were women, men, children, white and black. A lot of them were Quakers and Methodists.
  • Railroad language was adopted as secret codes use by agents, station masters, conductors, operators, stockholders and all of those involved in saving slaves. Coded song were used by slaves.
  • Levi Coffin was known as the “President of the Underground Railroad” and his home as the “Grand Station of the Underground Railroad”.
  • The most famous supporters of the UR are: Harriet Tubman, Levi Coffin, William Still, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, Samuel Green, Gerrit Smith, Lucrecia Coffin Mott among others.
  • UR stations had secret hideouts such as passages, basements, cellars and hidden compartments in cupboards where slaves were safely hidden.
  • The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it more difficult for slaves to escape. The law allowed for slaves to be returned to their masters even though they were in a free state. The final destination became Canada.
  • Under the Fugitive Slave Act any person who was caught helping a slave escape or offering shelter could be send to jail for 6 months or subjected to a $1,000 fine.

 

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Category: Facts, Underground Railroad