The Underground Railroad

Secret aid provided by abolitionists to help escaping slaves

How do you escape?

A slave will escape by following the Underground Railroad, or simply hiding and heading north. The highest concentration of slaves was in the "Black Belt". However be aware that overseer's would watch the slaves making it difficult to escape, and if a slave had escaped successfully their disappearance would be known very soon. Slaves who go about their escape by only heading north needed to know where north was. This is where the song "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd" comes in. This is a song that many slaves would sing on the plantations telling them to follow the drinkin' gourd, or to follow the Big Dipper which will lead to the North Star. If they were to use the Underground Railroad then the slaves, or "darkies" as the slave owners would call them would be referred to as passengers, or baggage. The passengers would seek out "conductors" who would guide or transport the slaves to the next "station". A station was a "station master's" home and where the station masters would hide the runaways. And the last part of the Underground Railroad were the "stockholders" who would provide the escaping slaves with money, clothes, and food. However following the Underground Railroad became more difficult after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850 making citizens return escaped slaves or they would receive a $1,000 fine or have to spend 6 months in prison. And if a slave was turned in or caught by a slave catcher then they would be flogged and returned to their owner or put to death.


What is the best route?

The best route to freedom for a slave would be if they started in Louisville, Kentuckey. They would then travel from station to station until they would reach Cleveland, Ohio. From there the slaves would board a conductor's ship and sail across Lake Eerie into Canada where they would be completely free as slavery was abolished in Canada in 1833, and Canada refused to allow slave catchers in. Meaning that in Canada blacks were equal with whites.


Did slave revolts ever occur?

Yes. Slave revolts did occur however only two could possibly be considered successful. These were the revolts and rebellions that were led by Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner. Denmark Vesey planned his rebellion in 1822. Nat Turner successfully planned and executed his rebellion on August 21st, 1931 and let to 60 white deaths. However being that the slave owners were rarely on the plantations most of these deaths were children and women, meaning they did not kill their intended targets. And the whites in response to this revolt killed around 200 black slaves. The "Peculiar Institution" (euphemism for slavery) led to many unsuccessful and these few successful slave revolts as well as economic ramifications.
Follow the Drinking Gourd
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The Underground Railroad: A Journey to Freedom