Slave Escape

By: AJ Hauer

A Slaves Guide To Freedom

The term Underground Railroad referred system of which runaway slaves known as a darkie, escaped from their overseer and traveled north to flee the black belt (south). Many slaves did this because they viewed that there life on the run could not be any worse than there life in slavery, with the constant floggings they endured in the peculiar institution. To put into perspective how brutal slave conditions were, a young slave named Denmark Vesey in 1822, even after purchasing his freedom, organized a slave rebellion to kill there masters and overseers. One man who accomplished this task was Nat Turner. He led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths. Whites responded with at least 200 black deaths. However slave rebellions were uncommon, and the majority of slaves decided to travel along the Underground Railroad to gain freedom, rather than attack their owners in rebellion. Along the Underground Railroad, the free individuals who helped runaway slaves travel toward freedom were called conductors, and the fugitive slaves were referred to as cargo. The safe houses used as hiding places along the lines of the Underground Railroad were called stations. A lit lantern hung outside would identify these stations. How ever, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 also outlawed the abetting of fugitive slaves. Their safety and freedom could now not be reached until they entered into Canada. Slaves were taught direction by looking for moss on the north side of trees. Some slaves even knew about using the North Star, the brightest star in the nighttime sky, to guide them in a northerly direction. From this oral tradition enslaved individuals also knew to travel during the nighttime and to follow rivers and streams to hide their scent from dogs and slave catchers. A popular route slaves took to gain their freedom started in Ripley Ohio at a house owned by a man named John Rankin. Rankin then gets you connected with the Underground Railroad. You will then be taken by the conductor and transported to the next stations. Along the way there will be what are called stockholders. These people will be there to give you food and clothes. During this time period, you will be referred to as baggage. There are some large populated African American settlements in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Although with the new laws requiring the return of runaway slaves, your destination is set for Ontario Canada. Once you are taken through the north, you will be put on a boat and transported across Lake Erie into Ontario, Canada. From that point on you are a free man, and can choose to do whatever with your life.

Follow The Drinking Gourd

The Drinking Gourd song was supposedly used by an Underground Railroad operative to encode escape instructions and a map. These directions then enabled fleeing slaves to make their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and freedom.

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

For the old man is waiting for to carry you to freedom,

If you follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river bank makes a very good road,

The dead trees show you the way,

Left foot, peg foot, traveling on

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

The river ends between two hills,

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

There's another river on the other side,

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Where the great big river meets the little river,

Follow the Drinking Gourd.

For the old man is awaiting to carry you to freedom if you

follow the Drinking Gourd.