Escaping Slavery

The Underground Railroad


Used North Star and moss (grows on north side of trees) to determine direction

Ran through streams to cover scents from dogs

Stationmasters hid slaves in attics, cellars, barns, or secret rooms to avoid slave catchers

Slaves usually traveled at night to avoid being seen by slave catchers

People north of Ohio R helped slaves escape, northerners in free states

Hoped to reach Ohio, New York, Chicago or Canada


Begin: Georgia

South Carolina

Great Dismal Swamp, between North Carolina and Virginia

Baltimore, Maryland

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

New York, New York

Rochester, New York

Lake Ontario

End: Ontario, Canada


The "peculiar institution" of slavery existed in America from 1619 through the late 19th c. Slavery was most commonly found in the south along the "black belt" in South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Southern plantations often had hundreds of slaves, so many the slave master could never manage them efficiently. They would hire slave overseers to watch the slaves, making sure each slave is on time and completing his job in a reasonable timeframe. Floggings were used for punishment when overseers caught slaves disobeying their rigorous rules.

However, on a family plantation with 200 slaves and only 10 white members, the whites needed to oppress their slaves and enforce superiority to prevent rebellions. Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in Virginia 1831, killing 60 white men. After this, slave owners grew more cautious and more stern. Working conditions worsened for slaves overall, and 200 "darkies" were killed in response.

Slaves would try to flee this hell through the usage of the underground railroad, a secret line of houses connecting the south to the north and Canada. These houses would provide a hidden bed and meal for slave refugees in search of freedom.

Denmark Versey, a freed slave, was executed for planning a slave rebellion in 1822. He was considered a hero to slaves fleeing the south and later became a battle cry for Frederick Douglass.