The Underground Railroad

Nicole Messer

How to determine which direction is North

When running away, you will have no resources except for nature to guide you. You should know that you need to run north, so use the North Star, the direction in which the birds fly, and the side of the tree that moss grows on (typically the north side) as your source of direction.


How to avoid slave catchers and dogs

First of all, only run at night, and hide and look for food at night. When running, make sure that you often run through rivers in order to get rid of your scent and then wait for the dogs and slave catchers to pass.

Who will assist you

The Underground Railroad is run by free blacks and white people who are willing to help. Once you make it to the Ohio River, you will be led to a house. In order for you to be let in, you need to say "I am a friend of a friend". There, they will feed you and give you directions for how to get to your destination. Often, the house owners will put a candle in the window in order to let you know that it's safe to cross the Ohio River. It is likely that you will rest in a cellar, basement, or barn. This is due to the fact that you are there illegally and it is the safest option for everyone.


Your final destination

For many runaway slaves, Canada is their destination. Once you get to the Ohio River and have been fed and helped by the Underground Railroad, you need to cut all the way through Ohio to the edge - Cleveland. The Ohio River is the end of the "black belt", known for the dark soil and high population of African Americans. If you get lucky, a white man will help you travel, referring to you as his slave. There are several black and white families that are sure to help you or give you a place to stay for the night, but keep in mind the risk that it puts on them as well as yourself. Once you get to Cleveland, keep going until you reach Lake Erie. After you cross the lake, you will find yourself in Canada. Beware - in the North, there is still racism, and it is highly likely that you will be called things such as "darkie", especially by the upper class and women. However, you will no longer have to worry about things such as an overseer that used to always be there, ready to whip and flog you at any moment of weakness.


Don't give up

Slavery is a peculiar institution. For one, it contradicts the Declaration of Independence, which states that "all men were created equal", but it also greatly effects the economy. Due to this, it has made receiving assistance harder, but not impossible. There are several slave revolts that have been occurring, like Denmark Versey's in 1822. While work leaked out and it was unsuccessful, free blacks in Charleston and Versey's followers (around 9,000) joined him in making preparations for a revolt. The only successful slave revolt was on a summer night in 1831 by Nat Turner, a slave preacher, and a band of African Americans armed with guns and axes. However, this had costly consequences to not only the whites, but the blacks as well. While the revolt killed 60 white men, women, and children before the state troops overpowered them, more than 100 blacks were executed because of it.