Underground Railroad Introduction
The Underground Railroad was a term used for a system of routes and hideouts used by black slaves, in the 1800s, to escape slavery in the southern United States. It also refers to the people who helped escaped slaves along these routes. These routes were neither underground or involved railroads. Why was the Underground Railroad called the Underground Railroad; the answer lies in the fact that "underground" represents its secrecy and "railroad" represents a mode of transportation, the transport of slaves to freedom.
On this page is a list of interesting facts about the Underground Railroad. Information on this page includes how many slaves escaped along this secret route, who the
important people of the Underground Railroad were, and where the Underground Railroad was located. This information will hopefully serve as a great resource for kids
writing Black History Month reports.
Click here for a great selection of Amazon.com books about the Underground Railroad.
Interesting Underground Railroad Facts
- Experts estimate approximately 100,000 slaves used the Underground Railroad to escape slavery.
- Most slaves who used the Underground Railroad escaped to northern U.S. states and to Canada. A little known fact is that some slaves actually escaped to the Caribbean and Mexico.
- An organized system of routes and hideouts to assist escaped slaves reach freedom existed as early as the 1780s; however it was not until the 1830s that is was referred to as the Underground Railroad. It was most active in the 1850s.
- It was typical for the escape routes to be traveled by foot and at night to avoid detection. The escaped slaves would travel from one hideout to the next which were generally 10 to 20 miles apart. They would sometimes stay at one hideout for days until it appeared safe to move to the next hideout.
- The people involved in the Underground Railroad used railroad jargon to refer to peoples roles in the escape network; these included conductors, station masters, and operators. This was devised to help maintain secrecy. The escaped slaves were called passengers or cargo.
- Harriet Tubman was the most famous "conductor" of the Underground Railroad; helping numerous slaves escape to freedom. She was proud that she never lost one "passenger". Other important people involved in this escape network were Frederick Douglass, Levi Coffin, Thomas Garrett, William Lloyd Garrison, and William Still.
- Many people, both black and white, worked as conductors on the Underground Railroad; guiding escaped slaves along the escape routes and providing safe shelter. Many conductors were themselves escaped slaves, like Harriet Tubman, who risked re-enslavement or death if caught. Many were Quakers who thought slavery was un-Christian and felt compelled to help their fellow human beings.
- Levi Coffin was an important member of this secretive network and was referred to as the "President of the Underground Railroad". His home, due to the number of slaves that passed through there, was referred to as the "Grand Station of the Underground Railroad".
- The hideouts along the escape routes often had hidden compartments or areas where slaves could hide.
- The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed for the return of slaves, who had escaped to free states in the north, to their slave masters in the south. This prompted most escaped slaves to head for Canada where they would be safe.
- The Fugitive Slave Act made life for members of the Underground Railroad more dangerous. This act made aiding an escaped slave a crime punishable by a jail term of up to 6 months or by a fine of up to one thousand dollars.