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The Underground Railroad
Transcript of The Underground Railroad
Right outside of Baltimore, Maryland hundreds of slaves work 6 days a week from dawn until dusk on plantations, which are large estates on acres of land where crops such as coffee, cotton, sugar, and tobacco are grown by workers. The majority have never tasted freedom, the furthest they've ever been is the edges of the fields.
Now, imagine yourself as one of these slaves; no hope, no way out besides working in the fields until the day you die. If the chance finally came to be free, would you take it? This is the question that many slaves were faced with. So let's say, you decide to take this chance... Baltimore You leave in the winter of 1853, after hearing about a path to freedom called The underground Railroad. The railroad was not a railroad at all, but a network of safe houses owned by free blacks and whites who opposed slavery and offered assistance to the fugitives. After an undercover conductor gives you instructions, you are on your way at nightfall. Camden After walking through the night and sneaking across the bridge over the Choptank river, you arrive in Camden, Delaware, and hopefully at your first safe house. A safe house was a place for fugitives to rest, eat, and receive supplies. They were usually indicated either by a lantern on a hitching post or a candle in a window. There was often a password for the fugitives to know that they could trust the conductors and other abolitionists they might meet along the way. The runaway slaves would usually be kept in basements, sellers, barns, even secret rooms so that they would be hidden from slave catchers. Safe houses From Camden, you make your way to Wilmington Delaware, still on foot. Walking through the woods, the only sense of direction you have are the few land marks explained by your conductors, (the people who guided and helped the slaves reach freedom), the marks on trees and of course, the North Star. Wilmington Philadelphia Rochester Ottawa During your long journey, including 250 miles through the Appalachian mountains, you have met many abolitionists. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to also come across Harriet Tubman, the "Moses" of the underground railroad. Harriet Tubman Harriet, escaped from slavery herself from a plantation 1849, and from then on risked her freedom again and again, leading other slaves to the north and Canada. The cities keep growing larger and larger as you go further North, and it is also becoming colder. If you time everything right, you should still be able to reach lake Erie by the winter. Thomas Garrett Freedom! Thomas was a good friend of Harriet, and another abolitionist/conductor on the underground railroad. An abolitionist is someone who favors the abolition of any practice (in this case slavery) that was harmful to society. He is another well known person on the railroad that you may just have the chance to meet in your travels. He was born a Quaker, and was very much against slavery. He was thrown in jail at one point for assisting other fugitives, and even after he was fined $5,400, he still continued to help. The long journey for thousands of slaves, or people who were legal property of another person and is forced to obey them, began in the south. Here we will be focusing on just one of the many routes that were taken by slaves to reach their freedom. Our journey begins in Maryland. Philadelphia is a large city, the biggest you have ever seen! It is very hard to stay hidden with all the excitement of the town around you, but it is what you must do. As you and the other slaves travel further North, it becomes more and more difficult for the slave catchers, the people hired by the slave owners to capture and return the runaways, to find you, therefore they are becoming as desperate as ever. That is why it is important for you to stick with your conductors like Harriet, or Thomas Garret. Congratulations! You have now reached your final point on the railroad; Ottawa, Canada. In other words, your freedom. The days of working in endless fields are long behind you. It was a long and frightening journey but with the help of people like Harriet, Thomas, William, Frederick, and Susan, you were never alone. Now it's time for you to start a new life here, own your very own house, have a job that pays, and maybe even start
a family, without the fear of your children being sold away as you once were. Here in Rochester, New York, you are very near the end of the railroad, however the journey as a fugitive, someone who is trying to run away, is not quite over. The only thing between you and your freedom is the vast lake Erie. Luckily, by leaving the plantation at the right time of year, and timing your travels just right, you have arrived when the lake is frozen solid, and you will be able to walk across it. You still must have extreme caution, for the sheet of ice will leave you out in the open, and you cannot know for sure whether it will support you. Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony Lake Erie This is what the frozen lake may have looked like as the slaves ventured across. Frederick and Susan were two very different people, but they both worked as abolitionists for the same cause, to end slavery. Frederick escaped slavery in 1838. He left from Baltimore, Maryland as well. Frederick wrote the North Star, an anti-slavery newspaper published until 1851. Susan was born to a Quaker family on February 15, 1820 in Adams, Massachusetts. Susan is most commonly know for her fight for women's suffrage, however before that she campaigned for the abolition of slavery. Hancock In Hancock, you come across more and more free black people, some can even read and write. These people inspire you to keep moving on your journey, until you reach the place where you can reach your dreams of freedom, as the people you meet here have. William Still William was a black man that was born into freedom. He could read and write, and he was a very confident merchant. William was also a strong leader against slavery. You may have noticed during your travels that many of the white Americans that offer you help are in fact Quakers. Quakers were people who believed in peace, and that everyone was equal. This is why a lot of them agreed that slavery was wrong and were willing to do something about it. If it were not for the Fugitive Slave Act, you would be free by now, since slavery no longer exists in Pennsylvania. However, because of the act which states that escaped slaves can still be captured and returned to their owners from free states, you must travel all the way to Canada, where this law does not apply. Summary Now you are aware that even though life as a slave was rough while working in the fields, it was even more difficult when on the run. Some slaves were not as lucky as "you" to have made it Canada. In fact, most that tried to run were captured and returned to slavery. However, each escaped slave made a difference. Each slave that did make it to Canada broke down the southern economy more and more. Each slave that ran made the idea of freedom and equality of all people more and more of a reality. Citations "Susan B. Anthony House." Her Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
"National Geographic Education." Teachers Homepage -. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
"Chapter 13 North and South." The American Republic to 1877. New York: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2003. 401-07. Print.
"Escape From Slavery, 1838." Escape From Slavery, 1838. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.