clemens clemens clemens

TitelA long way to freedom 
AutorAnnett Wollenweber Horse_Whisperer@web.de 
Anzahl Worte778 
SchlagworteUGRR; Northern States; secret network; slave; freedom; 

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A long way to freedom

The so-called Underground Railroad was the name of a system which helped slaves in their escape to the Northern States, Canada, Texas, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The UGRR was neither in the underground nor was it a railroad, but a secret network of safe houses, called stations, and antislavery supporters, who were people from different kinds of races and all walks of life. Although the UGRR was never formally organised, it consisted of 3,2000 members, who helped tens of thousands of slaves to escape to freedom. Even people who simply offered food or clothes were considered part of this complex system.
Probably, the UGRR originated in 1787 when a Quaker, called Isaac T. Hooper, organised a system for hiding fugitive slaves. In other sources it reads that it had already started in the 1500s when the first African captives were brought over to America. Not many facts and dates are known about the UGRR’s history because it was passed down orally through generations. Usually, Blacks were illiterate and the members of the UGRR were so afraid of detection that they destroyed all the records.
The term “Underground Railroad” probably comes from a slave called Tice Davids who fled from Kentucky by the help of the white abolitionist John Rankin. His owner searched for him but he had disappeared. This guy wondered, if his servant had “gone off on some underground road.”
The UGRR went through 14 Northern states and Canada, and it reached its peak during 1830 and 1860.
During their servitude slaves were forced to labour on fields under inhuman conditions and they endured harsh treatment from their owners. They were usually beaten, tortured and they were undernourished. Families were often departed because members were sold away. Under these conditions many slaves wanted to escape to reach personal liberty in the North.
To actually get freedom they had to travel hundreds of miles. They usually travelled at night using the North Star as a compass. The fugitives could only carry little food, so that they were always hungry and weak. They travelled on foot or by wagon, sometimes on coaches, trains or steamships.
Mostly, the “stations” were about twenty miles apart. Covered wagons with false bottoms were used to smuggle slaves from on station to another. The stations’ owners were called stationmasters, people who contributed food etc. were ”stockholders”. The “conductors” moved slaves between the stations. On of the most famous conductors was Harriet Tubman. This Black Lady made 19 secret trips to the South to rescue more than 300 slaves. Some plantation owners offered $40,000 for Harriet’s capture.
The fugitives were known as “freight” or “packages”.
The stationmaster Levi Coffin from Newport, Indiana, was called the President of the Underground Railroad. He and his wife Catharine Coffin were very successful. They helped many former slaves to escape to Canada and not a single one failed to reach freedom. The famous slave “Eliza”, whose story is told in the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, hid in the Coffin’s house. Although the Coffins moved to Cincinnati in 1847, they continued their work and helped another 1,300 slaves to escape.
At night, the runaways were notified by candles in the windows of the stations. By the middle of the 19th century, over 50,000 slaves had escaped from the South by the UGRR. Slaves from the Deep South often married Native Americans and stayed with them. Some runaways never left the South. They founded free settlements in swamps or in the mountains of North Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Most fugitives were men from 16-35. Unfortunately, women and children were often captured and taken back to their owners.
Since very many slaves had escaped, the plantation owners became concerned about the situation. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted. A marshal who did not arrest a fugitive slave was fined $1,000. Any person helping a slave escape had to pay $1,000 as well and was in prison for six months. Professional slave hunters had to capture runaways, even in a free state. These hunters were on the slaves’ track by using bloodhounds.
Many female slaves dressed up as males and males dressed up as females. Some fair-skinned slaves pretended to be Americans. The others lied, that they were messengers of their masters. Since, the slaves needed a two-day start, they planned their escapes on weekends, holidays, or during the harvest.
When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he declared all slaves free. The actual end of slavery came, when the 13th Amendment of the Constitution was ratified in 1865, which says that forever after “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude...shall exist within the United States”.

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