The Underground Railroad was an extraordinary protest against slavery. Slaves were fighting for survival and many died in the process. These people gambled their lives to escape the barbaric realities of slavery into freedom. Of course they were not able to escape without the help of others. Slaves did not know the paths to freedom and turned to the guidance of conductors to usher them into freedom.
Slavery in America, particularly in the Southern region, was heavily depended upon due to the high demand for labor. Historically, slaves were primarily blacks but race did not become an issue until 1650, when Virginia and Maryland claimed that infidel (non Christian) slaves could be enslaved for life. Following this claim, non-whites became a target for slavery. In 1739, a group of rebellious slaves paraded towards Georgia and Florida, and killed several whites at Stono, South Carolina. After these white killings, slave codes were implemented to end rebellion and restrict mobility.
Conductors went about their work regardless of these threats because they felt so strongly about freeing slaves. Slaves received word of when the Underground Railroad would be stopping by through “what was known as the grapevine telegraph. They also used song lyrics as a means of providing instruction” (Altman). The work of Harriet Tubman and Levi Coffin made it possible for the Underground Railroad to help thousands of slaves reach freedom.
Often slaves gathered together, ran away as a group. “In North America, slaves often banded together and formed utopian-type communities like Wilberforce in Ontario and in the northern United States and other parts of Canada” (Slave Resistance). Running away was risky, but in the context of servitude for the rest of their lives and future generations’, many enslaved believed the consequences of doing nothing and remaining in slavery outweighed the risk. Slaves would group together to run away and established their own communities. In the Slave Narrative Collection of the Federal Writers ' Project of the WPA, Ida Blackshear Hutchinson.
The Underground Railroad was a secret network of safe houses that organized by people who helped runaway men, women and children slaves. From the years 1780 until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 enslaved individuals would run away in hopes to receive help from the free and reach their way up into the northern part of the United States. Many historians have approached this topic in several perspectives. Daniel O. Sayers “The Underground Railroad Reconsidered” provides an overview of the Underground Railroad as a long-term of African-American defiance and marronage. It analyses the political economic impacts across the slave owning sectors, the slave’s culture and the influence of religion on the Underground Railroad.
On February 6, 1837, John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina senator, delivered a speech on the United States Senate floor stating slavery to be a positive good. Slavery was so interwoven in the life of Southerners; however, Northerns wanted to abolish it while Southerners wanted to preserve it. Calhoun argued that slavery was beneficial to slave moral grounds and that the federal government could not pass laws to limit or to abolish slavery due to the rights of states to to regulate themselves. Calhoun further argued that since the federal government was a created by the states, the states were the final arbiters of the federal laws. In contrast to Calhoun, Frederick Douglas, an arthur, orator, abolitionist and former slave, argues that slavery
During slave times, there were many struggles and obstacles that African Americans were required to endure in order to survive in the deep south. Some accepted their fate while others would try and escape in order to live a better life. Almost anything that could help African Americans improve their life was tucked away for them to suffer instead. Surely, it was a hard time for African Americans. Many authors have written narratives in an attempt to capture the struggles African Americans went through.
Many people in the North started to oppose slavery, and by the late 1700’s many states in the North had outlawed it. Slavery went on in the South for almost another century until it was finally banned. This did not make free blacks free to live like everybody else, though. Free blacks in the North were not very free because of their limited freedoms in politics, economics, and in their social lives. Blacks in the North were not very free because they had very little social freedom.
This would allow the slave(s) to escape prior to the punishment. Josiah Henson considered running away as “stealing himself” because he felt as if he belonged to his master and was his property so when he ran away, he felt as if he was taking away his master’s property which would be his enslavement. The lyrics, “Got one mind for the boss to see; Got another mind for what I know is me”, displays the slaves’ ability to be dual.
Often times, the individuals who would be helping the slaves would often hear about the horrors of slavery, but they could not feel or visualize the suffering of slaves. The Underground Railroad was that tool that spread a change of perceptions because even the most stubborn of individuals, when they witnessed the conditions of the slaves, and they heard the stories the slaves told when slaves became free, that challenged the dominant ideologies of slavery being good. When thousands of slaves permeated the borders of the northern states, naturally even those who wanted to reject African Americans had to confront and live with the fact that African Americans are not slaves. This generated support for abolition because African Americans were quite competent when they did not have to the basic servile duties for their slave masters. Talented black men like Benjamin Banneker and Phillis Wheatley, a mathematician and a famous poet, proved that free black men could contribute to society (Divine et al 138).
The thought of their slaves possibly escaping was a slave owner’s greatest fear, and for this reason they refused their slaves the right to education. Beneath the surface, slave owners also knew that by education becoming available to slaves it would completely change their mindsets and outlook on life, only fueling their desire to escape even more. The power of knowledge is something that can take a person far in life. If a slave was to become educated and know of the life he could have with this knowledge, if he wasn’t held by the bounds of slavery, would more than likely inspire him to do whatever it would take to obtain freedom. The thought of a slave having a chance to become educated and find a passion for something other than working for their masters infuriated, and simply stated, troubled their owners.
(Wiener 74). Despite the efforts of the planters’ to try and keep freedman enslaved to the land to continue their old way of life, the laborer ended up going against this idea by creating a shortage of labor. This was the first step in developing in a new way of life for both
In Source C it states, “But we were unjustly dragged by the cruel hand of power from our dearest friends.” The slaves are saying that slavery separates them from their friends and more importantly, their families. This petition is trying to persuade others to put an end to slavery. The slaves are saying that slavery is unnecessary and needs to be stopped. Slavery also displays that the slave did not have the same amount of equality as others.