The Underground Railroad
Abolitionists working in the Underground Railroad guided fugitive slaves to freedom under the cover of darkness and subterfuge. Many slaves crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky into the free states of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, to escape from the bonds of slavery. A search on Underground Railroad provides a number of photographs of places along the railroad, and of people who worked for or benefited from it. A search on fugitive slave provides newspaper articles "Slaves Shot" and "Warning of Slave Catchers in Area" and a brief biography, Life, Including His Escape and Struggle for Liberty, of Charles A. Garlick . . . that includes Garlick's description of his escape from slavery.
Escape attempts such as Garlick's often resulted in fugitive slave hunts. A search on runaway slave produces advertisements from owners announcing a reward for the apprehension and return of slaves such as Emily and Tom.
Slave owners would occasionally free their slaves by voluntarily issuing manumission papers. A search on manumission features a few copies of such papers, including those of Sam Barnett and America Barnett from 1859. A search on fugitive slave photograph provides images of fugitive slaves such as Addison White, whose freedom was purchased in part by the city of Mechanicsburg, Ohio.
Additional information about this effort is available in William Still's book, The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters . . . . from the African-American Odyssey collection.
- What were the potential dangers for those using and conducting the Underground Railroad?
- How did the Underground Railroad affect the relationship between the North and South at the time?
- What does the language of reward notices for fugitive slaves indicate about the status of slaves and the relationship between slaves and their owners?
- What do such notices suggest about what a fugitive slave might have had to do to avoid being apprehended?
- Why would the owner of a fugitive slave offer different rewards depending on where the slave was caught?
- What might you expect someone to have had to do to obtain such a reward?
- Why would a slaveholder travel to Ohio to free his slaves, as did the owner of Sam and America Barnett?
- How do these photographs depict the people associated with the Underground Railroad? Who do you think might have taken these pictures and why?