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Essay about The Underground Railroad In The 1800s

The thought of being an African American slave in the 1860’s is a terrifying thought for most people. The struggles they faced in order to achieve were very extreme. Luckily there were people who did not agree with the way African Americans were treated back then. There was an escape route called the Underground Railroad. Contrary to what it sounds like, the Underground railroad was not a railroad nor one single route. It was a combination of secret escape trails for slaves to use that lead to 14 different free states.

There were many things that contributed to the workings of the Underground Railroad such as famous historical influences that helped slaves, how the routes worked, and punishments to the slaves for trying to escape to freedom. The Underground Railroad was a disbelief in itself. People rarely knew slaves were escaping around them. Some people became major historical influences because of the work they did on the routes. One of those eminent people is Harriet Tubman. Americaslibrary. gov says that Harriet was born into slavery along with her 10 other brothers and sisters in Maryland. Harriet Tubman’s name at birth was Araminta Ross,” (Americaslibrary. gov). Due to the fact that she was so independent Harriet ended up changing her name when she was older. “As a child, Ross was ‘hired out by her master as a nursemaid for a small baby, much like the nursemaid in the picture. Ross had to stay awake all night so that the baby wouldn’t cry and wake the mother. If Ross fell asleep, the baby’s mother whipped her. ” (Americaslibrary. gov). This quote shows that even though Harriet was a very young girl she still had a great amount of responsibility. Living like she did changed the way she saw the world around her.

According to Biography. com, Harriet escaped her home in Maryland and fled to Pennsylvania for freedom. Once she became her own independent person Tubman was determined that she needed to help others escape slavery too. “Starting in 1850, Tubman made a total of 19 journeys, personally freeing more than 300 slaves” (Erik Sass). This was a major accomplishment for Harriet. Another equally important person in the Underground Railroad was William Still. He was an African American abolitionist who helped hundreds of people to freedom. Even though he was not the leader of the slave groups he was still a huge part of making them free.

William helped save hundreds of slaves and helped them become their own individual persons. “William Still, a freeborn Black, became an abolitionist movement leader and writer during the antebellum period in American history,” (Dr. Diane D. turner). This quote from the website shows how even though William Still was not born into slavery he still realized later on how unequally blacks were being treated. Pbs. org states that one of Williams major accomplishments was finding his brother who was a slave after they were split apart when they were children. After a forty year search, he located his brother, Peter Still, and helped him to escape to freedom. ” (Dr. Diane D. Turner). Once William’s career in the Underground Railroad was over he still helped in the business part of racial equality but did not physically participate in freeing slaves anymore. Thomas Garrett assisted slaves who were trying to escape to free states often. He was born into a white family and had always disagreed with the way people were treating blacks.

According to Trilogy. brynmawr. edu Garrett was one of the longest serving workers of the Underground Railroad with a istory of 4 decades of helping slaves. His job was to be a stationmaster. “A ‘stationmaster’ refers to an individual who provided shelter or a hiding place to freedom seekers,” (Nps. gov). Thomas Garrett had some major accomplishments like making huge a contribution to freeing slaves. Due to the fact that Garrett was white not everyone agreed with his profession. He had a struggle with people accepting what he did in his life but Garrett knew it was the right thing to do. These people all helped the Underground Railroad flow smoothly. Only people like them knew how it worked.

The Underground Railroad was a very complicated system. Not many people knew how it worked. “The escape routes led to 14 different states” (History. net). This gave slaves the opportunity to go to whichever state they felt was most safe and closest to them. Researches do not know exactly how many routes there were but they think there were at least 29 different ones. “While the number is often debated, some believe that as many as 100,000 slaves escaped on the Underground Railroad between 1800 and 1865,” (Teacher. scholastic. com). Using these escapes their and their family’s life tremendously.

While the slaves were traveling to safety they had to stop at safe houses overnight. There were people who planned to have the slaves stay and sleep at these locations in order to not get caught. These locations could be museums, churches, or even some people’s houses. People who worked at the routes near them were usually local. They did not travel far to help slaves achieve freedom. Most people who worked there were everyday people who had regular jobs, abolitionist’s, and sometimes even former slaves such as Harriet Tubman. At night slaves needed a secret place to stay in order to not get caught on the trails.

They stopped at tations, more commonly known as safe houses, so they could rest overnight and begin their journey again the next day. “The “station” provided a haven for traveling freedom seekers, was secured by the stationmaster, and took many forms. Stations might be basements, cabins, homes, barns or caves, or any other site that provided an element of security while giving the freedom seeker an opportunity for rest and provisions,” (Nps. gov). People who worked at these houses often lived there or went there often. According to Nps. gov the most common forms of work in the Underground Railroad was a stationmaster, a leader, or a conductor.

The most famous leader of all was Harriet Tubman according to Pathways. thinkport. org because of her astonishing amount of slaves she freed. The Underground Railroad was major success. Even though some people did not make it to freedom, many did. “It’s difficult to determine exactly how many slaves escaped through the Underground Railroad. According to the Web site of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, “During the 1800s, it is estimated that more than 100,000 enslaved people sought freedom through the Underground Railroad,” (Tiffany Connors).

Nobody knows exactly how many slaves died on the escape routes. If some slaves did die it was most like because of exhaustion or malnutrition. Many slaves who traveled through the routes were already overworked as it is and now they have to go on this journey quickly and sneakily so that they do not get caught. The trails were nowhere near short so their bodies were tired and could not continue on. Another reason they often died is because of the lack of food they had. When going on trails in the woods it was very hard to find food to keep them energized so they often starved and died.

Even though the Underground Railroad was exceedingly successful not everyone made it to his or her dream destination. History. howstuffworks. com says that even though there is not an exact number of slaves who were caught, some slave owners found them and took them back to their original home. What punishment would those slaves receive for trying to escape work? Some slaves did not make it all the way to freedom. What happened to them once they got back to their plantation? If someone saw a slave that looked suspicious they could turn him or her in for money rewards.

Mentalfloss. com states that in the 1860’s Harriet Tubman’s reward for whoever caught her was $40,000. That is close to $1,000,000 in today’s money. Other slaves could be anywhere near $5,000 to $40,000 like Harriet in the 1860’s. After people caught the slaves they would often return them to their original state and collect the reward money. An abolitionist in that era might have helped the slave if there was no way they could get caught. Something that did not happen all that often was that if someone saw a slave escaping they would not do anything.

People might have done this because they did not want to get involved with the slaves and their lives. For slaves going back was a hard thing. Awesomestories. com says that some slaves were not allowed back in their home state. Slave owners sometimes did this because they did not want to deal with a person who they could not control or keep their eye on constantly. Other times after being caught by someone the slaves were sent back to their plantation and returned to their original owner.

“Often runaways would be sold ‘south. That means that they were sold to someone who lived much further south than Maryland, where it would be harder to run away because the distance to the North was so much greater,” (Pathways. thinkport. org). This statement from Pathways. thinkport. org shows another thing that could happen if a slave was caught. Also, instead of going back to their original owner, slaves would sometimes be sold to a neighboring plantation If a slave owner decided to keep the their slave, they would treat them very poorly. Pathways. thinkport. org says most owners would beat their slaves.

Beatings like these include whipping, kicking, punching, slapping, and spitting. Once in awhile the slave’s owners would do nothing. This was very uncommon in this era but if the owner was too tired or old they would leave the slave alone. Pathways. thinkport. org also states hat another thing the masters would do if their slave ran away was give them extra work and/or hours. Usually the owners gave work that was extremely strenuous. This would cause them to be very tired and exhausted. This form of punishment was often used to get slaves to think that they would not want to escape again because if they did they would have to do extra work.

Other times their “privileges” could be taken away for trying to escape. Even though at the time African Americans did not have many privileges the owners would take away their chance to sleep with their family, eat, or bathe. Overall, the people who worked in the Underground Railroad, how it worked, and what happened to slaves who didn’t make it to freedom are some key factors of the escape route. The Underground Railroad was a major part in the United States history. It dramatically changed the life of slaves and we are still learning more about it today.

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