Slavery was a dark time in America’s past. Not only did slavery separate millions of families, it destroyed the white man’s reputation to African people. Many slave owners treated their slaves well, many did not. They forced their slaves to live in deplorable conditions. Malnutrition and overworking often led to death. If you were a slave, would you risk it all and try to run away? You might not have a choice if you wanted to stay alive.
In 1581, the first imported African slaves landed in the Americas. The Spanish brought people from Africa to work for them in Florida. In 1619, the first slaves were brought into the original 13 colonies. They were brought to America as indentured servants and released after they had paid for their passage. In 1705, slaves became recognized as property. From then on, everything changed. Slavery became more and more prominent and by the time of the Civil War, it was estimated that over 4 million slaves were working in the South. Slaves were treated worse than the dogs of their owners. They were given little to eat and tiny shacks to live in. If they disobeyed, they were beaten. For these reasons, many slaves decided to risk their lives and run away in search of freedom.
The Underground Railroad was formed in 1810 and more than 100,000 slaves escaped between 1810 and 1850. Following the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, northern and southern abolitionists, Native Americans, religious groups, and freed slaves acted as “conductors” on the Underground Railroad. Safe houses were called “stations” and the owner and operator of the safe house was the “stationmaster”. People that helped the cause by contributing funding were known as “stockholders”. Any harboring of slaves or transportation of them was a felony because of the Fugitive Slave Law. Not only did the operation of the Underground Railroad take time and skill, but it took the hearts and money of many to help the program running. Runaway slaves needed to be dressed in better clothes, food had to be bought to feed them, even train tickets needed to be bought every once and a while. For the slave, running away was not an easy task. To begin with, a slave had to escape from their owner, sometimes very difficult due to dogs or fences. The runaway slaves had to travel ten to twenty miles each night to reach the next “station”. Each night was a night filled with fear because of slave hunters and spies. Lots of money could be made for turning in a runaway slave. Depending on your own luck and cunning, you either made it to freedom, or you didn’t. Some slaves were caught multiple times but continued to try to run for freedom. Conditions were not great either. The “passengers” often had to travel through rain, mud, washed out roads, bogs, rivers, and streams. Gaining freedom was not easy.
There were many influential people during the time of the Underground Railroad. Some were African American and some were white but all of them were the faces of the Underground...