Harriet Tubman Biography

The Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman didn't escape from slavery entirely on her own, she gained her freedom with the help of the Underground Railroad.

What was the Underground Railroad?

As you probably know, the Underground Railroad wasn't an actual railroad. It was a loosely organized network of secret routes, safe houses, and people who were willing to aid runaway slaves in their flight north. The Underground Railroad was run by escaped slaves, free blacks, abolitionists, and Quakers. Quakers were a religious group who strongly believed that slavery was evil and should be abolished.

Harriet Tubman's Escape

Over the years, Harriet Tubman had heard about people who helped slaves escape north. She learned about a Quaker woman within walking distance who could help her get started. Once at this woman's house, Harriet was given a note with code words and directions to the next stop. She often traveled through the woods at night following a stream or the North Star to her next destination.

Harriet likely traveled from Maryland into Delaware and then north to Pennsylvania. The trip was around 90 miles which she mostly traveled by foot at night. Although Delaware was a free state, it remained dangerous due to an abundance of slave catchers in the region.

Underground Railroad Terms

A lot of the terms used in the Underground Railroad came from railroad terms such as stations, conductors, and cargo. Because both the runaway slaves and the people helping them would be severely punished if caught, they used code words to help maintain secrecy. Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

The Underground Railroad changed after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. This act required that escaped slaves in the northern United States be returned to their owners in the South. The only safe place for escaped slaves was now Canada. The Underground Railroad now had to help slaves make it to Canada. Safe houses throughout the North provided refuge for slaves from slave catchers during their journey to Canada.

William Still

A lot of what we know about the Underground Railroad comes from the records of William Still. Still was a free black man who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He kept detailed records of the slaves he aided (which were in the 100s) in order to help family members reunite once they reached freedom.

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Harriet Tubman Biography Contents
  1. Overview and Interesting Facts
  2. Born into Slavery
  3. Early Life as a Slave
  4. Wounded!
  5. Dreaming About Freedom
  6. The Escape!
  7. The Underground Railroad
  8. Freedom and the First Rescue
  9. The Conductor
  10. The Legend Grows
  11. Harper's Ferry and the Civil War Begins
  12. Life as a Spy
  13. Life After the War
  14. Later Life and Death







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