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The Underground Railroad


Slaves were punished with harsh beatings for offenses as minor as not picking ... The Big Dipper is also known as the Drinking Gourd. Where were the slaves to go? ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad
  • Was It Really Underground?

Who Rode The Train, and Why?
  • Slaves were punished with harsh beatings for
    offenses as minor as not picking enough cotton in
    one day. The punishments for trying to escape to
    freedom were the worst kinds of torture. Despite
    this, many brave people tried to run away to the
    Northern states or Canada, where slavery was much
    less common or illegal.

Where were the tracks?
  • There once was an invisible train that ran
    without tracks. This railroad transported slaves
    to freedom through a network of "stations" led by
    secret "conductors."
  • It was a route from slavery to freedom, from the
    South to Canada.
  • The path was not marked, but the sky gave the
  • Following the North Star was the way to freedom.

The North Star
  • The North Star (Polaris) was used for navigation.
  • Its constant presence in the heavens has shown
    people the way north for centuries.
  • The Big Dipper is also known as the Drinking

Where were the slaves to go?
  • Slavery was rampant in the Southern United
  • Unspeakable conditions plagued the slaves.
  • To escape, they had to go all the way to Canada.
  • How did they find their way?

Following a Map
  • Most slaves did not know how to read, and
  • Giving directions to a slave was high treason, so
  • The North Star was used extensively for
  • Directions had to be encrypted, and quilt squares
    were used for mnemonic reference.

Quilts squares showed the path
  • Quilt squares were sewn to depict farms, rivers,
    and other points of reference.
  • No quilt was actually taken with a runaway slave
  • Clues were all in the mind

A Famous Conductor
  • Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor.
  • She conducted slaves to freedom by showing them
    the way to safe houses.
  • There was a 40,000 reward for her.
  • She was never apprehended.

Harriet Tubman (left) conducting passengers on
the UGRR
What She Thought
  • I have heard their groans and sighs, and seen
    their tears, and I would give every drop of blood
    in my veins to free them.
  • Harriet Tubman
  • She even helped her own parents aboard the UGRR.

Fugitive Slave Act - 1850
  • Even after escaping, slaves always faced the
    potential of being captured and returned to their
  • It required citizens to assist in the recovery of
    slaves, (even freemen were captured and
    returned to slavery).
  • Whole communities of fugitives in the northern
    states left for Canada. 
  • Between 1850 and 1860 the number of slaves who
    escaped through the Underground Railroad reached
    its peak.

  • Even freemen could be captured by Northerners and
    sold for slavery in the south.


The Thirteenth Amendment to the US

The History of the Underground Railroad
  • is one worth studying and passing along, for it
    shows how each individual decision to take a risk
    and do the "right thing" for oneself or for
    someone else lays down tracks that link together
    for everyone's ride on the great train of