The underground railroad was a network of routes that slaves used to escape to the free states. The slaves would travel by night and hideout during the day. The free blacks and whites provided slaves with food, clothing, and places to hide. The underground railroad helped thousands of slaves escape.
The transportation of slaves was done in secret in order not to be
caught. Each stop was a station, each slave was a step closer to the north after each
station and was given food and rest. The most common route would lead from Henrietta
through Monroe County and into Rochester. The Underground Railroad was organized by
abolitionists. It helped runaway slaves escape to freedom in the north or in Canada. The
underground railroad was a protest against slavery. The underground railroad had no formal
organization. Slaves were all over the south and wanted freedom. Most of these slaves came
from Africa. By 1836 there were more than 1,200 blacks living in Seminole towns(
Blassingame 1979: 211).
Harriet was born in the Bucktown, Maryland. Her greatest success was
that she led more than three hundred slaves to freedom in just eleven trips to the North.
Harriet married John Tubman, an escaped black slave, in 1844. She escaped in 1849 and went
through the Underground Railroad. Along the way she met William Still, he was the busiest
"station masters". He was a free black from Pennsylvania who could read and
write. He used these talents to interview runaway slaves and record their names and
stories in a book. He published the book in 1872 under the title The Underground
Railroad. It is still revised and published today (McClard 65-68). In 1850, Harriet
helped her first slaves escape to the North. After that she was made an official
"conductor" of the Underground Railroad. She knew exactly which routes to take
and kept the Underground Railroad a secret. Harriet also rescued her family and friends
and aided them to the home of Thomas Garret, the most famous Underground
"stationmaster" in history (McClard 72-74).
Frederick Douglass was the leading spokesman against slavery. He was born on a plantation in Tuckahoe, Maryland in 1818. In 1838 he managed to flee and join anti slavery forces in the north. Douglass spoke with such force, intelligence , polish, and conviction that the many who heard him doubted that he ever was a slave. In his life and times Frederick Douglass said this sentiment:
He lived in Rochester, New York , publishing a number of newspapers, writing his second and third autobiographies entitled My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. He died in Washington, DC in 1895.
Alton was an important Underground Railroad location. Charles
Hunter was one of Altons best known Underground Railroad conductors. Alton was also
the site of an Underground Railroad network running the length of the of the Mississippi
that was conducted by free blacks. Another important place was the Levi Coffin House,
built in 1827 and is now a National Historic Landmark. The house was owned by Levi Coffin
(1789-1877). He was the president of the Underground Railroad and helped more than 2,00
slaves escape to freedom using the house as a resting and hiding area. The most common
stations that the slaves rested at were conducted by people like: Levi Coffin, Thomas
Garret, Jermaine W. Loguen, and William Still. Shelters were normally found about 10 to 30
miles apart on northbound "railways"(Franklin 1988:169).
Tubman and slaves