Cheryl Brown

In the 19th century, freedom for slaves required "international travel."
Since the Ohio River was the dividing line between slavery and freedom, it
played an important part in the long history of the fight against bondage.
Perhaps the most dramatic protest against slavery, the Underground Railroad
originated as slaves sought ways to escape the inhumane treatment of
bondage. The existence of the Underground Railroad relied on concerted
efforts of cooperating individuals of various ethnic and religious groups.
With the assistance of the Quakers, free blacks, Native Americans, and
abolitionists, slaves were able to gain their freedom. Neither an
"underground" nor a "railroad", this informal system arose as a loosely
constructed network of escape routes that originated in the South,
intertwined throughout the North, and eventually ended in Canada. The term
may have originated when a slave fled from Kentucky and took refuge in Ohio.
His owner, bewildered after chasing him to the Ohio River, wondered aloud if
the slave had "gone off on some underground road."
 

Canadian Connection:

Fleeing slaves headed for freedom in both Mexico and Canada; this lesson
deals with those who traveled North, seeking freedom in Canada. They called
Canada, "Canaan", or "heaven" as it was referred to in many of the
spirituals they sang. As word that Canada had freed most of its slaves
trickled down to the United States, American slaves began to follow the Big
Dipper, or the "drinkin' gourd" as it pointed to the North Star and directed
the way to freedom.
African American- An American citizen of African descent.

Spiritual- A form of music based upon spiritual or religious themes.

Province- The Canadian equivalent to a state.

Passengers - The escaping slaves.

Conductors - People who helped guide the slaves.

Agents - People who offered food, clothes, and shelter to the slaves.

Stations - Homes where the slaves could hide.



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