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