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Underground Railroad and African American Families Research Paper

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Underground railroad

Underground Railroad greatly influenced many African American families, especially between 1810 and 1850, when the network took its full course. The underground railroad acted as an effective informal network that involved safe houses, and secret routes that enabled black slaves in America to escape from slavery bondage. The blacks escape were towards the North where slavery was illegal and laws to guard the blacks against related discrimination were established. The escape was usually enhanced by sympathetic individuals and some abolitionists, who were either blacks or whites.

The term underground railroad has a deeper meaning and does not really mean the subterranean but rather it symbolic and describes the resistance. The railroad in this case was a terminology use d to describe the consistent use of rail transport words. The term can also be used to refer to those individuals who facilitate the escape of Slaves. The Underground railroad ad escapees were organized in a number of small and independent groups. This was maintained to enhance total secrecy and a non noticeable escape. Although some of these group members had information regarding connection stations, and meeting point, the information and details the environment that they were to encounter on in the area was inadequate, and this needed assistance from abolitionist and other sympathizers.

The escaping process involved the movement of slaves from a station to another towards the north, where slavery was illegal, and the process was usually facilitated by former slaves, abolitionists who were mostly whites, churches, native Americans, and fellow blacks who were born free. (HAB 2006).

The routes of escaping were usually many, and the participants of the Underground railroad had a specific part of the operation. This made these individuals have information and details of these specific parts. In these routes, there were spots that were specified for resting and were mainly held by stockholders. Various individuals specifically stockholders, provide money and material assistance to these escaping slaves. The escape conductors were a time forced to behave like the slaves, enter plantations, and direct them to the North. The night’s darkness did not stop the slaves from moving, and despite how dense the darkness was, they only stopped at stations during the day to get rest.

The escape process required continuous communication between slaves, conductors, and station masters, and stakeholders. While resting in one station, they need to communicate with the master of the next station to inform his/her on the progress of the runaway on the Underground Railroad escape. The process involved a lot of volunteering for the benefit of runaways. Many sympathizers or rather volunteers would donate money and clothing for them. In some cases where trains or boats facilitated transport tickets, and also to purchase clothing. The boat and train transportation as well as new clothing provided on the runaways helped in maintaining the secrecy as they hindered. The underground railroad recognition of escaping slaves.

Although these means of transportation enhanced faster escape, foot and wagon transport were the primary means as they enhanced indirect movement, hindering chances of being traced. The indirect foot transport threw off all followers enhancing better chances of escaping without getting a trace. The women and children could not complete the escape journey because the journey was treacherous and arduous for them. This shows that majority of escapees were mostly young men. After completing the journey and attaining freedom, the freemen came back for the females and children by purchasing them out of slavery. However, the purchase was a time impossible due to the high amounts of funds required.

Oral communication regarding the escape route and the safe house was highly adhered to, a factor that limited the risk of discovery. The information about the safe houses and escape routes was such a secret that the newspapers of the south had many notices with information about slaves who were missing and thought to have escaped. (AAC 2002). The notices usually placed considerable amounts of rewards for those individuals who captured and returned the slaves back to America, and this made many slave catchers keep pursuing the slave very far along the route and some went as far as the border of the country and Canada.

Although large numbers of slaves escaped within a year, the large numbers did not change to reduce slavery. However, America was hit by severe diplomacy. To respond, they desired to secure a national border and control the escapes, this was to be achieved through the acquisition of the Spanish territory.

The underground railroad’s importance was viewed from a different perspective. The number of escapes whether successful or attempted was not the great measure of the underground railroad effectiveness, but rather, its ability to consistently expose the great practice of slavery, in America, and the large number of blacks who were exposed to slavery. Although slavery was considered to have no existence, in many American countries, this practice was evidenced by the large number of slaves who were escaping.

The underground railroad exposed the ability of blacks to unity and support. The process they claim that black Americans and more precisely the African Americans can never organize, unite or support each other. This opposition was supported by the evidence which was seen in the underground railroad, because the majority of the participants were either fellow blacks who had escaped earlier or blacks who were born free in America, leaving the minority of participants to white abolitionists.

The underground railroad enhanced the communication system and provided good information regard to the selfish acts of Americans, and the weight of bravely with the need of owning slaves practices by Americans. This was clearly evidenced when the newspapers provided notices concerning slaves who had escaped and placing large amounts of rewards for those who could trace and return them. This clearly shows that the Americans were ready to spend large amounts of money to gain ownership of slaves, to torture them, and subject them to great suffering, just because of their difference in color.

Although it is hard to get a documented article showing these evidence, especially the account of these secret passageways, and hidden rooms due to the secret that was maintained throughout the course, a lot of drama were available and sufficient to enhance the verification and interpretation of the accounts.

The underground railroad was initiated and boosted by the resistance to slavery and antislavery movements which were formed earlier before the Underground Railroad. Examples of these precursors include the early religious antislavery movements of the 1700s and the 1780s -1812 abolition societies. These societies were formed and spread to all American States. These societies became the leaders of the antislavery and subsequent underground railroad. The black Americans made continuous efforts to abolish slavery and end the slave trade which was persistent in the American republic.

The African Americans contributed a lot to the underground railroad, by engaging in war and other activities, which would facilitate the left of the United States. During the 1812 and revolutionary war, African Americans made efforts to sue, wars military services for freedom, and went ahead and organized slave rebellions on the republican liberty belief.

Even after escaping, through Underground Railroads, the slaves who had escaped to the north did not have the security or rather the assurance of freedom. (Horton and Lois 1997). Escapees were kidnapped in the North and sold back to the South. This made the free black continuously help the slaves and protect them against kidnappers. This was achieved through the formation of vigilance committees and refuges.

Although a smaller number of whites provided aid to the slaves and helped them escape, the activities took place secretly, since the act was illegal and any white found help could get a very severe punishment, to an extent of death, unlike in the North, where the slavery and slave trade had been made illegal, and whites had the freedom to help blacks out of slave bondage. Accounts should that a number of Northern abolitionists moved to the South and abetted and encouraged runaways an action that got public notice as compared to whites of the south.

During 1850, the African Americans’ search for freedom through a better personal form of self-liberation and also through the law increased. The 1950 fugitive slave law was made, which backed up the 1793s original act and allowing the slaveholders to pursue runaways Northwards up to other states where slavery was illegal. This caused threats to all the black slaves, whether the female children and others who Underground Railroad could have helped them out of slavery directly. The law made the slave catchers get more slaves from other states. Accounts show that the practice was so threatening that men and women were kidnapped whether on the streets or workplace and the captured slaves were moved to the south.

The Northerners, who came from the North where slavery was illegal sympathized with the slaves, especially when they saw them struggle to escape from captivity. ( Horton 2001). These Northerners felt the pain which the slaves underwent in their life, and they understood the slave’s harsh living conditions. This made the Northerners join in the campaign, against slavery in the United States. The National government considered the freedom of the blacks to be entirely under the whites, and this ignited the black’s rebellion action.

With the national government’s stand on legalizing slave trade, and the need for blacks freedom against slavery, the civil war. Many blacks were captured and taken to the South where they were sold to slaveholders and were forced to work in the plantations which were owned by the whites. This led to increasing in the blacks population in southern, giving them to better chance to have unite and fight for their right, and when the war started, it was easy for the black to gain freedom.

African American families

The African American families were greatly influenced by the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad journey was rough for the women and children, allowing only young men to make it through. This meant that in the case of African American families, the Underground Railroad caused the separation of the males and females and children slaves. The females and children were left and waited for the male who had escaped earlier to come and purchase them. This was not always possible, because chances of these men coming back were limited, because slave catchers followed the escaping slaves, causing threats. On the other hand, the probability of tracing the left slaves was usually low because as the children grew, they could be sold to other slaveholders’ families, separating them further from the mothers. Generally, the African American families were separated and disintegrated to an extent no family member could live together with each other.

Many free males made many efforts with support from members of the Underground Railroad to help his family members to escape from the south, but they were usually recaptured back before they could escape fully to the North. The attempts to purchase these family members was also a challenge because masters place values that were unfordable, limiting the chances of the uniting of the African American families. This, however, did not stop the efforts of these men, because some went ahead to hold fundraising to required amounts. In most cases, the money was contributed by very few whites who sympathized with the slaves families, and a number of abolitionists and other free blacks. Since these were few to raise the required money, the individual men, had to face the threats, and go ahead explaining and lecturing to all people who he comes across, about the enslaved family, in order to win sympathy and subsequent contribution. Although this worked, a lot of time was needed, and one could take more than years to raise the required amounts of money.

After the 1950s law, it becomes worse. Family separation increased because any black could be captured, even though already free. (OAH 2003) The African American family members were moved to the south and were sold to different slaveholders, meaning different living.

However, after slavery was unlegalized, some blacks got the opportunity to search and trace each other because blacks were also free. The challenge in the search was that these blacks did not know the exact place to make the search, and they could not tell if the family member was still living or had died during the slavery.

Although the underground railroad and anti-slavery movement facilitated a lot in stopping slavery and enhancing freedom for African Americans also had great influence in the separation of African American families. Running away from slavery was not an easily made decision. It required men to leave their families behind, and the women were required to choose between escaping and leaving children. This usually caused a dilemma.

Just as its said and believed that family ties are strong, and blood is thicker than water, the tie that tied the African American families together was so strong that even after a separation caused by underground railroad, the African Americans made all possible efforts to protect the family members, and to reunite the members who ended up being torn apart by the slavery, although in many cases it took very many years.


African American Culture. ” Reparations For African American Slavery”. 2002 African American Culture. Web.

HAB. ”Exploring a common past.” National park services. 2006. nps.gov. Web.

Horton, James, and Lois, Horton.”Hope of liberty and protest among Northern free blacks”. Oxford: Oxford University, 1997.

Horton, James O. ”Freedom flight: A family and underground railroad story”. American history 15 (2001).

OAH. ”Flight to Freedom”. OAH publications. 2003. Organization of American Historians. Web.

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