Social Justice Activists | Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad mapThe Underground Railroad was the efforts of abolitionists aiding the transit of escaped African-American Slaves through to the northeast and Canada roughly between the years of 1840 and 1860.  The term is a metaphor for the entirety of a semi-organized system of aiding slaves in escaping.  The Underground Railroad was not an actual railway; rather it was a connection of underground networks between people with the common goals of abolition and helping slaves escape to freedom.  The Railroad consisted of a number of different routes and safe havens.  Contributors to the effort included free whites, abolitionist groups, Quakers, free blacks and enslaved blacks.  The movement was indeed an interracial effort against the injustices and cruelty of slavery.     

For as secret as the activities of the railroad had to be in order to ensure safety, there was just as much notoriety.  The Underground Railroad became a catalyst for propaganda as both the abolitionists and slave owners used tales of escape to gain popular support for their cause.  The abolitionists used the stories of successful escapes to rally to action those who supported the causes of equality and freedom.  Slave owners used the Railroad as a fear tactic to incite anger and persuade other slave owners to increase opposition to those that played roles in the Underground Railroad.  Southern plantation owners used these tactics to garner support against the northern portion of the United States while tensions grew between the two factions.    

Many slaves escaped towards freedoms do to the efforts of the people involved with the Underground Railroad.  Some estimates run as high as 100,000 slaves.  The Underground Railroad acts as an enduring legacy of freedom through cooperation and bravery for those who contributed, and it stands as an example of strength in the resolve of those who fight for equality and justice.   

Sources used (Available through McGrath Library):

Baker, S. K. (Writer & Director). (2002). Whispers of angels: A story of the Underground Railroad [Motion Picture]. United States: Janson Media. Retrieved from Kanopy Streaming Video []

Bordewich, F. M. (2005). Bound for Canaan: The epic story of the Underground Railroad, America’s first Integrated Civil Rights movement [CD]. New York: Harper Audio. [CDR E450 .B735]

Foner, E. (2015). Gateway to freedom: The hidden history of the Underground Railroad. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. [E450 .F66]

Hodges, G. R. (2010). A radical black abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. [E449 .R94 H63]

Underground Railroad. (2015). In Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press.

                Retrieved from CREDO Reference []

Underground Railroad. (2014). In Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Chicago, IL:  Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from CREDO Reference