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The Underground Railroad: All About the Freedom Train

The slave trade in the then British American colonies began in 1619 when the first African slaves were bought in Jamestown, Virginia, but it wasn’t until 1636 that the slave trade took off with the building of Desire, the first slave carrier. The slave trade went on to become a booming business. It was generally an accepted practice, but not everyone felt it was acceptable or right.



Escaping Slavery

As a human being it was impossible to accept being a slave. While quite a few slaves were treated well and given gifts or money for services rendered, for many it was just the opposite. Slaves were not given adequate living quarters, an education, families were torn apart, if one didn’t work hard enough or fast enough they were not allowed to eat or they were beaten. It was because of these very circumstances that many tried to run away. When the slaves were found and returned, the slaves were punished harshly to make an example of them to other slaves in case they considered running away.



The African Diaspora: An article on the slave rebellions.

The Slave Experience-Living Conditions: An overview of a slaves living conditions.

Antebellum Slavery: Plantation Slave Life: The plantation slaves life.

Runaway Slave Communities in South Carolina: An article on maroon communities in South Carolina.

Master-Slave Relationships: A look at the relationship between a slave master and his slave women.

Slavery in the North: How slavery in the north differed from the south.

Escape From Slavery: Information about the escape of Boston King.

Escape From Slavery, 1838: How Frederick Douglass became a free-man.



Underground Railroad Operations

It was nearly impossible for a slave to escape successfully without help. Hence, the idea of the Underground Railroad was born. Different people from both the south and north, both black and white, helped slaves to escape to the north, most notably Canada. People called “conductors” infiltrated the plantations to help guide the slaves north. They had different safe places, otherwise known as “stations”. They hid in these places until it was safe to move on. The people of the Underground Railroad made up code words to help further their efforts to remain hidden.



History of the Underground Railroad: A timeline of how the Underground Railroad began.

Underground Railroad: A webquest that takes a comprehensive look at the Underground Railroad.

Abolitionist Movement: An overview of the abolitionist movement.

American Abolitionism: A brief history of American Abolitionism.

Underground Railroad Codes: Code phrases frequently used in the Underground Railroad.

Opposing Forces: A short look at important events in the history of slavery.

The Underground Railroad Living Museum: A site dedicated to the preservation of the Underground Railroad.



Notable People of the Underground

The Underground Railroad did not have an established route. Since it was constantly in a state of flux it took the efforts of everyone involved to keep from being found out. The Underground Railroad needed people like the Quaker Isaac Hopper one of the forefathers of the Underground Railrod to begin helping the slaves escape. Other notable people like William Lloyd Garrison who established The Liberator, a newspaper that helped change people’s minds about slavery, entire families like Rev. John Rankin’s who helped establish one of the underground's largest activity hubs. Even the fugitive slaves themselves helped in the efforts to free their people. It was a huge effort by all involved. It was also a dangerous effort because it was an illegal activity and anyone caught helping the slaves were prosecuted by law.



Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott: A black man born to free parents who became a wealthy doctor.

Henry "Box" Brown: Born into slavery, Brown planned his escape from slavery by shipping himself to a free state in a box.

John Brown: John Brown armed himself to fight against slavery. He was successful in freeing a group of slaves in Missouri, but was later hanged when he led a group to raid a federal arsenal.

Samuel Burris: Samuel was a free black man who helped slaves escape as a member of the Underground Railroad. He was caught and auctioned off into slavery, but the slave buyer was an abolitionist and a friend.

Levi & Catherine Coffin: The couples' home was called "Grand Central Station" for all the different slaves they helped to escape their slavery.

Frederick Douglass: Douglass escaped slavery by dressing as a free black seaman (with working papers belonging to another man), and traveled by train and steamboat to New York City. He went on to speak against slavery and provide a first hand account of it.

Calvin Fairbank: He almost lost his life in the attempt to free slaves through the Ohio Valleys borderland.

Francis Fredric: After being exposed to physical violence as a slave, Frederick escaped via the Underground Railroad to Canada. He spent his life working toward the betterment of African Americans.

Matilda Joslyn Gage: A dedicated abolitionist who later helped found the Woman's Suffrage Movement, her house was offered as a hiding place for escaping slaves.

Thomas Garrett: Working for 40 years as a station master of the Underground Railroad, Garrett helped to free over 2,700 slaves.

William Lloyd Garrison: Garrison was a white abolitionist who actively criticized the slave trade in his written works.

Samuel Green: Green and his became free when his master died and he paid for freedom. His son escaped to Canada with the help of several station masters. Samuel Green was later jailed for owning a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beacher Stowe.

Josiah Henson: Josiah escaped slavery and founded a laborer's school and settlement for fellow escaped slaves. He also wrote about slavery.

James Butler ("Wild Bill") Hickok: As a child, his family's farm was a stop along the Underground Railroad, and he developed his shooting skills by protecting the farm.

Isaac Hopper: In many ways, Hopper worked to help and protect the freedom of escaped slaves and all African-Americans in Philadelphia.

Harriet Jacobs Born into slavery, Jacobs escaped to hide in her grandmother's attic for 7 years. She eventually escaped north and later wrote about her life and the abuse she received as a slave.

Roger Hooker Leavitt: An abolitionist and politician who opened his home as a "station".

Rev. J.W. Loguen: He served as slave in Tennessee before escaping. His home later became a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Samuel J. May: He was a reverend who was also involved in aiding escaped slaves and collecting on their behalf following sermons.

John Parker: Parker paid for his own freedom after several failed attempts to escape. He later joined the efforts of the Underground Railroad, helping hundreds of slaves escape.

John Wesley Posey: John Wesley’s role in helping the fugitives was to hide them in caves as they escaped.

John Rankin: As a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, Rankin aided many slaves in their escape to freedom.

Alexander Milton Ross: Ross went to the homes of many slave owners, and explained that he was researching about birds around their property. After telling this lie, he would go around the property and communicate information about the Underground Railroad to slaves.

David Ruggles: Ruggles was an African-American activist against slavery, who wrote for abolitionist newspapers and helped lead slaves to freedom. However, he found many enemies along the way.

Samuel Seawell: He published the first anti-slavery tract, The Selling of Joseph.

William Still: William was an activist against slavery who aided escaped slaves in their journey to Canada, as well as helped fugitives find work and homes in Philadelphia.

Sojourner Truth: Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery with her infant daughter, and her young son was still in slavery. When she discovered her son was illegally sold, Truth brought the issue to court and eventually won the case.

Harriet Tubman: Born a slave, Tubman escaped herself, and then went back to Maryland several times to lead, in total, several hundred people to freedom.

Charles Augustus Wheaton: His home in Syracuse, New York, acted as a station for the Underground Railroad. He aided escaped slaves on their way to Canada.





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