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weeveeship's avatar

How did the African-Americans escape detection on the Underground Railroad?

Asked by weeveeship (4610points) April 27th, 2011

The Underground Railroad helped slaves escape from the South prior to the Civil War into the North and Canada.

I am just wondering how they were able to do that, especially since racism was rampant back then, and a group of traveling African-Americans in the South would be suspected to be escaped slaves. (Especially after Dred Scott. There were actually bounty hunters going after escaped slaves.)

How did the African-Americans who escaped slavery manage to escape detection on the Underground Railroad?

P.S. I read the wiki article already, but it covered mostly the history and procedures on the Underground Railroad, not so much what the actual experience was like.

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7 Answers

EtherRoom's avatar

Harriet Tubman (Not sure if I spelled her name right?) helped them cross didn’t she ?

BarnacleBill's avatar

They traveled mostly by night, and were hidden in the households of abolitionists and emancipated slaves. Cincinnati has Underground Railroad Museum. There were hidden rooms in safe houses, and in part of Louisville, KY there are houses that were connected by tunnels, to take slaves to safety until they could be transferred to the next station.

Bounty hunters would watch the crossing points along the Ohio River, and would follow known abolitionists and transporters into IN and OH, to reclaim people.

You might find this site about the Underground Railroad in Maryland helpful.

flutherother's avatar

“If you come to us and are hungry, we will feed you, if thirsty, we will give you drink, if naked, we will clothe you; if sick, we will minister to your necessities, if in prison, we will visit you; if you need a hiding place from the face of pursuers, we will provide one that even bloodhounds will not scent out.”—American Antislavery Society 1843

People, both white and black were sympathetic to their plight and were prepared to help them. There are a few books about the Underground Railroad in Google Books. To get the full text you may have to ask your local library.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

The Underground Railroad was used as a tool against slavery not to benefit equal rights. I mention this because you were talking about racism in your description. Many people of the time could feel slavery was wrong without feeling the effected race was equal. They were two separate issues within this time period. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was declared unconstitutional in 1883 as an illustration of the separation in issues of slavery and race.

rooeytoo's avatar

I just happen to be rereading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and it seems many folks were opposed to slavery and would help the escapees along the way. When you read that book it makes what is called racism today seem inconsequential in comparison. It was a terrible time in our history.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

They were mostly hidden along the way by the abolitionists, etc. We have a couple of places around here that have hidden chambers in the cellars that were used to conceal the slaves. It’s intersting to see but also disturbing.

Strauss's avatar

Although some will doubt the theory, there were a lot of spirituals that were sung with a double meaning, the hidden meaning being instructions for runaway slaves. Some of these are: Follow the Drinking Gourd, Wade in the Water, Go Down, Moses

Here is a song entitled “Song of the Free”, sung to the tune of “Oh! Susanna.

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