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THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Introduction

It has often been said that the Underground Railroad was neither "underground" nor a railroad. Instead, it was composed of people in the U.S. and Canada who helped slaves to escape to freedom.

Sites to be used for Part 1:

  1. The Underground Railroad Page
  2. The Underground Railroad in Ohio
  3. The Underground Railroad in Franklin County
  4. Taking the Train to Freedom

Part 1:

Gather information from the above list of sites to answer the following questions.
  1. According to legend, who coined the phrase "Underground Railroad"?
  2. Approximately when did the Underground Railroad begin?
  3. List three dangers that slaves faced in escaping.
  4. What were the people who helped slaves escape called? Who were they? Name a danger that they had to face.
  5. What was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850? How did it affect the operation of the Underground Railroad?
  6. Why did many slaves flee all the way to Canada when the northern states of the U.S. were technically "free"?

Part 2:

Go to The North Star: Tracing the Underground Railroad and read about Tony Cohen's reenactment of a slave's trip on the Underground Railroad. Pay special attention to his dispatches. Use the information you find to answer the following questions.
  1. How far did Tony walk on an average day? How far did he walk in all? How long did it take him?
  2. List three types of transportation he used—or tried to use—in addition to walking. (Hint: Find out about Henry Box Brown.)
  3. Why do you think so many of the hiding places along the Underground Railroad were in churches?
  4. What is the connection between the Underground Railroad and the Liberty Bell?
  5. Why did some slaves follow rivers in trying to escape?
  6. Look at the map of Tony's route. Why did he choose the path he did instead of just traveling in a straight line from Maryland to Canada?
  7. How did Tony react when he finally reached Canada? Why do you think he reacted as he did?
  8. Ultimately, what do you think Tony accomplished with his journey?

Part 3:

Go back to the Underground Railroad Page and read the excerpts from the personal narratives by some of the original passengers on the Underground Railroad. Write an essay in which you compare and contrast Tony's experiences to those described in the narratives.