The Underground Railroad was an intricate and wide spread, yet not centrally organized, nor well documented part of American history. Fortunately though, evidence of its existence were preserved and documents were recorded and we are able to piece together this amazing time of civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is when your conscience cries out against the injustice of a law that even your tacit compliance equals approval in your mind. So you resist. In whatever way you can.
The Underground Railroad came about for a number of reasons. The importation of slaves had been abolished. Therefore the only new slaves could be ones that were born in the new world or enslaving those who had been freed.
The need for “new stock” forced basically breeding conditions in American Slavery.
As a woman, this thought horrifies me.
Many of the children born were the children of the slave owners.
One of the abolitionists that I will highlight later in the month was struck by the fact that slaves were blond haired and blue eyed. If you have ever seen a child born to a bi racial person and a fair skin white person, you would understand. It must’ve have challenged their notions that this was being done to “black people only.”
But I don’t really need to talk about “why”. We all know “why”. Slavery was a horrible institution and it imposed unjust laws against one segment of our population.
One part of our population was being denied their God given right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
So it was the “how” that is so amazing. Because there were no cell phones or Twitter or drone spy planes or anything that we have now. There were songs and codes and hiding places and just sheer determination to be free.
Harriet Tubman is said to have brought around 300 souls to freedom. That is really quite a huge number for woman who had seizures and would fall into an unresponsive “fit” while leading and also carried a gun to shoot anyone who dared desert the mission.
She would lead them by the North Star when they traveled by night. They traveled how ever the mode of transportation had been procured for that trip. And their plans had to be fluid, in case something went wrong along the way.
Harriet would lead her charges to different Station Master. Safe houses were generally set up about 10 to 12 miles apart, depending on availability.
Some networks were organized locally, but most people never knew more than the name of the person they were responsible for handing the “package” over to.
Innocuous terms like drinking gourd were used because it wouldn’t arouse the suspicion of slave masters. Clothes and quilts were also said to be have been used.
Harriet didn’t divulge the secrets of how she got her charges to freedom.
But She never lost a single soul.
Harriet Tubman was bad sister.
There’s a fearlessness in her actions that can only be deeply admired. We should all try to emulate Grandma Moses.
I mention her first because she’s one of the best known. But certainly not the only!
And I will highlight some lessor known players in the Underground for the rest of this month.