February is Black History Month, and since I’ve been researching the Underground Railroad for my book over this last week or so, it seemed appropriate to share some of this information with you today.
You may already know (I didn’t!) that the reason this secret network of individuals, safe houses, secret routes, and transportation acquired the name “Underground Railroad” is because they used railroad terminology to communicate, in a sort of code.
- Safe houses were “stations.”
- Safe house owners who hid slaves in their homes were called “station masters.”
- Fugitive slaves were known as “passengers” or “cargo.”
A candle in a window, or a quilt hung in a certain location, were sometimes used to identify safe houses.
Many escaped slaves escaped to the free states and then went on to Canada and their descendents still live here today. This map shows the various routes taken by the underground railroad to reach Canada.
For more information on the Underground Railroad:
- Underground Railroad: The William Still Story
- The Underground Railroad by William Still (audio book)
- The underground rail road. A record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, &c., narrating the hardships, hairbreadth escapes and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom (1872) by William Still
- Underground Railroad (1998) by National Park Service
- Other related documents on Archive.org
Photo credits: Routes of the Underground Railroad, 1830-1865 and The Underground Railroad by Charles T. Webber, 1893 via Wikimedia Commons