The Underground Railroad

*Harriet Tubman* and *Frederick Douglass*

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland as

Harriet Tubman, an African American abolitioni...

Harriet Tubman, an African American abolitionist and conductor of the Underground Railroad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Araminta “Minty” Ross is now perhaps the most famous individual hero of the Underground Railroad.  She was toughened by slavery from an early age, suffering from a blow to her head by a slave master which caused her to suffer from seizures the rest of her life. Tubman had escaped to Pennsylvania in 1849, but she returned in 1850 to help some of her relatives who were up for auction.  Harriet also returned to Maryland in 1851 to bring her husband, John Tubman, to Pennsylvania only to find he had taken another wife and did not to wish to return with her.  This incident perhaps toughened Tubman as nothing else; she did not grieve the loss, she  dedicated herself to helping others escape.  She never remarried.  John Brown referred to her as General Tubman.  She also worked closely with figures such as Thomas Garrett of Delaware and William Still of Philadelphia. 

Notice published in the Cambridge Democrat (18...

Harriet Ross Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award

Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist. He narrated the story of his life as a

Frederick Douglass portrait

Frederick Douglass portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

slave in Maryland and his escape to freedom. He started a newspaper called the “North Star” which was a mouthpiece for the antislavery movement. During the U.S. Civil War he used his unique viewpoint to encourage President Lincoln to allow African-Americans to engage in the fight. After the Civil War he continued to fight diligently for equal rights for African-Americans, and women. His Washington, D.C. home is still standing and it continues to remind us of his struggle against injustice (1818-1895).

Frederick Douglass House, 1411 W Street, South...

Frederick Douglass House, 1411 W Street, Southeast, Washington, District of Columbia, DC North elevation looking southwest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Recommended Reading!

Wilma King. Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America. Bloomington: Indiana Unitersity Press, 1995. This is the most up-to-date account of enslaved black children. It is especially useful concerning the children's work.

Melton A. McLaurin. Celia, a Slave. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991. This is the most complete study of an enslaved woman's response to sexual exploitation. MacLaurin establishes the social and political contexts for this famous case.

Elizabeth Freeman

Mum Bett Born in 1744-parents were African slaves-could not read but learned about the natural rights of all humans-she left her masters home and refused to return- she sued the courts for her freedom and won the case-her master paid her thirty shillings in damages-worked as a paid domestic servant-in 1786 members of Shays’s Rebellion broke into the home of the Sedgwick’s and tried to steal a silver set- Freeman confronted the men with a kitchen knife and stopped them from robbing the home-she saved her money and purchased her own home!

Slave Clothing

Slaves were given two outfits of clothing a year, for winter and for summer. The masters only gave them "gator shoes" or "brogans" for footwear, and sometimes children and adults who were not working had to walk around barefoot.

However, these clothes and shoes were insufficient for field work; they did not last very long for field slaves. Clothing and shoe supplies from masters, in other words, made matters worse for slaves.

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Recommended Reading!

Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark. Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South. New York: Norton, 1984. This book provides a full account of William Ellison and his slaveholding black family.

Norrece T. Jones Jr. Born a Child of Freedom, Yet a Slave: Merchanisms of Control and Stratgies of Resistance in Antebellum South Carolina. middleton, Ct: Wesleyan University Press, 1990. This book explores how masters controlled slaves and how slaves resisted.

Phyllis Wheatley Poem!

Some view our sable race with scornful eye, “Their colour is a diabolic dye”. Remember, Christians, Negroes, Black as Cain, May be refin’d, and join the’ angelic train.
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