The Underground Railroad: Cloaked Gateway to Freedom
Part 2: Prices of Freedom
People who helped runaways escape to freedom were often called "conductors," in keeping with the railroad terminology. One of the most famous conductors was Harriet Tubman, herself a runaway slave. Tubman was called the "Moses" of her people because she helped more than 300 runaways, including her own elderly parents.
Other noted "conductors":
In addition to conductors, the Underground Railroad also had other names associated with it, among them:
Most runaways were men between the ages of 16 and 35. Women and children escaped, too, but not in the numbers that men did. Many men made the escape and then returned for their family members or hoped that they would make it safely to join them in their new home.
Some amazing stories also emerged, including these ingenious escapes:
Songs were also used as coded messages, directing slaves on the path to freedom. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"; "Steal Away to Jesus"; and "Go Down Moses" were all examples of how music could be used to impart information. Some of the lyrics to these songs were used to describe parts of the route to freedom. Another excellent example is the popular spiritual "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a reference to the North Star, which helped runaways keep their bearings on dark nights.
Quilts were often thought to have been used as well, as maps or codes to help direct runaways along the Underground Railroad to freedom. Slaves made these quilts themselves and shared them with others. Also, Quakers and other people sympathetic to the plight of runaways hung quilts on their porches, as signposts on the path to freedom.
Graphics courtesy of the Library of Congress
for Kids copyright 2002-9,