The Underground Railroad was a network of people, African American as well as white, offering shelter and aid to escaped slaves from the South. It developed as a convergence of several different clandestine efforts.
In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper set up a network in Philadelphia that helped slaves on the run. At the same time, Quakers in North Carolina established abolitionist groups that laid the groundwork for routes and shelters for escapees.
Underground Railroad bake sales, as improbable as these may sound, became common fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities, and bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” offered donated luxury goods and handmade knickknacks before the winter holidays. “Indeed,” Foner writes, “abolitionists helped to establish the practice of a Christmas ‘shopping season’ when people exchanged presents bought at commercial venues.” For thousands of women, such events also turned ordinary, “feminine” chores like baking, shopping, and sewing into thrilling acts of moral commitment and political defiance.
The Beginnings Of the Underground Railround
Even before the 1800s, a system to abet runaways seems to have existed. George Washington complained in 1786 that one of his runaway slaves was aided by "a society of Quakers, formed for such purposes." Quakers, more correctly called the Religious Society of Friends, were among the earliest abolition groups. Their influence may have been part of the reason Pennsylvania, where many Quakers lived, was the first state to ban slavery.
Two Quakers, Levi Coffin and his wife Catherine, are believed to have aided over 3,000 slaves to escape over a period of years. For this reason, Levi is sometimes called the president of the Underground Railroad. The eight-room Indiana home they owned and used as a "station" before they moved to Cincinnati has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark in
The Underground Railroad - Quaker Abolistionist
English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. At that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans were also enslaved. In the 18th century, as many as six million Africans were transported to the Americas as slaves, at least a third of them on British ships to North America. The colony of Georgia originally abolished slavery within its territory, and thereafter, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the Thirteen Colonies.
In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper
In early 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, in Boston, began publishing his famous newspaper, the Liberator, supported largely by free African-Americans, who always played a major role in the movement. In December 1833, the Tappans, Garrison, and sixty other delegates of both races and genders met in Philadelphia to found the American Anti-Slavery Society, which denounced slavery as a sin that must be abolished immediately, endorsed nonviolence, and condemned racial prejudice.
Despite its brutality and inhumanity, the slave system aroused little protest until the 18th century, when rationalist thinkers of the Enlightenment began to criticize it for its violation of the rights of man, and Quaker and other evangelical religious groups condemned it for its un-Christian qualities. By the late 18th century, moral disapproval of slavery was widespread, and antislavery reformers won a number of deceptively easy victories during this period. In Britain, Granville Sharp secured a legal decision in 1772 that West Indian planters could not hold slaves in Britain, since slavery was contrary to English law. In the United States, all of the states north of Maryland abolished slavery between 1777 and 1804. But antislavery sentiments had little effect on the centres of slavery themselves: the great plantations of the Deep South, the West Indies, and South America. Turning their attention to these areas, British and American abolitionists began working in the late 18th century to prohibit the importation of African slaves into the British colonies and the United States. Under the leadership of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, these forces succeeded in getting the slave trade to the British colonies abolished in 1807. The United States prohibited the importation of slaves that same year, though widespread smuggling continued until about 1862.