Introduction to american slavery

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1. Introduction From the very beginning of American slavery, slaves fled from their owners. These were called fugitives. The great majority ran away between 1830 and 1860. They traveled on the Underground Railroad. 2. What did it mean to be a slave? You had nothing you could call your own, not even your name. You belonged to another person, your owner. And just to make sure you didnt forget it, your last name was the same as your owners. You had to do whatever work your owner wanted. For example, you would work from before sunrise until after dark in the fields. Your owner could punish you whenever he wanted to. 3. What did it mean to be a slave? One of the worst things was that your master could sell you like a pig or cow and you would never see your parents or children again. You wouldnt know how to read or write. If you learned, you did it secretly. 4. Why would you run away? Because the owner made you work all day and sometimes all night. Because the owner chained you at night to keep you from running away. Because your family was sold away. Because the owner beat you. Simply because you didnt think anyone should own another person and youd rather die than stay a slave. 5. What was the Underground Railroad? It wasnt a real railroad. It was the secret way to get from the South(= slavery) to the North(=freedom). You would ride on a horse-drawn cart, on horseback, on a boat or you would walk. The whole trip was called the Underground Railroad. You would stay at special hiding places . Often you had to find your own or others hid you. 6. Underground Railroad terms Stations= the houses the slaves hid in Railroad workers= the people who helped the fugitives Conductors= they led the fugitives to the next station Station masters= they fed and gave the fugitives a place to sleep until they left for the next station 7. Where would you first go when you ran away? First, you had to hide for days, week or months before you found people to help you get to the North. The owner would be searching for you so you had to hide in forests, swamps, caves, big trees. A fugitive named Hill hid for over a year under another slaves floor! When his friend found him a boat that would take him to the North he asked Hill to take along his 7-year-old son. He wanted him to grow up as a free man even if it meant never seeing him again. 8. What dangers did you face? The biggest danger was being caught. Other dangers were wild animals such as alligators, bears, wild boars, poisonous snakes. They suffered much pain and hunger. Some even died before they made it to the North. But those who reached the North said they would face the dangers all over again just to be free. 9. How would you hear about the North? Owners would tell their slaves the North was a terrible place to live. They listened and nodded but in their heart they knew that if the owner said it was terrible, it must be wonderful. Those who lived for a while in the North and were brought back South spread the word. Some fugitives secretly came back to the South to help their friends and relatives escape. They told about their lives up North and what it meant to be free. 10. How did owners try to catch the fugitives? Most put ads in the newspapers describing the slaves and offering rewards. 11. Did anyone help the owners? An owner often hired slave hunters to track down the fugitives. They chased down fugitives with dogs. 12. How would you trick the slave hunters? You walked as far as possible in a stream. The dogs couldnt smell your footprints in the water. Some slaves, who could read and write, wrote out fake passes or borrowed a free blacks papers and pretended to be that person. Henry Brown mailed himself from Virginia to Philadelphia! 13. Were there special hiding places on the Underground Railroad? Many. There were secret attic rooms, fake closets, trapdoors, hidden tunnels e.t.c. There were also secret compartments, like false bottoms, in the wagons you might travel in. 14. How long would the whole trip take? The Underground Railroad ran in a zigzag way. The fugitives couldnt go in a straight line because it would be too easy to catch the fugitives. Safety was most important. Sometimes you had to head south to fool the hunters and as soon as it was safe, turn around and go back north. It took a man a year to get from Alabama to Ohio. Others were luckier. On board ship it might only take 2 or 3 days to get to a free state. 15. Who worked on the Underground Railroad? All kinds of people. Blacks and whites, children and adults, women and men who knew slavery was wrong. They were very brave because they knew they could be put to prison or killed for helping fugitives but they helped anyway. The most famous conductor along the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman. Born a slave in Maryland, she escaped when she was 25 years old. She returned to the South 19 times, helping over 300 enslaved African Americans to freedom. 16. Harriet Tubman 17. Uncle Toms Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in Ohio and her house was a station on the Underground Railroad. But she did something even more important in the fight against slavery. She wrote a book called Uncle Toms Cabin. In the 1850s people all over America and the world were talking about it. Many people read it and for the first time thought about how terrible slavery was. 18. How many slaves escaped? No one really knows. Some say 35, 000 and some say more than 100,000 slaves fled north. Most people who worked on the Underground Railroad didnt keep records of how many fugitives they helped. If the records were ever found, they could be punished for helping runaway slaves. 19. What would you do when you became free? One of the first thing was to change their names. They did this to be safe, but also for another reason; to throw the owner out of their life and get a fresh start, since the slaves were given their owners name. They found jobs and earned money. Many wanted to learn to read and write and some secretly went back south to help others escape.