Signs, Symbols and Signals of the Underground Railroad

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Signs, Symbols and Signals of the Underground Railroad A journey of hundreds of miles lies before you, through swamp, forest and mountain pass. Your supplies are meager, only what can be comfortably carried so as not to slow your progress to the Promised Land – Canada. The stars and coded messages for guidance, you set out through the night, the path illuminated by the intermittent flash of lightning. Without a map and no real knowledge of the surrounding area, your mind races before you and behind you all at once. Was that the barking of the slavecatchers’ dogs behind you or just the pounding rain and thunder? Does each step bring you closer to freedom or failure? The Underground Railroad was an escape network of small, independent groups of individuals bound together by the common belief that enslaving a human being was immoral. A loosely structured, informal system of people who, without regard for their own personal safety. Conducting fugitives from slavery to free states, and eventually to Canada where they could not be returned to slavery was a dangerous undertaking. As secrecy was a necessity for all involved with the Underground Railroad, those assisting the enslaved were forced to be creative in their methods of communication. All communication was guarded, so it was better not to say too much, or put information into writing, that way if questioned sensitive information would not be revealed. By necessity, written communication used coded words to convey the information. People who helped the slaves find the railroad were referred to as agents, guides were called conductors. A note might refer to a number of packages or cargo (fugitives) being delivered, even going so far as to indicate dry goods, whic... ... middle of paper ... ... Civil Rights Movement, pp. 352 – 353. Burns, Eleanor and Bouchard, Sue - The Underground Railroad Sampler, pp. 33, 97, 100, 128. Hudson, J. Blaine - Encyclopedia of The Underground Railroad , pp. 188, 206. Siebert, Wilbur H. - The Underground Railroad From Slavery to Freedom , pp. 125, 156. Tobin, Jacqueline L. and Dobard, Raymond G. - Hidden in Plain View – A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, pp.22 -23, 130-143, 176 – 183. quilts_blocks.htm

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