Local Ties to the Underground Railroad

Sometimes when a people are under their most oppression, that is when they undoubtedly are at their best it appears. And that adage could absolutely be applied to those who operated the Underground Railroad in the 19th century while slavery was still the law of the land in America.

The Underground Railroad was a signifies by which absolutely tens of thousands of slaves were able to flee their oppressors and make their way north to free states and a opportunity for liberty. It was so secretive that even to speak of it meant discovery and awful punishment. But worse that that if it had been observed by those who would stop slaves from finding their way out, it would have meant the closing of hope for thousands of African Americans who were enduring the injustice of slavery.

The expression “The Underground Railroad” was itself a code for the reason that that actual mechanism for moving slaves to freedom wasn’t a railroad at all. It was a series of stops, involved by obscure routes that wound their way by ways of the countryside. The routes were twisted and illogical so those looking to capture slaves and return them to bondage would be difficult pressed to comprehend the ways those seeking freedom might travel.

There was no published route for the Underground Railroad. “Passengers” navigated their way from safe house to safe house taking refuge in homes, churches and other out of the way locations that became known as “stations” to those in the know. extremely often, the people who ran the stations along the path had no idea how long the railroad was or whatever about the whole route. They easily knew sufficient to receive their “passengers”, do all they could for their health and care and send them together with instructions on how to reach the following station.

The routes were treacherous and complicated. Slaves trying to reach freedom frequently walked the routes from station to station to stay away from public gathering places where slave chasers might find them and send them back to their owners in the south. And just as there was no real “railroad” to the Underground Railroad, the routes themselves weren’t actually under the ground. However multiple times at the safe houses, the owners will protect their guests in tunnels under the house or under a farm building.

At one such safe house in Nebraska City, Nebraska, there is a tunnel from the house to the barn so as to if the farmer was feeding a needy family, they could rapidly “disappear” if slave hunters arrived without notice. There were also close to dug out bedrooms and crude accommodations under those houses to provide as much comfort and opportunities to rest and regain as was humanly doable under such complicated conditions.

Locally, Washington County was an important part of the Underground Railroad. Its position just south of the Mason-Dixon line made Hagerstown a critical stop for many escaped slaves. You can read more at Visit Hagerstown, and learn even more at the Doleman Black Heritage Museum.

We can’t leave our consideration of this phenomenal network without recognizing the courage of those who ran the “stations” to take in slaves, harbor them, feed them and care for their requires and help them along the alternative to try to do what they could to strike back at this inhuman practice of human slavery. It is a testimony to humanity that people would overcome their prejudices and reach out to strangers, placing their own homes and families at risk to assist a downtrodden people in their time of marvelous need.

And we must take a solemn moment and look back on a dark time in American and Black history when such choices were needed. But the Underground Railroad spoke loudly that real Americans would not sit idly by and watch their fellow man undergo unjustly. There is no doubt that tens of thousands of lives were saved by these anonymous heroes who did not do it for reward or appreciation. They did it for the reason that it was the proper thing to do and the thing God would expect them to do. It is an motivation to us all in this day to lay down our own prejudices and bond together as brothers to resist prejudice, bigotry and mans cruelty to man due to these evils. If we do that we will know in our hearts, like those slaves on the railroad and the station owners knew, that there would come a better day.

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