In the years before the American Civil War in the mid 1800s, the Underground Railroad offered escaped slaves a network of safe houses on their way to freedom. Margaret Finsure/Finshure lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when it played an important role in the Underground Railroad.
2 of your family members lived in one of the cities that was part of the Underground Railroad.
2nd great grandmother
3rd great grandfather
“I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” affirmed Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who returned to the South 19 times in her effort to help others flee North. The Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses, began just after the American Revolution around 1790 and gained momentum in the mid- 1800s. Some central stations existed in border state cities (like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), but the path North was often circuitous to throw off pursuing slave catchers. Consequences of harboring fugitive slaves included fines, jail time, and the threat of enslavement: free blacks could be sold if caught. Regardless, conductors persisted, opening their homes and businesses, offering runaway slaves clothing, food, and shelter. Some estimate that as many as 100,000 escaped during 1850 to 1860, just before the outbreak of the Civil War.
Born Araminta Harriet Ross, Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. In addition to her work aiding African Americans escaping from slavery, Tubman served as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. After the abolition of slavery, she worked tirelessly to help women gain the right to vote. Though many African Americans escaped on foot, not all routes along the Underground Railroad were by land. Sometimes, escapees hid below deck on boats leaving from southern port cities.