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Harriet Tubman: the Underground Railroad

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Harriet Tubman quoted after crossing the Underground Railroad, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven”[footnoteRef:1]. With this in mind, you can see how after overcoming that journey many slaves just as Harriet Tubman instantly saw their freedom as such a great blessing that many believed that it could not get any better than that. They thought that it was heaven.

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The Underground Railroad was an underground passageway that allowed many enslaved children, women, and men escape slavery. It set them free. The Underground Railroad began in 1831. It began before the Civil War. The Underground Railroad was shelter, transportation, and food for those brave enough slaves who intended to escape the cruelty of slavery.Now a day an engineer is a person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or public works. Back then however, people who worked in the Underground Railroad, who would make this difficult journey for the enslaved people a bit easier, were referred to as “engineers” or “conductors”

In the book, Still’s Underground Railroad records, you can see why many slaves took the risk of escaping through the Underground Railroad know that they would suffer horrid punishments if caught. William Still wrote, “He was a young man who had felt the brutality of mastership. His back had almost been broken by a maul in the hands of a cruel master or overseer. The authority that should have protected had maimed him. The burden of life, which was not easily borne, by the strongest. Was thus made harder for him. How could he help represent an ownership, which lacked a kindness not withheld from the lower animals? How could he help detesting a mastery which harshly exacted, yet in a spirit of savagery made the victim incapable of responding to exaction? Traveling the Underground Railroad was very difficult; that did not matter to them. 

Many slaves rather risk their lives trying to obtain their freedom from slavery than be “safe” and live their everyday life treated worse than animals. Being tortured and punished for not “correctly” doing their jobs or disobeying their owners.There were many dangers of crossing the Underground Railroad. Not only were they without food and water until an abolitionist would offer to help them out, but they would also encounter many different types of animals that would want to eat them. They had to either run or fight off these animals if they wanted to survive. Depending in the time as they got closer up North the weather got colder. They often had to cross-treacherous terrain. 

If there was a frozen river or lake that they had to cross, they did. They would put themselves in danger for a chance at freedom. Since many slaves were from down South they were used to warm temperatures. However, as many of them made their way up North, they would begin to feel the coldness. Many would get sick or catch hyperthermia because they did not have the appropriate clothing to travel in those temperatures. For the once who made it to the Northern states or Canada, they were not safe. If someone found out they were not free slaves, they would return them to their owners.

She was a conductor. The government wanted to bring Harriet Tubman into custody since what she was doing was illegal. Now a days what she did is the same as the smuggling of illegal immigrants over the border. Tubman was also a nurse. In the year 1862, a year before the Underground Railroad ended, she was asked to take care of the severely African American injured soldiers in South Carolina.[footnoteRef:9] She was also a spy for the Union Army and helped them pretending to be other things, and she supported the women’s suffrage movement[footnoteRef:10]. Harriet Tubman was one of the more famous heroes of the Underground Railroad.

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