• 1 Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes, meeting places and safe houses used by freedom-seeking slaves in their attempts to reach the northern free states, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Desperate to escape the abhorrent conditions of enslavement, followers of the Underground Railway braved many dangers and hardships on their journeys to freedom. Professional slave catchers and federal officials often pursued escaped slaves and, if captured, slaves frequently endured torture and retribution at the hands of their owners. It has been estimated that almost 100,000 slaves used the Underground Railroad in one way or another – and it is believed that about 30,000 of these made their way to Canada. Canadian destinations ranged from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, but most were clustered around the lower Great Lakes. Abolitionists, sympathizers and former slaves – often organized into small groups – helped shelter, guide and provision fugitives along the route. Railroad terminology was used as code to identify elements of the journey. For example, people who helped guide freedom seekers were called conductors and safe houses were called stations. Ontario has several historic sites directly linked to the arrival of refugee slaves from the southern United States. Members and clergy of several Christian denominations took active roles in the operation of the Underground Railroad, and in supporting the freedom seekers upon their arrival on Canadian soil.

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