About Publications Library Archives
Credit: Library of Congress
Media type: engraving
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-28860
Annotation: This image depicts a number of escaped slaves being aided in their journey to freedom by white Americans in what was termed the “Underground Railroad”. The Underground Railroad represented a uniquely American form of cooperation between different people and races whose ideals and beliefs varied greatly and often conflicted, but never the less worked together to deliver enslaved individuals from bondage. While there are records of whites and freed black Americans helping runaway slaves as early as the sixteenth century, the nineteenth century witnessed a significant rise in the development of a number of loosely organized methods of escape. The term “Underground Railroad” was likely taken from the rising popularity of the locomotive, and was considered symbolic of the idea of escape, more than representing an actual railroad. The covert nature of the Railroad concealed the actual number of people involved and just how many slaves were escorted to freedom, though the number is estimated to be in the thousands.