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The Underground Railroad was a secret pathway organized by abolitionists--many of them free blacks and Quakers Its purpose was to help runaway slaves escape to freedom in the North or in Canada Often the passage to freedom followed natural boundaries such as a river Usually slaves relied on secret helpers in towns scattered along the route to freedom These conductors would help a slave move from one safe house to another usually under cover of darkness One daring conductor Harriet Tubman led hundreds of slaves to the North Antislavery groups sent agents south to tell slaves about the Underground Railroad The agents pretended to be census takers mapmakers or peddlers Ohio was probably the busiest haven for runaway slaves It bordered two southern states and had a long river boundary The route along the Appalachian Mountains was another often-used pathway to freedom The large number of Quakers in Philadelphia made that area a likely source of safe houses for escaping slaves too By 1860 as many as 100000 enslaved African Americans may have escaped to freedom on the Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad but a secret network of safe houses and antislavery activists - black white and Native American - who helped slaves escape to freedom Every home that welcomed runaways and every individual who offered food clothing or other assistance could be considered part of the railroad Though never formally organized tens of thousands of slaves aided by more than 3200 railroad workers escaped to the northern states Canada Texas Mexico and through Florida to the Caribbean The activity of the Underground Railroad reached a peak from 1830 to 1860 though it was operating as early as the 1500s from the time the first African captives were brought to Spanish colonies in the New World Much of the railroads history was passed down orally through generations Not only were many slaves who made the trek illiterate but also those
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