Definition and Summary of the Underground Railroad
Summary and definition: The Underground Railway was in operation between 1831 and 1865 when slavery was finally abolished. Up to this point the United States were divided between free states and slave states. For additional facts and information refer to the article on the Underground Railroad.
Underground Railroad Map and Routes: Balance between Free States and Slave States
Slavery had been excluded from the Northwest by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The Fugitive Slave Act imposed harsh penalties on runaway slaves and the people who helped them.
After 1812 up to the American Civil war (1861-1865), maintaining the balance of free and slave states was considered of paramount importance by the federal legislature if the Union were to be preserved.
The Missouri Compromise maintained the balance by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state at the same time, retaining the balance between slave and free states.
New states entering the Union were often admitted in pairs. The Arkansas Territory was opened to slave states by the Missouri Compromise, the unorganized territory in the west was closed to slavery by the Missouri Compromise.
The Second Great Awakening resulted in the Abolitionist Movement which became active following Nat Turner's Rebellion and the establishment of the Underground Railroad. Also refer to Underground Railroad Symbols and Secret Codes.
The free states that were Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.
The slave states that consisted of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Underground Railroad Routes: The Escape from Slavery
The detailed Underground Railroad Maps provided indications of the many escape routes taken by fugitive slaves. There were escape routes over land and escape routes traveling by water. The decision to run from slavery was extremely dangerous. The slaves were undertaking long and arduous routes and it was necessary to use hiding places along the way. The hiding places were not only "safe houses but the natural environment also offered protection. Uninhabitable areas such as swamps, bayous and waterways provided much needed protection throughout their journey and these areas are indicated on the detailed Underground Railroad Map and Routes.