The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century blackslaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists who aided the fugitives. Other various routes led to Mexico or overseas. Created in the early 19th century, the Underground Railroad was at its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad". Canada was a popular destination with over 30,000 people arriving there to escape enslavement via the network at its peak, though US Census figures only account for 6,000. The Underground Railroad riders' stories are documented in The Underground Railroad Records.
We deem it a settled point that the destiny of the colored man is bound up with that of the white people of this country. ... We are here, and here we are likely to be. To imagine that we shall ever be eradicated is absurd and ridiculous. We can be remodified, changed, assimilated, but never extinguished. We repeat, therefore, that we are here; and that this is our country; and the question for the philosophers and statesmen of the land ought to be, What principles should dictate the policy of the action toward us? We shall neither die out, nor be driven out; but shall go with this people, either as a testimony against them, or as an evidence in their favor throughout their generations.
—Frederick Douglass (c.1818–1895),
Essay in North Star (Nov. 1858); as quoted in Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (1992) by Derrick Bell, p. 40.
Most of Baldwin's work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the United States. His novels are notable for the personal way in which they explore questions of identity as well as the way in which they mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups was improved.
^ abGomez, Michael Angelo (1998). Exchanging Our Country Marks : The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. University of North Carolina Press. p. 12. ISBN0807861715.