Talk:Underground Railroad

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e·h·w·Stock post message.svg To-do:

"Upon arriving at their destinations, many fugitives were disappointed. While the British colonies had no slavery, discrimination was still common. Many of the new arrivals had great difficulty finding jobs, and overt racism was common." - where's the citation? Upon what source is this statement based? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:40, 1 October 2007 (UTC)


The introduction estimates 6,000 slaves at a lower bound, but the Canada section states a minimum of 30,000 escaping to Canada only. —The preceding signed but undated comment was added at 02:52, August 24, 2007 (UTC).

Sorry about that, didn't realise I wasn't logged in. laddiebuck 18:58, 24 August 2007 (UTC)

The introduction indicates that there were an estimated 100,000 slaves that escaped on the railroad, but that the US census only accounts for 6,000 of those slaves; that there was a minimum estimated 30,000 that escaped to Canada is entirely consistent with the article. scatter98 11:11, 20 Sep 2007

link to spam site[edit]

Ontario's Underground Railroad -`this link goes to a site that is definately not what the link states. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ringwall (talkcontribs) 22:25, 6 March 2008 (UTC) .

Who the heck screwed up this page?[edit]

Must I repeat? Who the heck screwed up this page?!!!!? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jkwinders (talkcontribs) 14:33, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Number estimates[edit]

Unless valid source can be found to support the claim that 100,000 slaves were helped, this information will be removed. The previous source used in the introduction merely restated the claim. Anyone have a better source? Matt Gerber (talk) 17:21, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

The Number of Slaves Escaped?????[edit]

Under the picture of Harriet Tubman, it says there were about 300 slaves that were escaped. Also, at the top of the page, it says there were about 30,000 slaves escaped. Whoever wrote this got the numbers confused and I don't know how many people exactly were escaped. Please fix this. Cookie Monster (talk) 20:21, 5 November 2008 (UTC)

The caption clearly says that Harriet Tubman helped free about 300 people, and the article says the Underground Railroad may have helped over 30,000 people escape. Tubman was only one "conductor" on the Railroad. — Malik Shabazz (talk · contribs) 03:43, 6 November 2008 (UTC)
I agree with the above..Harriet Tubman alone accounted for aiding approximately 300 who escaped; many others were instrumental in the operations of the "Underground Railroad" and aiding in the escape of thousands of people. Modernist (talk) 14:04, 6 November 2008 (UTC)
The Harriet Tubman article states the following: "After escaping from captivity, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves". The claim is made in the first paragraph. I uncovered this discrepancy while doing a school project. My history book ("The American Pageant", 12th ed.) states that "During nineteen forays into the South, she (Harriet Tubman) rescued more than three-hundred slaves..." Personally, I would regard this as the most accurate source of information. Morganismysheltie (talk) 02:04, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

My history book agrees with the current information in this article, but not the Harriet Tubman article, which was a featured article. That's pretty sad, if you ask me. Morganismysheltie (talk) 02:08, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

It says that she made 13...she actually made 19 and helped free over 300 blacks including her parents. Mrs.Cloud (talk) 02:37, 1 December 2010 (UTC)Mrs.Cloud

The article currently describes Harriet Tubman as an "abductor;" should be edited to say "conductor." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:10, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for catching that. I just fixed it. — Malik Shabazz Talk/Stalk 05:23, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
It turns out we were wrong. According to this and similar articles, an abductor was a person on the Underground Railroad who went south to rescue blacks, whereas a conductor provided food and shelter along the journey. — Malik Shabazz Talk/Stalk 03:33, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Name origin[edit]

How and when did this system get its name? I understand why the metaphor is apt, so I know why the name stuck, but that dones't really give its etymology. Given that the system was at its peak from 1810 to 1850 (according to the article) and the first steam locomotive operated in the United States in 1830, I think it unlikely that the terms of railroad operation like "conductor" would have been familiar enough to get adapted before perhaps 1840. So, if I am correct, the name came rather late in the operation. Was it something applied towards the end? After the fact by historians? Paulc206 (talk) 14:50, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Heh, I guessed well. According to the term was first used in 1842. Of course that's the first KNOWN use, and the documentation on the page seems weak, so I'm not quite ready to footnote the main article yet. Sorry for not finding this before I wrote the above question. Paulc206 (talk) 15:01, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

I was watching a video that said it was used by a plantation owner. He was chasing an escaping slave when the slave disappeared. The owner said it was as if the slave disappeared to an underground railroad. It may have been used around 1810 when railroads first began being built, or later. (talk) 00:02, 5 March 2009 (UTC)

Railroads were not being built in 1810. If you have the name of the video, that would help. Paulc206 (talk) 07:58, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

I see no problem here. Nobody's saying that the railroad terms were in use from day one, but as ralroad terminology entered into vernacular speech the Undergoround Railway adopted it. Incidentally, railroad development in the US was indeed underway in 1810, see Leiper_Railroad. The use of wagons running on or guided by wooden or metal rails in mines (true underground railroads) predates that era. -- Timberframe (talk) 12:44, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

Africville, Nova Scotia; Vancouver Island[edit]

The links between the Underground Railroad and Africville in Nova Scotia or Vancouver Island are not clear to me (and there is no reference cited). Was the Halifax region in fact a terminus of the Underground Railway? Given the geography it seems very unlikely. As for Vancouver Island, the discussion of settlement by African Americans invited by Governor Douglas should be discussed in relation to the articles on Vancouver Island, Saltspring Island, James Douglas, Black Canadians etc., but I don't know of any evidence that the colony of Vancouver Island was a terminus on the Underground Railroad per se. Again geography alone would have made it unlikely. If someone could provide references in relation to these two issues, please do. Otherwise they don't seem pertinent to the subject of the article. Corlyon (talk) 23:03, 10 April 2009 (UTC)

Folklore missing word[edit]

If this page were not locked I would have fixed it myself...

"The quilts were placed one at time on a fence ..." should be "The quilts were placed one at _a_ time on a fence ..." -- (talk) 18:34, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing that out. I fixed it. — Malik Shabazz (talk · contribs) 18:58, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

How many people did Tubman rescue?[edit]

There is an inconsistency in this statement "made 19 trips back to the South and helped free over 300 people" in the Notable People section does not match the figure of 70 given earlier in the article (photo caption) and sourced in the Tubman article. Can someone more knowledgeable than myself rectify the inconsistency? Dave (talk) 20:24, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

On and in my history book, it clearly says that Harriet Tubman made 19 trips to the South, helping to free over 300 people. Shelby 8:07, 17 May 2010


The article cites work by Larson, David Potter (1976), David Blight (2005), Fergus Bordewich (2005) and Ozella McDaniels Williams (1999) but does not cite the specific works, therefore none can be verified. I note that works by some of these authors, some with the same years, are listed in Sources and Further reading, but it's not clear whether these are the same works that the article cites. (Although this is a reasonable guess for titles under Sources it's not for those under Further reading. The refs in the article to David Blight (2005) may be typo errors as a 2001 work by David Blight is detailed in the Sources section.) Can anyone supply the titles of the works? I'd then be happy to amend the article to make unambiguous references to the works which have been used as sources for the article. -- Timberframe (talk) 11:26, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

I added the Potter source and filled in some page numbers on one of the footnotes. Can't help with the others. Tom (North Shoreman) (talk) 15:35, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

Route section -- this sentence was deleted because incomprehensible to me[edit]

"Because of this, the number of former slaves who owed their freedom at least in part to those who operated the Underground Railroad was greater than the many thousands who actually traveled its secret routes."

Because of WHAT? Please clarify if you re-insert.

Bellagio99 (talk) 02:17, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

See here, here, and here for the edit mini-skirmish over the content of that paragraph. May be worth discussing further. Fat&Happy (talk) 03:34, 5 August 2010 (UTC)


Harriet Tubman led 19 trips from the south to canada and helped free over 300 slaves including her parents!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mrs.Cloud (talkcontribs) 02:29, 1 December 2010 (UTC)

Eastman Johnson painting[edit]

I adjusted the recently added image of this work a bit, mostly to reduce the amount it dominated the page at 350px, but question whether it belongs in this article at all. Not every runaway slave was shepherded by members of the Underground Railroad. The description of the work on the Brooklyn Museum site says

Eastman Johnson ... claimed to have based the subject on an actual event he had witnessed near the Manassas, Virginia, battlefield on March 2, 1862, just days before the Confederate stronghold was ceded to Union forces. In this powerfully simplified composition, a family of fugitive slaves charges for the safety of Union lines in the dull light of dawn.

This seems to indicate a spur-of-the-moment decision to escape to troops in the field rather than any planned attempt to follow the drinking gourd or any other reliance on the UR organization. Fat&Happy (talk) 16:46, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

When did it start?[edit]

The article says the Railroad was "[c]reated in the early 19th century", yet the article on Richard Allen has him operating a station as early as 1797. Neither seems to be documented. I doubt the term "railroad" was in use in 1797, but obviously the system could have been. --Haruo (talk) 11:56, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

According to this Associated Press piece, a network aiding escaped slaves operated for over a century, roughly between 1670 and 1790. The main escape route went to Florida, then under Spanish control. — Dale Arnett (talk) 20:05, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

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Please Maintain Arrangement of Photos in Article[edit]

Whomever is editing this article and rearranging text and/or photos, please be mindful of the changes you are making as it is making the photos and article appear disorganized. Daniellagreen (talk) 05:00, 28 November 2013 (UTC)