The Underground Railroad: 40 Incredible Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Most of you will remember learning about the Underground Railroad at some point during your school years. The infamous Harriet Tubman who helped slaves flee to the north, as well as the many kind souls that assisted with hiding families from their slave owner as they desperately tried to escape to freedom. But how much do we REALLY know about the Underground Railroad?

Unfortunately,  what is taught in school is mostly vague, offering a general overview of what happened during that time. There are so many details that have been glossed over in the history books, from the tales of the slave bounty hunters to the many brave men and women who helped escapees make their way north.

Here at Funnyand, we decided it was time to get dig into the facts, stories, and myths surrounding the Underground Railroad and provide a comprehensive overview of some important details you might now have known about.

“Slavery is a sin when whites were put to the yoke, but not the African. All men are created equal unless we decide you are not a man.”
― Colson Whitehead

40. The Origin of the Name

Image: Wikipedia

[dx_custom_adunit mobile_id=”RTK_8yXx”]

It’s important to first put to rest that the Underground Railroad was not underground at all. At the time, the railways were just beginning to be a method of transportation and due to the secretive nature of helping slaves cross into freedom, the term “underground” was used as a code word.

No one could have ever guessed that this functional terminology would go on to have a legacy that defined a movement for generations, as well as inspire future generations to do better in turbulent times.


39. Early Days

Image: Riviera Theater

[dx_custom_adunit mobile_id=”RTK_y8h0″]

During the early years of the Underground Railroad, there were a few instances of it being referenced in the media at the time. A slave owner in Kentucky used the term to place blame for the loss of his slave Tice Davids in 1831. According to the owner, Davids had used the “underground railroad” to escape to Ohio and to freedom.

Another reference in the media would occur in 1839 when a Washington newspaper published an article about a slave who admitted to utilizing the “underground railroad” to get to Boston. Of course, the term would later have much more meaning to the north and to the south.


38. The Many Routes to Freedom

Image: Connecticut Railroad

[dx_custom_adunit mobile_id=”RTK_8yXx”]

There was not one set path for slaves to travel during those times. And it’s important to point out the routes were not like the train routes today. There were no set times or destinations. As time went on, the many paths to freedom began to evolve with many of the more popular destinations being the northern United States, Mexico, as well as the Caribbean. It would be later in 1850 that many slaves would flee to Canada as well.

Most of the routes to the north were determined by who on the way there was willing to help. As more people turned against slavery and opened their homes and shops to escapees, more safe routes were implemented.

37.  Canada: The Beacon of Freedom

Image: Edmonton Gazette

[dx_custom_adunit mobile_id=”RTK_y8h0″]

After 1850, Canada would become the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for slaves fleeing from bondage at the hands of their masters. When slaves crossed the border into Canada, they were free automatically with no questions asked. They could settle where they wanted, run for public office and enjoy the same freedoms as other citizens. Many of the escapees would later end up helping with Underground Railroad operations to assist other slaves settling into their new lives.