The Underground Railroad was a network which slaves in the southern states used to escape to the northern states of USA. In the southern states, slavery was legal and white Americans owned a lot of slaves. On the other hand, slavery was illegal in the northern states.
So whenever a slave from the southern states escaped to the northern states, he or she was able to gain freedom. The Underground Railroad was simply a path taken by the runaway slaves who had to travel the long distance from southern states to the northern states.
The Underground Railroad was not a railroad or even a proper road. It was simply a famous route taken by runaway slaves. There were many people along this route who helped the runaway slaves. The route also had many hideouts and places where runaway slaves could find refuge, food and help.
For runaway slaves, the journey from the southern states to the northern states was a long one. On every 10 to 20 miles along the way, they got help from people or homes who were a part of the secret Underground Railroad.
It was called Underground because it was highly secret. Only the people who wanted to help the runaway slaves knew about the homes and people who were a part of the Underground Railroad. And it was called a Railroad because although it wasn’t a proper railroad, it was simply a route or a path that slaves from southern states took for their freedom.
Other people and homes which were a part of the Underground Railroad were also names associated with the railroad. For example, people who helped the slaves and guided them along the route were called Conductors. The places and homes where runaway slaves could hide along their way were called stations.
This was not a project that was run by one or a few people. It was run by a lot of people. Many of these people were slaves who had already gained their freedom and returned to help other slaves. At the same time, there were many white people in the southern states who believed that slavery was wrong and should be illegal.
These people were also a part of the Underground Railroad and helped the runaway slaves by providing them hideouts, money and food. Quakers were a prominent religious group who helped out the runaway slaves because they thought that slavery was against the teachings of their religion.
Escaping through the Underground Railroad was very dangerous. Helping runaway slaves was against the law in the southern states. So the runaway slaves and anyone who helped them along their escape had to do it in secrecy.
The Underground Railroad miraculously maintained its secrecy for a very long time. It remained active from 1810 all the way until the 1860s. And during this time, the Railroad was used by nearly 100,000 slaves to escape from the southern states to northern states and to Canada