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The Negro in IllinoisThe WPA Papers$
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Brian Dolinar

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037696

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037696.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad

(p.22) 4. The Underground Railroad
The Negro in Illinois

Arna Bontemps

University of Illinois Press

This chapter discusses the role of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses, in providing a means for slaves in Illinois and other parts of the country to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. Citizens of Bond County, Illinois, had been harboring runaway slaves as early as 1819. The first known case of dispatching a fugitive from Chicago to Canada occurred in 1839. Much of the communication relating to fugitive slaves was carried on in a guarded language. Special signals, whispered conversations, passwords, and figuratively phrased messages were the usual methods of conveying information about underground passengers, or about parties in pursuit of fugitives. The abolitionists knew these as the “grape-vine telegraph.” This chapter considers a variety of ways in which fugitives were conveyed from station to station, along with the participation of railroads in this endeavor.

Keywords:   slaves, Underground Railroad, Illinois, abolitionists, fugitive slaves, railroads, free states, Canada, runaway slaves

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