You Are a Slave
You are owned by a slave owner in Maryland. You have no freedom. You can do only what you are told. You cannot read. You cannot go to school. Sometimes you are beaten. You live in a small, unheated cabin with little light. Someone tells you "Moses" is coming and will help you escape.
Do You Want To Go?
You are not unusual. Most slave stayed where they were and endured difficult lives without freedom.
You are told to listen for someone singing "Wade in the Water." When you hear it, go to the creek.
Religious songs or "spirituals" were used to communicate important message. They contained codes telling lsaves how, when and where to go.
"Moses" is a nickname given to Harriet Tubman. She meets you at the creek.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland. She escaped at age 30, relocating to Canada. In 1851 she returned to Maryland in secret to help her family escape. It is believed that in all, she helped some 300 slaves to freedom in the north. A strong Christian, she believed God was with her. Harriet carried a gun and had one rule that she would not break--if you left with her, you could not turn back. If you did, she would shoot you--the only way to keep her methods of escape safe.
You follow Harriet Tubman through the woods, wading often in the creek. The waters covers your scent from the dogs hunting you. A candle in thw window is the sign that this house is safe. Do you trust this and approach?'
, I will stay in the woods. I see the candle, but I'm not sure I will be safe. The woods are not safe. Barking dogs signal that slave catchers are near. The dogs find you and you are captured.
, I will approach. My heart is pounding as I knock quietly. A kind man answers and lets me in.
Harriet Tubman explains how to idrntify a "safe house." People who do not believe in slavery prepare a place so you can rest on your journey. They provide food, beds, and clothing too. Since you cannot read, you depend on secret signs to let you know it is safe to approach. It might be a candle in a window, a lantern on a hitching post, or a quilt hung on the front porch.
Rested, you go on. You stuff food in your pockets, enough for a few days.
You discover that a safe house can be a home, a church, or a barn. When you are this tired, anything looks good. Tonight you stay nestled in the hay of this warm barn. The farmer promises fresh milk for the morning.
You are almost to free territory, close to Pennsylvania.
You have reached the Pine Forge Manor House built by Thomas Rutter in 1720. You are in the state of Pennsylvania--a free state! You are very excited, for you are now in free territory. A lantern on the hitching posts tells you that you are welcome. John Potts Rutter, a Quaker, answers the door. As a boy, John discovered underground tunnels where he would play hide-and-seek. He shows you to the tunnel where there are others hiding as well. After some rest and food you take one of the tunnels about 100 yards away from the Manor House to the Manatawny River to continue your journey. [Note: the campus of Pine Forge Academy, an Adventist high school, is now on the Rutter land and the manonr house still stands.]
You are still moving north.
It is safest to travel away from the cities and people who may be looking for you. Traveling the woods by night, you step carefully so not to make loud noises. You must cross the Appalachian mountains on the Appalachian train (above). It is getting colder, you are tired and hungry, but you press onward.
You walk almost 250 miles over the mountain to get to Rochester, New York.
You find another safe house in Rochester, New York, with a wam welcome, hot food, and a place to seep. It feels good after your long walk mostly by night through the woods. Frederick Douglass (left) lives in this town as does Susan B. Anthony. Both are against slavery, along with many others here. You begin to feel safe, but you are not. They offer you warmer clothes for the rest of your journey. You want to stay, but you are urged to move on.
Get ready to travel to Lake Erie.
Arriving at Lake Erie in the winter means the lake is filled with ice and the weather very cold. Traveling is risky. Robert Wilson (left), a Great Lakes ship captain, will take you across the lake hidden in his cargo of grain.
Captain Wilson is ready to go. Across the icy waters to Canada and freedom. Will you go?
The lake is icy and it is too risky. I think I will stay here in the United States. To stay is risky. In 1850 the laws became stricter allowing a slave master to tkae back their slave if they found and captured them. Life, while in a free state, will still be difficult.
I'm scared, but I will take the risk and brave the icy cold.
Free at last!
By taking the risk to enter Canada you are now free. You will be safe from anyone searching for you.
Want to learn more? These pages were inspired by nationalgeographic.com/railroad/. Go there to take the complete interactive journey. You won't be disappointed!