African-American Studies Chapters 9-12 Discuss the Myths Essay

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African-American Studies Chapters 9-12

Discuss the myths and realities of the Underground Railroad.

There are a number of myths associated with the Underground Railroad. One such myth was about the use of coded quilts which has been discredited by scholarly research. Another myth concerns the number of slaves who were conducted to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. Precise numbers are just unknown because of the secrecy required for successful operation. Still, local underground groups that published figures on the number of fugitives they helped over time made it possible to develop estimates for the network as a whole. For the sixty-odd years that the underground existed, it probably was responsible for assisting in the escape of 100,000 fugitive slaves to the northern states and Canada (Bordewich, 2005).

Another pervasive myth about the Underground Railroad was that it operated primarily in the Deep South. In reality, most successful fugitives came from three states: Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. These states all shared long borders with free states, making escape a matter of proximity and familiarity. Also, many people believe that underground escape routes were unchanging and that escaped slaves traveled on foot or by farm wagon. In reality, routes changed to take advantage of technology. Overland routes became less frequented as steamboat and railroad use became more common (Bordewich, 2005).

Many people believe that all escaped slaves went to the North. However some fugitives escaped to places like Florida with isolated rural communities of Blacks. Another myth has it that slaves were familiar with the term Underground Railroad, but this term was not coined until about 1840, and was used mostly in the North (Scholastic, 2012).

Question #4: Many people think that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and have given him the reputation of the Great Emancipator. What was the real meaning and effect of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln's view of Blacks?

Lincoln's initial position was against the expansion of slavery into any western territory, which is not nearly the same as being opposed to the institution of slavery. Lincoln was quite ready to allow slavery to continue in states where it already existed and assured white southerners contemplating secession that he…

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Works Cited

Bordewich, F. (2005, July 27). Underground Railroad: Myth & reality. Retrieved January 18, 2012 from:

Scholastic Inc. (2012). Myths of the Underground Railroad. Retrieved January 18, 2012 from:

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