The Underground Railroad Research Paper

Slavery and slave trade is the most disgraceful practice which has ever existed throughout the history of mankind. The United States of America still deals with the consequences of the dissemination of doctrine of inequality of men of different race based on bigotry, prejudice and ignorance. The events in the United States known as the Underground Railroad intensified the arguments between the North and South which were translated into the Civil War of 1860-1865, the end of which marks the establishment of the equality of races in the United States of America, at least de jure.

Racial discrimination is one of the hardest challenges every country in the world. For the United States of America this issue is dire, taking into account the surge of populism, nationalism and racism in the world. Ongoing armed conflicts in different parts of the world force people to leave their dwellings and move to foreign countries in search of asylum from war, famine or persecution. The President of the United States of America Donald Trump is one of the symbols of politics based on prejudice and ignorance of the equality of races and the importance thereof.

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The Underground Railroad symbolizes the struggle of the people of the United States for the common cause of democracy, liberty and equality. During 17th and 18th centuries slavery was considered completely normal and was justified by many reputable scientists, who proved that some races by their physiology and various body constitution specifics are more prone to be subordinate subjects to other races. In this regard it is important to understand that the United States was one of the most developed countries.

The Underground Railroad does not directly refer to the actual railroad, rather to the railway-like network of tunnels by slaves and abolitionists to get out from the slave states. These events occurred 30 years before the beginning of the Civil War of 1860-1865. Taking into account the scale of hostilities in the aforementioned war it would be fair to say that the Underground Railroad made its contribution to the capabilities development of forces of the North. On the other hand, as Dubek indicates, the same routes were subsequently used by Southern States for offensive operation (Dubek 2018). Ironically, but slaves themselves made the road for their enslavers to regain control over their subjects and their supporters from the North.

Fugitive Slave Act of 1759 was one of the triggers which intensified the frequency and scale of slave runaways. Under this legislative act, slaveholders were authorized to compensate for the fugitive slaves from any slaves captured as fugitives or even those who were legally liberated (NPS 2015). This Act provided for mechanisms for recovering fugitive slaves. Furthermore, the Compromise of 1850 required state entities and citizens of each state to execute the Act in terms of facilitating of regaining hold of fugitive slaves. This, in turn, produced a mass outrage on the part of the North. There were numerous instances of abduction of free black people, their children and other members of families (Dubek 2018). In such situation the kidnapped were re-enslaved or sold to other slaveholders.
It was in the best interest of enslavers that the reported numbers of fugitive slaves are high as possible, which led to mass falsification and numerous false fugitive claims for the purpose of gaining support of authorities which would, in turn, urge state organs to lobby the corresponding legislation for the compensation or retribution for the losses borne by slaveholders (USNPS 2015). With the aforementioned Act, slaveholders could legally turn into slavery free back people. In this instance, it is clearly visible that practices based on bigotry, ignorance and prejudice can be enforced on the legislative level. That is why many people feared to help slaves to escape, though it did not stop abolitionists to make their contribution to the liberation of former slaves.

Every seminal change, whether it is revolution, coup d’etat or even war, there are always few people that stand out from the crowd, though it is without prejudice to every contributor to any such changes and revolutions are not narrowed down to personalities. However, those few are the first people we think about when someone talks about the subject. In this regard, omission of the name of Harriet Tubman would make this paper void. She was at the avant-garde of slaves’ liberation. Her life has a striking resemblance with that of Moses, who guided Jews to the Holy Land, while Tubman guided more than 70 slaves through the tunnels of the Underground Railroad (USNPC 2015). She was of Christian faith, which helped her to serve the cause of democracy and freedom as a nurse and spy for the North. In this regard it is important to mention one person, who did not participated directly in conducting slaves through the Underground Railroad or abolition, but provided the foundation for gaining the most important element in the fight for the abolition of slavery, that is Christian religion. This person is Rebecca Protten, who as Harriet Tubman, was also a slave, but stood out from the rest with her zeal and dedication to the Christian religion. She became a missionary and spread the word of God to the repressed indigenous black people of African continent as well as Europeans, which was the first instance of such an influence on the part of black person. Religious affiliation is at the center of identity system of each living person since it implies the most sacred things for every individual, black or white (Sensbach 2005). Feeling of belonging to the same religion gives reasons to consider oneself a part of bigger identity group which incorporates all the people of the same faith. In this case it underpins the equality of all people regardless of birth, property or other status. The inherent dignity and inalienable natural rights indispensable for the existence of humans are based on morale, which in Western world stems from Christianity. Rebecca Protten was aware of the link between religion, human rights and freedom. Thus, fight for the equality of races was not only in the United States of America but also in Africa and Europe.

Overall, it was much harder for women to escape than for men. The stance of a woman in American slavery was far worse than that of a man slave. Once they reach puberty, woman’s main task was to give birth to as many slaves as possible since it would determine the success of plantations, which heavily depended on slave labor.

Quaker Abolitionists Charles Turner Torrey and Levi Coffin as well as many other Quakers contributed to the liberation of slaves through non-violent methods due to their faith. Bearing in mind the aforementioned and the violent methods of slaveholders for regaining control over their fugitives or persons which they deemed a compensation for the loss of manpower made the activity of Quakers even more challenging and dangerous in terms of guiding and conducting slaves to freedom (Kornbluh 2017). Therefore, Quaker mostly provided transportation in the form of wagons, in which they could bring 15 to 20 people covertly (Kornbluh 2017). According to Kornbluh, only Coffin himself helped more than 2000 slaves to escape (Kornbluh 2017).

For the purposes of this paper, it is of the utmost importance that major trends within the fight for the abolition of slavery are outlined. On the political and strategic level, legislation in the United States contributed to the preservation of enslavement of black people. The interest of slaveholders in this regard is evident. Fugitive Slave Act of 1759 was the legal cornerstone of the repressive policy of racial discrimination which authorized the practice of slavery on state level. Even though that the common wisdom at that time concerning slaves and their status derived from the wrong interpretation of the Holy Bible, slaveholders needed support of their actions on the part of state authorities.

The piece of legislation mentioned in the preceding paragraph on the one hand gave cart blanche to enslavers and gave the impetus for more decisive and assertive action on the part of slaves and white abolitionists. As a result, when the Civil War broke out in America many slaves fought on the side of the North. In terms of relations between the Confederates and Unionists it is important to note that the aforementioned legislation struck a big divide between the two and escalated the tension between the two blocks. Fugitive Slave Act caused the outrage among the members of the North, who became even more active in supporting fugitive slaves which, was at the disadvantage of the South and obviously increased the animosity between the two factions.

An updated Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 imposed even harsher punishments for fugitives who were caught as well as further deprivation of all the rights. Accordingly, is a slave was caught, he or she could not testify in the court for personal protection (Dubek 2018). De facto, they were already guilty when brought to court. The resulting status of slaves was an impasse. At the time of adoption of the latter piece legislation, the Congress was dominated by Congressmen from the South, which ensured support of the Act. However, legislative document did not meet its expectations in terms of cooperation with slaveholders on the part of population, while the initiators of the Act envisioned the support even among Northern states (Dubek 2018).

Overall, the Underground Railroad is one of the earliest symbols of the fight for democracy and equal rights for every citizen of the United States of America. The most cherished ideals of democracy, freedom and liberty drove former slaves to break the chains of bigotry, prejudice and ignorance. The Underground Railroad largely contributed to the escalation of the situation between the North and South in the United States, which elapsed into the Civil War which, in turn, made the attainment of true democracy possible.

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Dubek, L. (2018). “Fight for It!”: The Twenty-First-Century Underground Railroad. The Journal of American Culture, 41(1), 68-81.
Kornbluh, A. (2017). We Have Never Been Critical: Toward the Novel as Critique. Novel, Duke University Press, 50(3), 397-408.
Sensbach, J. F. (2005). Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World. Harvard University Press, 302.
United States National Park Service. (2015). Harriet Tubman. The Underground Railroad. U.S. Department of the Interior, 1-2.