The Underground Railroad


Reading — Intermediate Level
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The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by African-American slaves to escape into free states, Canada and Nova Scotia with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The Underground Railroad was formed in the late 1700s and reached its height between 1850 and 1860. One estimate suggests that by 1850, one hundred thousand slaves had escaped via the "Railroad".

British North America (present-day Canada), where slavery was prohibited, was a popular destination, as its long border gave many points of access. Most former slaves settled in Ontario. More than 30,000 people were said to have escaped there via the network during its 20-year peak period, although U.S. Census figures account for only 6,000. Numerous fugitives' stories are documented in the 1872 book The Underground Railroad Records by William Still, an abolitionist who then headed the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee.
Source: Wikipedia
  1. What was the Underground Railroad?

  2. True or False: Slaves seeking freedom depended on the Underground Railroad and ventured through it alone and without help.

  3. Why was Canada a popular escape destination for slaves?

  4. How were individual accounts of the Underground Railroad passed along through generations?

  5. How many years was the "railroad" in existence?


Practice your writing skills by discussing the questions below

  1. If you were a slave, would you have tried to escape to freedom?

  2. How do you think slaves felt escaping to freedom?

  3. Is there or has there been slavery in your country? Explain.


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      • a person who wants to stop or abolish slavery
      • the official process of counting the number of people in a country, city, or town and collecting information about them
      • he most advanced or extreme point of something
      • an interconnected group or system
      • someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay


    From English
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