Slavery in the Nineteenth Century

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What are some topics that I might research about the Underground Railroad?

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Having the Underground Railroad as the starting point for a research paper is a fairly narrowed down topic; however, there are lots of different directions that you could go with the research. I will list some topic ideas below.

  • Who were the major players involved with the Underground Railroad? This would include possible information about who or what group decided to start the system. Additionally, you could include information about how many of the "workers" were white vs. black.
  • Why was the Underground Railroad necessary?
  • Why did people risk their lives to help runaway slaves?
  • How many slaves did the system get to freedom? What was the success rate of the Underground Railroad?
  • What dangers did escaping slaves face between stations, and what dangers did they face at each station.
  • Were any stations discovered? What was the punishment for the men and women that worked the Underground Railroad?
  • If the Underground Railroad was known about, what kind of organized efforts were made to shut it down?
  • How exactly were slaves moved from station to station? Did a message go ahead of the slaves in order to alert the next station that escaping slaves would be arriving? If messages were relayed from station to station, what kind of code (if any) was used?
  • Once freedom was reached, did any of the escaped slaves become a part of the Underground Railroad in order to help other slaves?
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Among the topics that you might research on this topic are:

  • How did the Underground Railroad work?  How did "conductors" contact slaves who wanted to escape?  How did they find out about the locations of the "stations" where they could get help?  How did they typically get the slaves from station to station?
  • How successful was the Underground Railroad?  How many slaves did it help to escape?  Did many of the attempts at escape fail?
  • What happened to people when their escape attempts failed?  This goes for the slaves and also for the people who were helping them to escape.
  • Who were the people who worked the Underground Railroad?  Why did they typically want to help slaves?

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