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Origination of The Term Underground Railroad

      The underground railroad was said to have originated when a slave named Tice Davids mysteriously escaped from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Although efforts to escape had been ongoing throughout early American history, the period of slave escapes from 1830 to the mid-1860s coincided with the development of industrialization and westward expansion of the railroad system. Many of the terms used in the railroad system, i.e., conductor, passenger, station, agent, were adapted for use in the underground railroad.

      In some states, e.g., Ohio, the underground railroad consisted of a network of safe houses, or stations and an established route to freedom. And there were known abolitionist conductors who helped slaves to escape, e.g., Levi Coffin, John Parker, and Rev. John Rankin. Kentucky's underground railroad appears to have been much less systematic.

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 09-May-2006 10:39:14 Eastern Daylight Time