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After Harriet Tubman escaped slavery, she became one of the most courageous figures in American history, dedicating her life to liberating others from bondage. Tubman’s legacy is deeply intertwined with her creation of the Underground Railroad, a clandestine network of safe houses and secret routes that facilitated the escape of enslaved individuals to freedom.

Following her escape in 1849, Tubman embarked on numerous perilous missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including members of her own family and friends. With remarkable courage and resourcefulness, she traversed hundreds of miles through hostile territory, relying on the assistance of abolitionist sympathizers and safe houses along the way.

The decision to flee slavery was not an easy one for Tubman. When she learned that she and her brothers faced the threat of being sold, she seized the opportunity to take control of their destiny. Despite initial hesitation from her brothers, Tubman pressed onward, ultimately escaping alone and embarking on a harrowing journey to freedom.

Background on underground railroads

The Underground Railroad was a clandestine network of secret routes and safe houses that operated in the United States during the 19th century. Enslaved African Americans utilized these routes primarily to escape the bonds of slavery and seek freedom in free states and Canada. Established with the assistance of free African Americans and sympathetic abolitionists, the Underground Railroad provided a lifeline for those seeking liberation from oppression.

The individuals who risked their lives to escape slavery and those who aided them are often referred to as the passengers and conductors of the Railroad, respectively. These courageous individuals navigated treacherous terrain and evaded capture in pursuit of freedom. The network also extended beyond the borders of the United States, with routes leading to Mexico, where slavery had been abolished, and to Caribbean islands untouched by the slave trade.

While earlier escape routes existed as far back as the late 17th century, the Underground Railroad, as it is commonly known, began to take shape in the late 18th century. Its reach expanded steadily northward until the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. This landmark event marked a turning point in the fight against slavery and spurred a surge in the number of individuals seeking refuge through the Underground Railroad.

Historical estimates suggest that by 1850, approximately 100,000 enslaved individuals had successfully escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

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