School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 4. Analyze how the institution of slavery impacted individuals and groups in Maryland

Objective c. Describe the growth of the Underground Railroad


During the 1830s and 1840s, the number of enslaved African Americans running away from plantations in Maryland and farther south increased. Maryland's position just south of the Mason-Dixon Line meant that Maryland slaves' path to freedom was relatively short in distance — though always fraught with difficulties and danger — and that runaways from states farther South would need to pass through Maryland on their way North. To assist slaves in their escapes, a network of free blacks and white people sympathetic to runaways developed. They sheltered and hid escaping slaves in their homes, shops, and churches ("stations"), gave them food and supplies, and provided them with directions for the next leg of their journey and sometimes the location of the next "station." Some people, called "conductors," actually guided runaways personally, sometimes during the entire journey and other times on just one leg. Despite the assistance that the Underground Railroad offered runaway slaves, escape attempts were very risky. Most attempts failed, and punishments for captured runaways were severe.

The Underground Railroad was not a system of defined, formal routes. Within Maryland, runaway slaves used a wide variety of paths in fleeing north. One route was used repeatedly by Harriet Tubman, who, after escaping from slavery in Dorchester County in 1849, returned to the Eastern Shore eleven to thirteen times to lead away about seventy individuals, including her family and friends. She provided escape route instructions to another fifty or so enslaved people. The route Tubman used took her up Maryland's Eastern Shore, through Delaware to Wilmington, where many conductors and stations provided assistance to runaways, and then on to Philadelphia. Many escaping slaves also traveled on ships up the Chesapeake Bay. Many ships' captains were free blacks or sympathetic whites, and many sailors were black, making it possible for runaways to blend in. Some runaways used railroads such as the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad. Runaway slaves often made their way to Baltimore before proceeding farther north because the city's large free black population provided assistance and anonymity. Escaping slaves' final destination was often New York or New England, although after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which left escaped slaves vulnerable to recapture, many went on to Canada.

Resources for Objective 5.C.4.c: