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Discover_our_World_Yellow / Lesson 10: The Underground Railroad, Cotton

The Underground Railroad, Cotton & Slavery

"King Cotton"

  • In the Southern states in the 1800s---the crop that brought in the most cash was cotton-so as a result of cotton bringing in the most money it was called "King Cotton"---because it was the best crop to grow on a plantation if the owner wanted to make money

  • Cotton, however needed to have the seeds and fibers separated which took awhile, so plantation owners also needed slaves


  • The demand for cotton continued to rise in the 1800s

  • 1840---1.35 million bales of cotton were produced as a supply for the rising demand

  • As the cotton demand rose-so did the need for slaves

  • Cotton also made up half of all the American exports to other countries

  • The North helped ship the cotton out to other countries

Slave/Cotton Plantations

  • The large plantations produced the wealth of the South

  • By 1860-the South produced 2/3 of the world's supply of cotton

  • Cotton sold easily in England because England had the textile factories to weave the cotton into cloth and clothes

  • By 1860-There were 4 million enslaved African Americans in the South that picked and cleaned cotton on Southern plantations



  • By the 1830s - movements against slavery had developed


  • Anti Slavery movement stated "Slaveholders talk of treating men well, and yet not only rob them of all they get"¦but they rob them of themselves"¦.hands and feet, all their muscles, and limbs, and senses, their bodies and mind, their time and liberty."


Nat Turner

  • White plantation owners were often cruel to their slaves---because they beat them, branded them and tortured them for disobedience

  • Over 100 black slaves had died as a result of their cruelty

  • August 1831---Nat Turner decided to end this torture-so he gathered together a group of slaves in Virginia and for 2 days the group he put together went from farm to farm killing over 60 slave-owners----It took 6 weeks to catch and stop him---he and his group were eventually hanged

Frederick Douglas

  • Frederick Douglas was born a slave in 1818---he was treated very badly

  • He escaped in 1838 as a sailor

  • 1841-he was hired as a lecturer in Massachusetts to speak out against slavery

  • He was known for giving speeches about his experiences as a slave---he even traveled to England to give speeches

  • Douglas also wrote books and he started his own anti-slavery newspaper called the "The North Star"

  • Douglas also became an advisor to President Lincoln during the Civil War

Treatment of Slaves and Blacks

  • Even free blacks in the North were not treated good, as they were required to sit in separate areas from whites in churches, restaurants, hotels and lecture halls

  • They were denied voting rights and legal rights to property-and they were closed to skilled jobs

  • Prejudice: This was the negative opinion that whites had against blacks

  • Discrimination: This was the negative actions that whites took to make blacks receive unfair treatment

Elizabeth Jennings

  • 1854---Elizabeth Jennings was a black school teacher

  • She climbed on board a "whites only" streetcar in New York---she refused to leave until she rode it-the police had to come and arrest her

  • Jennings went to court over this and her lawyer was Chester A. Arthur, a future President of the United States

  • 1855---Jennings won the case-and the court ruled that "colored persons had the same rights as others and they could not face separation rules"



  • Abolitionists were people who wanted to abolish or end slavery in the United States


  • Example: Harriet Beecher Stowe was a white female who believed slavery was wrong - so she wrote a book called "Uncle Tom's Cabin" which spoke of the horrors of slavery


  • Her book sold over 300,000 copies in it's first year


Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Underground Railroad

  • The Underground railroad was a system of secret routes that escaping captives followed to freedom

  • The escaping slaves and those who helped them used railroad terms as code words

  • Example: Those who helped escaping slaves were "conductors" and escaping slaves were "passengers"

  • Example: The places slaves hid were "stations"

  • People who fed and sheltered them were "station masters"

  • Songs such as "Follow the Drinking Gourd"-gave them directions for escaping north in code---as the drinking gourd was the Ohio River

Harriet Tubman

  • Harriet Tubman was a slave who escaped to freedom 90 miles north

  • She later made 19 missions back to the South to help other slaves escape to the North---as she worked on the underground railroad

  • Tubman was given the nickname "Moses" because she led her people to freedom like Moses from Egypt

  • She helped 300 slaves gain freedom

  • She stated "I never run my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger."

  • The reward for her capture was $40,000

Sojourner Truth

  • She was born into slavery in New York in 1797-she was freed in 1827-then she began traveling around the country speaking out against the evils of slavery

  • She also attended the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio-and she spoke out ---and her words are still quoted today

Levi Coffin

  • Levi Coffin, a Quaker from IN, was the President of the Underground Railroad---he and his wife, Catherine---clothed, fed and hid over 3000 slaves in their home on the way to freedom in the North

The Underground Railroad

  • Many people who worked on this railroad were escaped black slaves---but also many whites acted as station houses on the journey to the north

  • This underground system of helping slaves gain freedom was a success-as many slaves gained freedom by escaping to Canada or other northern areas