Underground Railroad Research Forum
Re: Follow the Drinking Gourd
In Response To: Follow the Drinking Gourd ()
Like the myth that coded quilts were used guide fugitive slaves, and that there was and extensive network of tunnels leading to Canada, the Drinking Gourd thesis is a compelling and courageous myth. I doubt that the North Star was method for many fugitive slaves to keep their bearings. Many factors would make this difficult. One is weather conditions. Another problem would have been navigating difficult terrain and making directional changes were needed. This not to say that the North Star was never ever used, but it certainly was not to the extent suggested by the song.
Escaping north to Canada became an option for fugitive slaves after 1793. This was brought on by the passage of the first federal Fugitive Slave Law in 1793 and the Passage of the Simco Act in the Upper Province of Canada in 1793. The Underground Railroad in Ohio began developing around 1806 and spread rapidly with the settlement of Ohio. The earliest escape across Ohio to Canada that I have found occurred in 1813. By 1820 an effective Underground Railroad network across Ohio was established. As the numbers of fugitive slaves increased during the 1820s, the Underground Railroad network expanded. By the 1830s, the Underground Railroad network was so extensive that fugitive slaves had no need to rely on following the North Star, they were led and or guided by black and white Underground Railroad Conductors from station to station until the reache Lake Erie.