Significant Events of the Underground Railroad

1501—African Slaves in the New World
Spanish settlers bring slaves from Africa to Santo Domingo.

1619 –Slaves in Virginia
Africans brought to Jamestown are the first slaves imported into Britain’s North American colonies. Like indentured servants, they were probably freed after a fixed period of service.

1700—First Antislavery Publication
Massachusetts’s jurist and printer, Samuel Seawell, published the first North American antislavery tract, The Selling of Joseph.

1705—Slaves as Property
Describing slaves as real estate, Virginia lawmakers allow owners to bequeath their slaves. The same law allows masters to “kill and destroy” runaways.

1775—Abolitionist Society
Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia founds the world’s first abolitionist society. Benjamin Franklin becomes its president in 1787.

1776—Declaration of Independence
The Continental Congress asserts “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

1793—Fugitive Slave Act
The United States outlaws any efforts to impede the capture of runaway slaves.

1808—United States Bans Slave Trade
Importing African slaves is outlawed, but smuggling continues.

1820—Missouri Compromise
Missouri is admitted to the Union as a slave state, Maine as a free state. Slavery is forbidden in any subsequent territories north of latitude 36d /30’.

1821—Richard Hunt moves to Waterloo, New York.

1831—The Liberator begins publication, William Lloyd Garrison, publisher.
Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in

1833—Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society established.
American Anti-Slavery Society Founded.

1834-1838—Slavery in England
England abolishes slavery in its colonies including Jamaica, Barbados, and other West Indian territories.

1836—Sarah and Angelina Grimke begin speaking tour.
Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock move to Waterloo, New York

1837—First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women held in New York.

1838—May 15-Abby Kelley begins her lecture career by speaking to the first promiscuous (mixed sex) audience at the Second Anti-Slavery of American Women held in Philadelphia. May 17-site of convention, Pennsylvania Hall, burned by a mob.

1840—May--Abby Kelley and
Lydia Maria Child elected officers of the American Anti-Slavery Society. June--Organizers of World Anti-Slavery Convention (London) refuse to seat American female delegates. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott are introduced.

1842—At an American Anti-Slavery Society convention in Rochester, New York, Thomas and Mary Ann M’Clintock become founding members the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society.

1843—Presbyterian parishioner, Rhoda Bement, requests clergy to announce Abby Kelley speech in Seneca Falls, New York.
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel is built in Seneca Falls,
New York.

1845—Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Henry Stanton and Elizabeth Cady Stanton move to Boston. Henry joined law firm of Samuel Sewall.

1847—Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her family move to Seneca Falls, New York.

1848—First Women’s Rights Convention, Seneca Falls, New York.

1849—Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland and travels to Canada.

1850—Compromise of 1850
In exchange for California’s entering the Union as a free state, northern congressmen accept a harsher Fugitive Slave Act different from the previous one of 1793.

1853—Amy Post suggests to Harriet Jacobs that she write a book about her life. The book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is published 1861.

1854—Kansas-Nebraska Act
Setting aside the Missouri Compromise of 1820, Congress permits these two new territories to choose whether to allow slavery. Violent clashes erupt.

1857—Dred Scott Decision
The United States Supreme Court decides, seven to two, that African Americans can never be citizens and that Congress has no authority to outlaw slavery in any territory.

1859—John Brown organizes slaves to take over Armory at Harper’s Ferry.
The Rev. J.W. Loguen, as A Slave and as A Freeman. A Narrative of Real Life, by Jermaine Loguen is published in Syracuse, New York.

1860—Abraham Lincoln Elected
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois becomes first Republican to win the United States Presidency.

1861-65—United States Civil War
Four years of brutal conflict claim 623,000 lives.

1863—Emancipation Proclamation
President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation only freed those slaves that were in rebellion against the United States. The proclamation did not free slaves in the states that never left the Union.

1865—Slavery Abolished
The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery.

Time line from National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, additions by Jamie Wolfe.

Underground Road?
African American Participation in the Underground Railroad
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad and the Convention
"In defense of Woman and the Slave..."

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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