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The Secret Migration Of The African American Slaves During The American Civil War

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Migration has been the lot of the human race since ancient times. People have journeyed across the world in search of happiness, a new life, or have been forced by the domineering and evil power of racism. The unwritten rule of racism has been firmly embedded in our history and has resulted in many battle and wars. The American civil war demonstrated how evil and hate against a single race, combined with power in the hands of immoral people, can ruin an entire generation and a precious culture, never to be regained.

Migration is the movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions. This became a stark reality for those African Americans who were caught in the harsh drudgery of the slavery era. Dehumanized, 3 million African Americans became mere property of the unforgiving slave traders and were forced to work untiringly without proper remuneration or appreciation. This excessive number became a concern to the slaves themselves along with the abolitionists and antislavery activists. Benjamin Franklin once said that ‘Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature’. This drove the desire for all slaves to be freed and slavery to be abolished. This began the bloodiest civil war in American history. The civil war lasted from 1861-1865, 4 long years of constant battle, death and arguments. Struggling for power, the confederates fought the rest of the country, a determined foe as, the rest of the country’s power and willingness to fight was fueled by their unity as set out in the Declaration of Independence, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

In the mid-19th century, a network of safe-houses and secret routes was developed by white abolitionists to be used by the African-American slaves escaping and secretly migrating into the Free states, Canada and Nova Scotia. Over 1000 slaves escaped via this method each year, each in small, independent groups which helped to maintain the critical secrecy of this highly important railroad. Harriet Tubman, known as the Moses of her time, played a critical role in organizing the logistics of the whole railroad. She herself was an escaped slave and then further made 19 trips to and from Canada, guiding over 1000 slaves to freedom. She herself said that ‘I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.’- DOES THIS QUOTE LINK? To those enslaved at plantations where they were forced to work from sunup to sundown, enduring hours of backbreaking work with little or no recognition, Freedom was a dream all thought about constantly. To each personally, Freedom was something completely different. To some, freedom was being able to walk down the streets and not be looked down upon, to other it was to never get whipped again and to others again it was a land where the sun never went down, everyone was free and the white man had no power over the black. It was through the sheer determination and power of people such as Harriet Tubman and William Lloyd Garrison, thousands of slaves escaped the domineering power of slave traders and harsh plantation owners.

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The abolishing of slavery and the ending of the civil war was much on the minds of the citizens of the country, those fighting for the freedom and most importantly the slaves themselves. As a founding father once said, ‘It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honor of the states as well as justices and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency no to be excused.’ The power of those at the head of the confederate states was withholding the blessing of liberty to the African Americans who had a right to it just as much as they did. The end of this withholding of power came when the Union States pounced upon the confederates, forcing a surrender. After 4 long years of countless battles and unceasing prayer, the civil war was over, and the African Americans were free. Freedom has come upon them at last. They were no longer to be held in bondage and captivity under evil, heartless masters who had no respect of human life. Slave traders could no longer bargain and banter for human lives. Happy memories and new discoveries could slowly begin to take away the pain and scars from that of enduring years slavery.

For escaped slaves who found freedom in Canada, life was far from easy. Many of those now free slaves who landed in now southern Ontario decided to farm, because they had experience in working the land. They had to work hard to clear the new land, build their own houses and then feed their families. To make a living, men and children had to work as laborer’s on other farms as well as their own to make enough money to scrape by. In the maritime colonies, the African Americans were given land to poor for farming or none. This meant they were forced to work for others, with very low wages or none at all. Canada, to them, was a strange land and they felt ostracized amongst the public. Describing the migrant’s entry into Canada, Harriet Tubman said that ‘I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land.’ Once migrated, the slaves had often severed their connections with their family and their hometown, sometimes never to be seen again. But this was the high price that the slaves were prepared to pay just for freedom and refuge.

The struggle for freedom has long been one of the greatest challenges that has ever faced the African Americans. Power in the hands of unjust men combined with the ingrained malice against them caused one of the most significant civil wars in American history. Brave and courageous hearts of the African American people and anti-slavery sympathizers, united by a single dream, were able to conquer the power of those ‘superior’ and created a country and world where we all are free.

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The Secret Migration Of The African American Slaves During The American Civil War. (2021, September 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
“The Secret Migration Of The African American Slaves During The American Civil War.” Edubirdie, 28 Sept. 2021,
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