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Symbols of Slavery
Facts & Myths of the Underground Railroad
SW Ohio Underground Railroad Sites & Resources

There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach-and in the destruction of lives.
--National Geographic, September, 2003

Symbols of Slavery

Slave owners kept control over slaves through a variety of means including separation of families, denial of education, through fear and through physical punishment. Slaves were property, bought and sold at the will of the owner. Society supported the slave owners and helped them keep these individuals enslaved.

When those who were enslaved decided they could no longer live under such conditions, they relied on the assistance of strangers and a number of symbols, signals and sayings to aid them in their escape, and to help them avoid slave hunters and catchers. There continues to be much scholarly debate on how fugitives made their way to freedom, but there are some strategies that have been validated by historians.

In this picture, there are items that represent symbols of slavery, and things that slaves used that helped them to freedom. Can you identify them?

Moss Whip
Railroad Tracks



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