February is Black History month. One of the most important movements in Black History here in America was the Abolitionist Movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries through the Civil War. The first abolitionist group was the Society of Friends (Quakers) – their beliefs led them to declare that all men were created equal in the sight of God. Slavery clearly defied their Christian beliefs. The Abolitionist Movement took hold and spread. Eventually, many Christian Pastors and congregations became involved in moving fugitive slaves north. It was not an easy task, for most slave owners forbad their slaves to learn to read and write. The slave owners feared that if the slaves knew about the geography of the land or directions they would try to escape. Though repressed, the slaves used their songs to relay messages with codes from plantation to plantation. One of the most important pieces of information was to follow the drinking gourd. A drinking gourd was a hollowed out gourd with a handle used to scoop up water to quench one’s thirst. This was a common tool used on the plantations, but if one looked up at the night sky they could see the large drinking gourd, commonly known as the Big Dipper. Using the Big Dipper, the slaves could locate the North Star (Polaris), located at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, and then head north toward freedom. Many abolitionists made their way to the southern states to spread the word about the drinking gourd and the Underground Railroad routes slaves could take. In 1793, the Federal Government passed Fugitive Slaves Laws that allowed slave catchers to travel north to find fugitives and then bring them back. When the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted, it became a federal offense for any person caught aiding and abetting fugitive slaves. If a person was caught, they could be sentenced to six months in prison and $1,000 fine. But no matter how difficult or dangerous, the Underground Railroad flourished and an estimated 100,000 slaves followed “the drinking gourd” and found their path to freedom.
SharLeigh has an inquisitive nature – she is interested in current events, history, science and many more subjects, including things that go bump in the night! Since 1997, SharLeigh has scoured the internet, looking for interesting, fun and timely topics covering all sorts of human-interest subjects for her articles from her home in Fontana, CA.