underground rail-way

underground railroad

Also called underground railway. a railroad running through a continuous tunnel, as under city streets; subway.
(often initial capital letters) U.S. History. (before the abolition of slavery) a system for helping fugitive slaves to escape into Canada or other places of safety.


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World English Dictionary
underground railroad
(often capitals) (in the pre-Civil War US) the system established by abolitionists to aid escaping slaves

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

Underground Railroad
"network of U.S. anti-slavery activists helping runaways elude capture," attested from 1852 but said to date from 1831, coined in jest by bewildered trackers after their slaves vanished without a trace.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

Underground Railroad definition

A network of houses and other places that abolitionists used to help slaves escape to freedom in the northern states or in Canada before the Civil War. The escaped slaves traveled from one “station” of the railroad to the next under cover of night. Harriet Tubman was the most prominent “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
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