Hidden in Plain Sight
Teacher Note: More recent information indicates that prominent researchers have time and again debunked the myth of the quilt code. There is no historical evidence to indicate that slaves used quilts to communicate information along the Underground Railroad. Additionally, many of the patterns and songs highlighted in this section have been shown to originate after the time of the Underground Railroad. We are endeavoring to make corrections to these sections of the site as soon as possible.
People planning to escape slavery had to be very careful. One word overheard
by the wrong people could spoil even the most carefully-made plans.
In order to keep their escapes secret, slaves used many other ways to talk
with others before and during their escapes.
To ordinary people, these forms of communication were very innocent. To escaping
slaves, they might mean the difference between life and death.
In this section, you can explore some of these secrets.
- You can find out how a simple song with hidden meanings helped escaping
slaves find the path to freedom in Follow the Drinking
- You can read about and listen to other songs escaping slaves used as signals
- You can investigate the theory that slaves used quilts as signals and maps
on their road to freedom in The Language of Quilts.
- You can find out about the language people involved in the Underground
Railroad used to keep their work secret in Language
of the Railroad.