Codes and Ciphers

The Underground Railroad

On the Tracks to Freedom

Codes and Ciphers

A key form of communication in the Underground Railroad was with coded messages and phrases. Through word of mouth as well as letters, abolitionists and slaves found ways to communicate with each other. An abolitionist could inform a slave that their master would be occupied that night, leaving the perfect chance for the person to escape. Or, a slave could find a safe place to stay while they were passing through. Many of these code words were related to trains and the railway system, as well as every-day objects and Biblical references. ​​​​​​​

A safe house for slaves located in Iowa called the Todd House.(Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad,

 Below are a few examples of code words and their meanings

Conductor: Person escorting slaves

Drinking Gourd: Big Dipper/ North Star

Station: Place for slaves to stay temporarily

Moses: Harriet Tubman

Bundle of wood: Slave expected to arrive

Station Master: Owner of a safe house

River Jordan: Ohio River


Next Stop: Conductors of the Railroad