This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, the family talks about the Underground Railroad while they are in Connecticut.


Sam: Grand Central was incredible!

Claudine: Yes, I loved the painted ceiling the best.

Sam: It’s hard to believe that it’s just a couple of hours later, and we’re in a rural area of Connecticut. But why exactly are we here?

Paul: This was part of the Underground Railroad.

Sam: You mean like a subway?

Gina: No, not at all. The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. During the time of slavery in the U.S., many slaves chose to escape from their owners and find a safe place.

Paul: The Underground Railroad was part of the abolitionist movement, and it gave safe places to fugitive slaves to stay as they went north to escape slavery. People helped them along the way. It was a dangerous trip for slaves, and the people who helped them ran a risk too.

Claudine: Wow, and this area of Connecticut was part of the Underground Railroad?

Gina: This part and other places in the state too.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

Grand Central (also called Grand Central Terminal or Grand Central Station) is a large, commuter train terminal — or train station — in Manhattan. There is an elaborate painted ceiling in the Main Concourse.

Rural means of or relating to the countryside; not urban.

The Underground Railroad provided safe places for fugitive slaves as they made their way to the Northern states, Canada, or other places. People helped them along the way.

A subway is a system of underground trains.

Neither … nor: We can use neither as a conjunction with nor. When used together, these words connect two options and give a negative meaning. Here’s an example. Neither Ted nor Helen can come to the party. This means that both Ted and Helen are not able to come to the party.

Slavery legally existed in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries. A slave is someone who is owned by another person and forced to work for that person without getting paid.

The abolitionist movement in the U.S. was the movement (by a group of people who shared similar ideas) before and during the U.S. Civil War whose purpose was to end slavery in the U.S.

During the time of slavery in the U.S., fugitive slaves were slaves who left their masters and traveled without permission. Fugitive slaves usually tried to reach states, territories, or other countries where there was no slavery.

To run a risk means to do something that may result in something bad happening.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily. The American English for Educators Facebook page posts teaching materials for English-language teachers daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.