Beyond The Underground Railroad

In “The Perilous Lure of the Underground RailroadNew Yorker writer Kathryn Schulz shows how “Hardly anyone used it, but it provides us with moral comfort–and white heroes.” She correctly states:

“In fact, despite its popularity today, the Underground Railroad was perhaps the least popular way for slaves to seek their freedom. Instead, those who fled generally headed toward Spanish Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Native American communities in the Southeast,

free-black neighborhoods in the upper South, or Maroon communities—clandestine societies of former slaves, some fifty of which existed in the South from 1672 until the end of the Civil War.”

Schulz also stresses, ” Most white [anti-slavery activists] faced only fines and the opprobrium of some in their community, while those who lived in anti-slavery strongholds, as many did, went about their business with near-impunity. Black abolitionists, by contrast, always put life and liberty on the line.”

 

For more on the most-traveled runaway routes and on black abolitionists:

Matthew J. Clavin. Aiming for Pensacola: Fugitive Slaves on the Atlantic and Southern Frontiers

Jesus F. De la Tera, ed. Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance

Sylviane A. Diouf. Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons

John Hope Franklin & Loren Schweninger. Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation

Jane Landers. Black Society in Spanish Florida

Tiya Miles & Sharon P. Holland, eds. Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds

Kevin Mulroy. The Seminole Freedmen: A History

Manisha Sinha. The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition

Christina Snyder. Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America