Alice L BaumgartnerOct 21, 2021
South to Freedom
Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War
Basic Books 2020
For some enslaved Americans, the path to freedom led not north, but south, argues Dr. Alice Baumgardner, an assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California. In South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books, 2020), Baumgartner reveals an untold story of enslaved African Americans finding redemption from slavery in Mexico, which had abolished slavery in many of its territories decades before the American Civil War. Indeed, it was concern by Texas slaveholders that their human property may have been threatened that led them to revolt against Mexico and eventually join the United States and, in time, the Confederate States of America. For those who escaped, Mexico could be far from an anti-slavery paradise, but Mexican officials were loathe to return runaway former slaves back to the United States, a fact which was one of the many reasons why the United States went to war with Mexico in the 1840s. South to Freedom is a fresh look at America's slavery crisis and Civil War, and one which places enslaved people themselves and their own quest for freedom at the heart of the story.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.