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Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America$
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Damian Alan Pargas

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056036

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056036.001.0001

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“Design His Course to Mexico”

“Design His Course to Mexico”

The Fugitive Slave Experience in the Texas–Mexico Borderlands, 1850–1853

(p.232) 9 “Design His Course to Mexico”
Fugitive Slaves and Spaces of Freedom in North America

Mekala Audain

University Press of Florida

In the mid-1850s, Texas slaveholders estimated that some 4,000 fugitive slaves had escaped south to Mexico. This chapter broadly examines the process in which runaway slaves from Texas escaped to Mexico. Specifically, it explores how they learned about freedom south of the border, the types of supplies they gathered for their escape attempts, and the ways in which Texas’s vast landscape shaped their experiences. It argues that the routes that led fugitive slaves to freedom in Mexico were a part of a precarious southern Underground Railroad, but one that operated in the absence of formal networks or a well-organized abolitionist movement. The chapter centers on fugitive slaves’ efforts toward self-emancipation and navigate contested spaces of slavery and freedom with little assistance and under difficult conditions. It sheds new light on the history of runaway slaves by examining the ways in which American westward expansion and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands shaped the fugitive slave experience in the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Texas, Mexico, fugitive slaves, Underground Railroad, American westward expansion, U.S.-Mexico borderlands, self-emancipation

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