From the beginnings of slavery until the Civil War, countless numbers of
African Americans attempted to make or succeeded in making their way to
freedom. It was during the nineteenth century, however, that the
migration of runaways within the United States and to Canada and Mexico became
widespread. It is estimated that at least 50,000 men, women and children ran
away each year and among them a few thousand made it to freedom.
A few fugitives became prominent abolitionists who wrote
autobiographies, thus contributing to a unique American literary genre, the
Slave Narrative. At enormous risk, many others helped their families and
friends and even strangers, secure their own freedom.