Runaway Journeys
Overview
Many Reasons to Leave
The Peaks of Migration
Profile of the Fugitives
Escape to Cities and Towns
Maroon Communities
Going South and West
Up North
Canada, the Promised Land
The Civil War
The Consequences of the Migration
References
Links

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The great majority of the runaways absconded for a few days or weeks only to be captured, or to return on their own. Some ran away to reunite with family members who had been sold away or to sustain familial or romantic liaisons.

Interview with Harriet RobinsonOklahoma Narratives, Volume 13Interview with Harriet Robinson from Oklahoma Narratives, Volume 13

But for others, the goal was to secure permanent freedom and leave behind the horrors of a system that brutalized and exploited them.  Many planned their escapes for weeks, even months, waiting for the right moment.  Their quest for freedom often meant leaving loved ones behind in slavery, and the pain and anguish of such separations remained strong. Fear and anxiety about being caught and returned to bondage were a constant reminder that at no time did runaways have any right to freedom. Local and federal laws, indeed the Constitution itself, protected the rights of slaveholders to retrieve their "property."

Interview with Leah GarrettGeorgia Narratives, Volume 4, Part 2Interview with Leah Garrett from Georgia Narratives, Volume 4, Part 2
Fugitive Slave Act 1850Fugitive Slave Act 1850
Report of the Select Committee, to which was Referred the Petition Relative to Slave Hunting in the State of New YorkReport of the Select Committee, to which was Referred the Petition Relative to Slave Hunting in the State of New York by Shotwell Powell

Successful fugitives were extremely self-confident and self-reliant individuals, resourceful, willful, focused, and purposeful. Their owners often described them as "artful," "cunning," "wily," "bold," and "intelligent." They took enormous risks and faced extraordinary hardships. They knew they would meet harsh punishments if caught. Many had seen firsthand the brutality experienced by those who had failed. Severe whippings of three hundred lashes - followed by rubs of salt, vinegar and hot pepper - were common and left many permanently injured.

Interview with Heywood FordAlabama Narratives, Volume 1Interview with Heywood Ford from Alabama Narratives, Volume 1

Some, like Jade, who stole money to pay for his passage North, never recovered. A man who witnessed his punishment stated, "They took him and whupped him for near fifteen minutes. We could hear him holler ‘way up at the big house. Jade, he never got over that whupping. He died three days later."

Notwithstanding the dangers and threats, men, women and children, alone, in small family units, or in groups, dared to embark on a road to freedom that could take up to a year to travel.

Interview with Jordan SmithTexas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 4Interview with Jordan Smith from Texas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 4 by Jordan Smith
2 Letters: "Robert Carter to Commanding officers at Portsmouth, 30 October 1781" and "Robert Carter to Rev. John Sutton, 30 October 1781"2 Letters: "Robert Carter to Commanding officers at Portsmouth, 30 October 1781" and "Robert Carter to Rev. John Sutton,...

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