Runaway Journeys
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

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For some fugitives, the path to freedom went south and west. Men and women in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana could escape north into Indian Territory, west toward the frontier, or south to Mexico. Of the three destinations, Mexico proved the most attractive. "Sometimes, someone would come 'long and try to get us to run up North and be free," declared San Antonio former slave Felix Haywood.  "We used to laugh at that. There was no reason to run up North.  All we had to do was to walk... south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande."

Interview with Bill and Ellen ThomasTexas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 4Interview with Bill and Ellen Thomas from Texas Narratives, Volume 16, Part 4
Slavery of the Frontier: The Peculiar Institution of Slavery in Central TexasSlavery & Abolition, vol. 20, no. 2 (1999)Slavery of the Frontier: The Peculiar Institution of Slavery in Central Texas from Slavery & Abolition, vol. 20, no. 2 (1999) by William Carrigan
Across the Rio to Freedom: U.S. Negroes in MexicoAcross the Rio to Freedom: U.S. Negroes in Mexico by Rosalie Schwartz

Haywood's views were confirmed by the San Antonio Ledger , a pro-slavery newspaper that noted in 1852 that Mexico had "long been regarded by the Texas slave as his El Dorado for accumulation, his utopia for political rights, and his Paradise for happiness."  By the eve of the Civil War nearly ten thousand runaways lived south of the Rio Grande.

Fugitive Slaves in MexicoThe Journal of Negro History, Vol. 57, No.1 (January 1972)Fugitive Slaves in Mexico from The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 57, No.1 (January 1972) by Ronnie C. Tyler

Missouri enslaved men and women sought freedom in another western sanctuary, Kansas. Between 1861 and 1865, twelve thousand fugitives crossed the Kansas-Missouri border to freedom. Some fled to Kansas Territory, seeking Lawrence, a major stop on the western Underground Railroad .  Opportunities for flight increased dramatically after the Civil War began.  When Kansas Senator James H. Lane led Union forces into southwest Missouri in August 1861, runaways began to enter his military camp.  Without authorization from Washington, Lane signed up the men as soldiers and sent the women and children to safety in Kansas. His impetuous act created the first African-American troops in the Union Army during the Civil War and encouraged other Missouri refugees from Arkansas and Indian Territory to make their way to Kansas and freedom. 

Henry Clay Bruce, the brother of future Mississippi Senator Blanche K. Bruce, was one of those refugees.  Years later he recalled in his autobiography how he and his fiancée escaped from Missouri to Kansas in 1863.  Bruce strapped around his waist "a pair of Colt's revolvers and plenty of ammunition" for the run to the western border.  "We avoided the main road and made the entire trip...without meeting anyone....  We crossed the Missouri River on a ferry to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  I then felt myself a free man." 

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