South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War

Basic. Nov. 2020. 384p. ISBN 9781541617780. $32. HIST
Inspired by a research trip, Baumgartner (history, Univ. of Southern California) examines the long-overlooked story of American slaves who escaped to Mexico in the years before the American Civil War. This southern route to freedom was not as large or as organized as the Underground Railroad. Enslaved persons who escaped to Mexico had to do so entirely on their own, and often, in creative ways, for example, by forging slave passes or by impersonating white men. Once they made it to Mexico, former slaves served in the Mexican military, worked as laborers, and became part of the community. Baumgartner also explores the closely related histories of Mexico and the United States in the 19th century. The issue of slavery led to enormous tension between the two countries and to conflicts such as the Texas Revolution, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican-American War. These events also fueled the division within the United States, a division that eventually led to the American Civil War. Baumgartner brings to life the stories of slaves who escaped to Mexico and how they made it to freedom.
VERDICT Well-written and well-researched, this work is recommended for those interested in causes of the Civil War, Mexican-American history, and human rights.
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