A história

A pouco conhecida ferrovia subterrânea que ia do sul ao México


A estrada de ferro subterrânea ia tanto para o sul como para o norte. Felizmente, a escravidão também era ilegal no México.

Os pesquisadores estimam que de 5.000 a 10.000 pessoas escaparam da escravidão para o México, diz Maria Hammack, que está escrevendo sua dissertação sobre o assunto na Universidade do Texas em Austin. Mas ela acha que o número real pode ser ainda maior.

“Essas eram rotas clandestinas e, se você fosse pego, seria morto e linchado, então a maioria das pessoas não deixou muitos registros”, diz Hammack.

Existem algumas evidências de que tejanos, ou mexicanos no Texas, atuaram como “condutores” na rota sul, ajudando as pessoas a chegarem ao México. Além disso, Hammack também identificou uma mulher negra e dois homens brancos que ajudaram trabalhadores escravos a fugir e tentaram encontrar um lar para eles no México.

O México aboliu a escravidão em 1829, quando o Texas ainda fazia parte do país, em parte levando os imigrantes escravos brancos a lutar pela independência na Revolução do Texas. Assim que formaram a República do Texas em 1836, eles tornaram a escravidão legal novamente, e ela continuou a ser legal quando o Texas se juntou aos EUA como um estado em 1845.

Os escravos no Texas sabiam que havia um país ao sul onde podiam encontrar diferentes níveis de liberdade (embora a servidão por dívida exista no México, não era a mesma coisa que escravidão). Hammack descobriu um fugitivo chamado Tom que havia sido escravizado por Sam Houston. Houston era um presidente da República do Texas que lutou na Revolução do Texas. Assim que Tom cruzou a fronteira, ele se alistou no exército mexicano contra o qual Houston havia lutado.

Escravos fugitivos chegaram ao México de muitas maneiras diferentes. Alguns iam a pé, enquanto outros andavam a cavalo ou se esgueiravam a bordo de balsas com destino aos portos mexicanos. Espalharam-se histórias sobre escravos que cruzaram o rio Grande, separando o Texas do México, flutuando em fardos de algodão, e vários jornais do Texas noticiaram em julho de 1863 que três escravos haviam escapado por esse caminho. Mesmo que isso não fosse logisticamente possível, a imagem de flutuar para a liberdade em um símbolo da escravidão era forte.

LEIA MAIS: Como funcionava a ferrovia subterrânea

Mas não foram apenas as pessoas escravizadas no Texas que encontraram a liberdade no México. “Eu encontrei pessoas que vieram da Carolina do Norte, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama”, disse Hammack.

Os proprietários de escravos sabiam que escravos estavam fugindo para o México, e os EUA tentaram fazer com que o México assinasse um tratado de escravos fugitivos. Assim como a Lei do Escravo Fugitivo de 1850 obrigou os estados livres a devolver os fugitivos ao sul, os Estados Unidos queriam que o México devolvesse os escravos fugitivos aos Estados Unidos. Mas o México se recusou a assinar tal tratado, insistindo que todos os escravos eram livres quando puseram pé em solo mexicano. Apesar disso, alguns proprietários de escravos nos EUA ainda contratavam caçadores de escravos para sequestrar ilegalmente fugitivos no México.

Não está claro como a "ferrovia subterrânea" do sul estava organizada. Hammack diz que alguns escravos podem ter encontrado o caminho para o México sem ajuda. Outras evidências sugerem que os tejanos, especialmente os tejanos pobres, ajudaram os fugitivos a chegar ao México.

Hammack e a pesquisadora Roseann Bacha-Garza também identificaram uma família mestiça do Alabama que se mudou para o sul do Texas perto do Rio Grande e ajudou escravos a fugir para o México. A esposa, Matilda Hicks, era uma ex-escravizada. Seu marido, Nathaniel Jackson, era filho do homem em cuja plantação ela trabalhava.

Além disso, alguns abolicionistas do norte viajaram para o sul para ajudar os escravos a chegar ao México.

“Eu encontrei abolicionistas do norte que estavam indo ao México para fazer uma petição ao México para que eles comprassem terras para estabelecer colônias para escravos fugitivos e negros livres”, disse Hammack. No início da década de 1830, o abolicionista quaker Benjamin Lundy “estava ativamente fazendo uma petição ao governo mexicano para permitir o estabelecimento de colônias para, eu acho o que consideraríamos agora, refugiados”.

O plano de Lundy de começar uma colônia livre na região mexicana do Texas foi frustrado quando se separou do México e legalizou a escravidão. Mais tarde, em 1852, grupos Seminole que incluíam escravos fugitivos fizeram uma petição de terras ao governo mexicano. “Ainda pertence a seus descendentes e eles ainda vivem lá até hoje no México”, diz Hammack.

Esses e outros refugiados que fugiam da escravidão pela "ferrovia subterrânea" do sul se beneficiaram com a disposição do México de dar a eles um refúgio seguro.


História da Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México ganha atenção

HOUSTON - Ao pesquisar a história da Guerra Civil dos EUA no sul do Texas, Roseann Bacha-Garza encontrou as duas famílias únicas dos Jacksons e dos Webbers que vivem ao longo do Rio Grande. Homens brancos chefiavam ambas as famílias. Ambas as esposas eram escravas negras emancipadas.

Mas Bacha-Garza, um historiador, se perguntou o que eles estavam fazendo lá em meados do século XIX.

Ao mergulhar nas histórias orais da família, ela ouviu uma história inesperada. Os ranchos das duas famílias serviam de parada na Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México, disseram os descendentes. Em todo o Texas e em partes da Louisiana, Alabama e Arkansas, acadêmicos e defensores da preservação estão trabalhando para reunir a história de uma parte amplamente esquecida da história americana: uma rede que ajudou milhares de escravos negros a fugir para o México.

“Isso realmente fazia sentido quanto mais eu lia sobre isso e quanto mais eu pensava sobre isso”, disse Bacha-Garza sobre a rota secreta.

Como a Ferrovia Subterrânea mais conhecida ao norte, que ajudou escravos fugitivos a fugir para os estados do Norte e para o Canadá, o caminho na direção oposta forneceu um caminho para a liberdade ao sul da fronteira, dizem os historiadores. Pessoas escravizadas no Deep South seguiram por esta rota mais próxima através de florestas implacáveis ​​e então desertas com a ajuda de mexicanos-americanos, imigrantes alemães e casais negros e brancos birraciais que viviam ao longo do Rio Grande. O México aboliu a escravidão em 1829, uma geração antes da Proclamação de Emancipação do presidente Abraham Lincoln.

Mas o quão organizada era a Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México e o que aconteceu com os ex-escravos e aqueles que os ajudaram permanece um mistério. Alguns arquivos já foram destruídos por um incêndio. Os sites conectados à rota estão abandonados.

“É maior do que a maioria das pessoas imaginava”, disse Karl Jacoby, codiretor do Centro para o Estudo de Etnicidade e Raça da Universidade de Columbia, sobre a rota.

Proprietários de escravos publicaram anúncios de jornal oferecendo recompensas e reclamando que sua “propriedade” provavelmente estava indo para o México, disse Jacoby. Os texanos brancos baniram os mexicanos-americanos das cidades depois de acusá-los de ajudar na fuga de escravos.

Multidões caçadoras de escravos se aventuraram no México apenas para enfrentar resistência armada em pequenas aldeias e de Black Seminoles - ou Los Mascogos - que haviam se reinstalado no norte do México, disse Jacoby, autor de “A estranha carreira de William Ellis: o escravo do Texas que se tornou um Milionário mexicano. ”

Escravos fugitivos adotaram nomes espanhóis, casaram-se com famílias mexicanas e migraram para o interior do México - desaparecendo do registro e da história.

Os historiadores sabem sobre o caminho secreto há anos. “The Texas Runaway Slave Project” na Stephen F. Austin State University inclui um banco de dados de anúncios de escravos em fuga que detalham a extensão da trilha. O Projeto Federal de Escritores da Administração de Progresso de Trabalhos da era da Depressão reuniu histórias como parte de sua Coleção Narrativa de Escravos, incluindo histórias de ex-escravos falando abertamente sobre a Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México. O ex-escravo do Texas Felix Haywood disse aos entrevistados em 1936, por exemplo, que os escravos riam da sugestão de que deveriam correr para o norte em busca de liberdade.

“Tudo o que precisávamos fazer era caminhar, mas caminhar para o sul, e estaríamos livres assim que cruzássemos o Rio Grande”, disse Haywood.

E em 2010, o Serviço Nacional de Parques dos EUA traçou uma rota de Natchitoches, Louisiana, através do Texas a Monclova, no México, que poderia ser considerada um caminho difícil da Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea ao sul. Um projeto de lei que o presidente George W. Bush assinou seis anos antes designou El Camino Real de los Tejas como uma trilha histórica nacional e incentivou o desenvolvimento de parcerias para criar mais entendimento em torno dessa esquecida estrada da liberdade.

Mas esta ferrovia subterrânea está apenas começando a entrar na consciência do público à medida que os EUA se tornam mais diversificados e mais pessoas mostram interesse em estudar a escravidão, disse Bacha-Garza, gerente de programa do Projeto de Arqueologia Histórica Comunitária com Escolas da Universidade do Texas Vale do Rio Grande em Edimburgo, Texas.

Bacha-Garza disse que Nathaniel Jackson, um sulista branco, comprou a liberdade de Matilda Hicks, uma escrava negra que foi sua namorada de infância, assim como a família de Hicks. Jackson se casou com Hicks e mudou-se do Alabama para o Texas antes da Guerra Civil dos Estados Unidos. Lá, ao longo do Rio Grande, eles encontraram outro casal birracial, o nascido em Vermont John Ferdinand Webber e Silvia Hector, que era negra e também ex-escrava.

O exame da Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea para o México ocorre no momento em que os EUA estão passando por uma avaliação racial em torno do policiamento e do racismo sistêmico. Além disso, este ano, o México contabilizou sua população afro-mexicana como categoria própria pela primeira vez em seu censo.

Nos últimos 50 anos, os campos de estudos afro-americanos e chicanos cresceram com pesquisas inovadoras e novos trabalhos que redefiniram a experiência dos EUA. Mas raramente os dois campos interagem além das tensões dos direitos civis do século 20, disse Ron Wilkins, um professor de História e Estudos Africanos recentemente aposentado da California State University, Dominguez Hills.

E, como resultado, histórias sobre afro-americanos e mexicano-americanos trabalhando juntos para combater o racismo não são compartilhadas, disse Wilkins, incluindo a história da Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México.

“Se conhecêssemos essa história, nos uniríamos e fortaleceríamos essa solidariedade”, disse Wilkins, ex-membro do Comitê de Coordenação Estudantil Não-Violento.

Algumas famílias mexicanas-americanas estão tendo conversas desconfortáveis ​​sobre raça, depois de sua recém-descoberta consciência da Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México. Ramiro Ramirez, 72, psicólogo, fazendeiro e descendente dos Jacksons, disse que os membros da família frequentemente discutiam entre si quando descobriam que Matilda Jackson era uma ex-escrava e eles tinham “sangue negro”.

“Fiquei muito orgulhoso. Mas também fiquei com muita raiva ”, disse Ramirez, que mora na cidade fronteiriça de Mercedes, Texas. “Mesmo depois de 200 anos, o racismo é muito forte. As pessoas não querem falar sobre isso. ”

Ele disse que gostaria de conhecer os descendentes dos escravos que, com a ajuda de sua família, fugiram para o México. Ele os imagina muito parecidos com ele, mas com vidas diferentes ao sul da fronteira.


Ferrovia subterrânea para o México: a outra rota de fuga da escravidão

HOUSTON (AP) —Enquanto pesquisava a história da Guerra Civil dos Estados Unidos no sul do Texas, Roseann Bacha-Garza encontrou as duas famílias únicas dos Jacksons e dos Webbers que viviam ao longo do Rio Grande. Homens brancos chefiavam ambas as famílias. Ambas as esposas eram escravas negras emancipadas. Mas Bacha-Garza, um historiador, se perguntou o que eles estavam fazendo lá em meados do século XIX.

Ao mergulhar nas histórias orais da família, ela ouviu uma história inesperada. Os ranchos das duas famílias serviam de parada na Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México, disseram os descendentes. Em todo o Texas e em partes da Louisiana, Alabama e Arkansas, acadêmicos e defensores da preservação estão trabalhando para reunir a história de uma parte em grande parte esquecida da história americana: uma rede que ajudou milhares de escravos negros a fugir para o México.

“Isso realmente fazia sentido quanto mais eu lia sobre isso e quanto mais eu pensava sobre isso”, disse Bacha-Garza sobre a rota secreta.

Nesta foto de 27 de setembro de 2017, Freedmen & # 8217s Town Preservation Coalition presidente Dorris Ellis Robinson, à direita, e Catherine Roberts, à esquerda, olham uma maquete de Freedmen & # 8217s Town, uma área construída por escravos emancipados após a Guerra Civil, em Houston. Acredita-se que a área tenha sido conectada à Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea para o México. | Russell Contreras / AP

Como a Ferrovia Subterrânea mais conhecida ao norte, que ajudou escravos fugitivos a fugir para os estados do Norte e para o Canadá, o caminho na direção oposta forneceu um caminho para a liberdade ao sul da fronteira, dizem os historiadores. Pessoas escravizadas no Deep South seguiram por esta rota mais próxima através de florestas implacáveis ​​e então desertas com a ajuda de mexicanos-americanos, imigrantes alemães e casais inter-raciais de preto e branco que viviam ao longo do Rio Grande. O México aboliu a escravidão em 1829, uma geração antes da Proclamação de Emancipação do presidente Abraham Lincoln.

Mas o quão organizada era a Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México e o que aconteceu com os ex-escravos e aqueles que os ajudaram permanece um mistério. Alguns arquivos já foram destruídos por um incêndio. Os sites conectados à rota estão abandonados.

“É maior do que a maioria das pessoas imaginava”, disse Karl Jacoby, codiretor do Centro para o Estudo de Etnicidade e Raça da Universidade de Columbia, sobre a rota.

Proprietários de escravos publicaram anúncios de jornal oferecendo recompensas e reclamando que sua “propriedade” provavelmente estava indo para o México, disse Jacoby. Os texanos brancos baniram os mexicanos-americanos das cidades depois de acusá-los de ajudar a fuga de escravos.

Multidões caçadoras de escravos se aventuraram no México apenas para enfrentar resistência armada em pequenas aldeias e de Black Seminoles - ou Los Mascogos - que haviam se reinstalado no norte do México, disse Jacoby, autor de A estranha carreira de William Ellis: o escravo do Texas que se tornou um milionário mexicano.

Escravos fugitivos adotaram nomes espanhóis, casaram-se com famílias mexicanas e migraram para o interior do México - desaparecendo dos registros e da história.

Os historiadores sabem sobre o caminho secreto há anos. “The Texas Runaway Slave Project” na Stephen F. Austin State University inclui um banco de dados de anúncios de escravos em fuga que detalham a extensão da trilha. O Projeto Federal de Escritores da Administração de Progresso de Trabalhos da era da Depressão reuniu histórias como parte de sua Coleção Narrativa de Escravos, incluindo histórias de ex-escravos falando abertamente sobre a Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México. O ex-escravo do Texas Felix Haywood disse aos entrevistados em 1936, por exemplo, que os escravos riam da sugestão de que deveriam correr para o norte em busca de liberdade.

“Tudo o que tínhamos que fazer era caminhar, mas caminhar para o sul, e estaríamos livres assim que cruzássemos o Rio Grande”, disse Haywood.

E em 2010, o Serviço Nacional de Parques dos EUA traçou uma rota de Natchitoches, Louisiana, através do Texas a Monclova, no México, que poderia ser considerada um caminho difícil da Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea ao sul. Um projeto de lei que o presidente George W. Bush assinou seis anos antes designou El Camino Real de los Tejas como uma trilha histórica nacional e incentivou o desenvolvimento de parcerias para criar mais entendimento em torno dessa esquecida estrada da liberdade.

Mas esta ferrovia subterrânea está apenas começando a entrar na consciência do público à medida que os EUA se tornam mais diversificados e mais pessoas mostram interesse em estudar a escravidão, disse Bacha-Garza, gerente de programa do Projeto de Arqueologia Histórica Comunitária com Escolas da Universidade do Texas Vale do Rio Grande em Edimburgo, Texas.

Bacha-Garza disse que Nathaniel Jackson, um sulista branco, comprou a liberdade de Matilda Hicks, uma escrava negra que foi sua namorada de infância, assim como a família de Hicks. Jackson se casou com Hicks e mudou-se do Alabama para o Texas antes da Guerra Civil dos Estados Unidos. Lá, ao longo do Rio Grande, eles encontraram outro casal inter-racial, o nascido em Vermont John Ferdinand Webber e Silvia Hector, que era negra e também ex-escrava.

O exame da Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea para o México ocorre no momento em que os EUA estão passando por uma avaliação racial em torno do policiamento e do racismo sistêmico. Além disso, este ano, o México contabilizou sua população afro-mexicana como categoria própria pela primeira vez em seu censo.

Nos últimos 50 anos, os campos de estudos afro-americanos e chicanos cresceram com pesquisas inovadoras e novos trabalhos que redefiniram a experiência dos EUA. Mas raramente os dois campos interagem além das tensões dos direitos civis do século 20, disse Ron Wilkins, um professor de História e Estudos Africanos recentemente aposentado da California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Nesta foto de 27 de setembro de 2017, estão as ruas de paralelepípedos de Freedmen & # 8217s Town, uma área construída por escravos emancipados após a Guerra Civil em Houston. Acredita-se que a área tenha sido conectada à Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México. | Russell Contreras / AP

E, como resultado, histórias sobre afro-americanos e mexicano-americanos trabalhando juntos para combater o racismo não são compartilhadas, disse Wilkins, incluindo a história da Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México.

“Se conhecêssemos essa história, nos reuniríamos e fortaleceríamos essa solidariedade”, disse Wilkins, ex-membro do Comitê de Coordenação do Estudante Não-Violento.

Algumas famílias mexicanas-americanas estão tendo conversas desconfortáveis ​​sobre raça, depois de sua recém-descoberta consciência da Ferrovia Subterrânea para o México. Ramiro Ramirez, 72, psicólogo, fazendeiro e descendente dos Jacksons, disse que os membros da família frequentemente discutiam entre si quando descobriam que Matilda Jackson era uma ex-escrava e eles tinham “sangue negro”.

“Fiquei muito orgulhoso. Mas também fiquei com muita raiva ”, disse Ramirez, que mora na cidade fronteiriça de Mercedes, Texas. “Mesmo depois de 200 anos, o racismo é muito forte. As pessoas não querem falar sobre isso. ”

Ele disse que gostaria de conhecer os descendentes dos escravos que, com a ajuda de sua família, fugiram para o México. Ele os imagina muito parecidos com ele, mas com vidas diferentes ao sul da fronteira.


FATO DE HISTÓRIA: 1ª. Ferrovia Subterrânea foi para o SUL por mais de 100 anos

CHARLESTON, S.C. & # 8212 Embora a maioria dos americanos esteja familiarizada com o Ferrovia Subterrânea que ajudou os escravos do sul a escapar para o norte antes do Guerra civil, o primeiro caminho clandestino da nação para a liberdade correu por mais de um século na direção oposta.

& # 8216LIKE & # 8217 NewsOne & # 8217s FB Page para ficar por dentro das notícias negras de todo o mundo

Histórias daquele menos conhecido & # 8220railroad & # 8221 serão compartilhadas de 20 a 24 de junho no Conferência Nacional da Ferrovia Subterrânea em St. Augustine, Flórida. A rede de simpatizantes deu refúgio aos que fugiam de seus senhores, incluindo muitos índios americanos que ajudaram escravos a fugir para o que então era o território espanhol da Flórida. Isso durou desde a fundação da Carolina Colony em 1670 até depois da Revolução Americana.

Eles escaparam não apenas para o Sul, mas para o México, o Caribe e o Oeste americano.

E a & # 8220railroad & # 8221 ajuda a explicar, pelo menos em parte, por que a cultura duradoura dos descendentes de escravos & # 8211 conhecida como Gullah na Carolina do Sul e Geechee na Flórida e na Geórgia & # 8211 existe ao longo da costa nordeste da Flórida.

& # 8220É & # 8217 uma história fascinante e a maioria das pessoas na América está presa & # 8211 elas estão presas em 1964 e na Lei dos Direitos Civis ou estão presas no Guerra civil, & # 8221 disse Derek Hankerson, que é descendente de Gullah e proprietário de uma pequena empresa em St. Augustine, Flórida. & # 8220Estamos ansiosos para compartilhar essas histórias. & # 8221

Como existem poucos registros, não se sabe quantos escravos africanos podem ter escapado ao longo da ferrovia. Mas o sonho de liberdade na Flórida teve um papel importante no Rebelião de Stono de 1739 fora de Charleston, a maior revolta de escravos na América do Norte britânica.

Os escravos provavelmente começaram a fugir para a Flórida quando a Carolina do Sul foi estabelecida em 1670, disse Jane Landers, historiadora da Universidade de Vanderbilt que pesquisou extensivamente o assunto. A primeira menção de escravos fugidos nos registros espanhóis foi em 1687, quando oito escravos, incluindo um bebê de enfermagem, apareceram em Santo Agostinho.

A Espanha se recusa a devolvê-los e, em vez disso, dá-lhes um santuário religioso, e essa política é formalizada em 1693. A única condição é que aqueles que buscam santuário se convertam ao catolicismo.

& # 8220Foi uma mudança total na geopolítica do Caribe e, depois disso, qualquer um que deixar uma área protestante para solicitar santuário o obtém & # 8221 Landers disse.

Essa promessa de liberdade desempenhou um papel importante na Rebelião Stono, quando um grupo de cerca de 20 escravos invadiu uma loja, recolhendo armas de fogo e outras armas, em setembro de 1739.

Mark Smith, historiador da Universidade da Carolina do Sul, disse que os líderes escravos eram do que hoje é Angola, na África. Eram católicos, porque a sua pátria era na altura um posto avançado português. E acredita-se que tenham sido soldados em sua terra natal.

Eles saberiam sobre o boato de liberdade na Flórida espanhola e decidiriam iniciar a revolta em 9 de setembro, a Festa da Natividade da Bem-Aventurada Virgem Maria.

& # 8220Eles têm uma bandeira branca, que não é uma bandeira de rendição. É uma bandeira de celebração a Maria, e eles gritam `Liberdade. & # 8217 Eles não estão se revoltando apenas como escravos, mas como escravos católicos, & # 8221 Smith disse.

Pelo menos 20 brancos foram mortos na rebelião. A milícia posteriormente alcançou os escravos e 34 deles foram mortos. Alguns dos que escaparam foram encontrados e executados mais tarde, embora alguns aparentemente tenham conseguido um lugar seguro na Flórida porque há relatos de mais escravos chegando a St. Augustine nos dias seguintes, disse Landers.

O crioulo gullah ainda é falado em igrejas no nordeste da Flórida, disse Landers.

Hankerson, que cresceu com histórias da Ferrovia Subterrânea, disse que escravos fugitivos recebiam ajuda de tribos indígenas americanas, incluindo os Creeks, os Cherokees e os Yemassee. Eles também avançaram mais profundamente na Flórida e encontraram refúgio com os Seminoles.

Exceto por cerca de 20 anos, quando os britânicos mantiveram Santo Agostinho entre o fim da Guerra Francesa e Indígena e o fim da Revolução Americana, a política espanhola de santuário permaneceu em vigor até 1790, quando o Secretário de Estado Thomas Jefferson convenceu a coroa espanhola a acabar com isso. Muitos fugitivos escaparam em meio ao caos e à violência da revolução, e manter aquele corredor aberto poderia ter drenado escravos das colônias do sul, disse Landers.

Ao contrário da Estrada de Ferro Subterrânea indo para o norte, a rede inicial era mais informal: nem os escravos nem as tribos indígenas que os ajudaram deixaram registros escritos e não havia nenhuma estrutura de igreja como os Quakers organizando o esforço, disse Landers. Não se sabe exatamente quantos permaneceram entre os índios americanos ou quantos morreram.

Os britânicos viam os escravos como propriedade e trabalho para suas plantações e ofereciam recompensas por seu retorno.

Em contraste, Landers disse, & # 8220os espanhóis acreditam que os povos indígenas e africanos poderiam ser convertidos e, como tais, eram humanos e tinham famílias e almas para salvar. & # 8221


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The Fugitive Slave, pintado por John Adam Houston.

A estrada de ferro subterrânea ia tanto para o sul como para o norte. Para os escravos do Texas, o refúgio no Canadá deve ter parecido impossivelmente distante. Felizmente, a escravidão também era ilegal no México.

Os pesquisadores estimam que de 5.000 a 10.000 pessoas escaparam da escravidão para o México, diz Maria Hammack, que está escrevendo sua dissertação sobre o assunto na Universidade do Texas em Austin. Mas ela acha que o número real pode ser ainda maior.

“Essas eram rotas clandestinas e, se você fosse pego, seria morto e linchado, então a maioria das pessoas não deixou muitos registros”, diz Hammack.

Existem algumas evidências de que tejanos, ou mexicanos no Texas, atuaram como “condutores” na rota sul, ajudando as pessoas a chegarem ao México. Além disso, Hammack também identificou uma mulher negra e dois homens brancos que ajudaram trabalhadores escravos a fugir e tentaram encontrar um lar para eles no México.


Um leilão de escravos em Austin, Texas.

O México aboliu a escravidão em 1829, quando o Texas ainda fazia parte do país, o que levou os imigrantes escravos brancos a lutar pela independência na Revolução do Texas. Assim que formaram a República do Texas em 1836, eles tornaram a escravidão legal novamente, e ela continuou a ser legal quando o Texas se juntou aos EUA como um estado em 1845.

Os escravos no Texas sabiam que havia um país ao sul onde podiam encontrar diferentes níveis de liberdade (embora a servidão contratada existisse no México, não era o mesmo que escravidão). Hammack descobriu um fugitivo chamado Tom que havia sido escravizado por Sam Houston. Houston era um presidente da República do Texas que lutou na Revolução do Texas. Assim que Tom cruzou a fronteira, ele se alistou no exército mexicano contra o qual Houston havia lutado.

Pessoas escravizadas chegaram ao México de muitas maneiras diferentes. Alguns iam a pé, enquanto outros andavam a cavalo ou se esgueiravam a bordo de balsas com destino a portos mexicanos. Espalharam-se histórias sobre escravos que cruzaram o rio Grande, separando o Texas do México, flutuando em fardos de algodão, e vários jornais do Texas relataram em julho de 1863 que três escravos haviam escapado por esse caminho. Mesmo que isso não fosse logisticamente possível, a imagem de flutuar para a liberdade em um símbolo da escravidão era forte.

Atos de escravo fugitivo (TV-PG 1:57)

Mas não foram apenas as pessoas escravizadas no Texas que encontraram a liberdade no México. & # 8230leia mais


Do sul para a liberdade

A Ferrovia Subterrânea também corria para o sul - não de volta aos estados escravistas, mas longe deles para o México, que começou a restringir a escravidão na década de 1820 e finalmente a aboliu em 1829, cerca de trinta e quatro anos antes da Proclamação de Emancipação de Abraham Lincoln.

Isso pode ser história, mas é uma novidade para muitos participantes da exposição “Pathways to Freedom” no Museu Charles H. Wright de História da África, em Detroit, em exibição até 31 de março. “A maioria das pessoas está surpresa”, diz Patrina Chatman, do museu curador de exposições. Embora haja documentação abundante, sem falar no folclore, pertencente à rede de guias e santuários que ajudaram os escravos a escapar em liberdade nos estados do norte e no Canadá, o registro é menos abundante em relação à Ferrovia Subterrânea que levou ao México.

“Essas histórias não foram contadas”, diz Patricia Ann Talley, “porque acabaram em espanhol”. Mas mesmo no México as histórias não são amplamente conhecidas, continua Talley, um nativo de Detroit e afro-americano que vive no México e que iniciou a exposição “Pathways to Freedom” com Candelaria Donaji Mendez Tello, uma afro-mexicana. Os dois se conheceram em um festival de paz no México em 2010 e se tornaram amigos. Até então, diz Talley, “nunca pensei nos afro-mexicanos”. A exposição, financiada em parte pelo Michigan Humanities Council, enfatiza as experiências compartilhadas e a história de negros americanos e negros mexicanos. “Eu não percebi”, diz Talley, “quão abundante é a raça africana no México”, mas ela logo aprendeu que ainda mais africanos foram trazidos como escravos para o México colonial do que para a América colonial.

Com a escravidão veio o desejo de liberdade, e é aí que a narrativa de “Caminhos para a Liberdade” se transforma, ajustando suas lentes para o México. “Quando ouço o termo‘ Underground Railroad ’aplicado, não reclamo”, diz o historiador Sean M. Kelley, “mas não era nem de perto tão bem organizado” quanto a operação mais conhecida que levou ao Canadá. Kelley, professor associado de história no Hartwick College em Oneonta, Nova York, escreveu sobre a escravidão ao longo da fronteira do Texas com o México.

As rotas de fuga para o México "eram conhecidas entre os escravos do Texas", diz Kelley, assim como a realidade política de que "existe essa outra república e eles se livraram da escravidão". O México conquistou a independência da Espanha em 1821 após uma longa rebelião e começou a aprovar medidas contra a escravidão, finalmente proibindo-a em 1829 por decreto do então presidente Vicente Guerrero, que pode ter sido de ascendência africana.

Embora o México tenha banido a escravidão, o Texas, então uma colônia do México, manteve seus escravos. Na verdade, a escravidão foi uma das causas da revolução que levou à independência do Texas em 1836. O Texas foi admitido nos Estados Unidos em 1845 como um estado escravista e o número de escravos lá aumentou exponencialmente.

A maioria dos escravos que escaparam para o México veio do Texas e, em menor medida, da Louisiana, observa Kelley, assim como uma preponderância dos que escaparam para o norte veio de lugares vizinhos aos estados do norte. A jornada para a liberdade no México, mesmo do Texas, foi “longa, difícil e perigosa”, diz Kelley. Assim como não há números firmes sobre quantas pessoas escravizadas escaparam para o Canadá - as estimativas variam de 30.000 a 100.000 - não existem números confiáveis ​​sobre quantas pessoas escaparam para o México. Um Texas Ranger do século XIX calculou o número em quatro mil, mas “quantificar isso nunca vai acontecer”, diz Kelley.

A Ferrovia Subterrânea que levava ao México não tinha analogia conhecida com Harriet Tubman, uma ex-escrava que em uma dúzia de viagens levou cerca de setenta pessoas à liberdade, mas o Texas tinha seus próprios libertadores. “Houve cumplicidade por parte dos tejanos [texanos hispânicos] e de alguns alemães” que se estabeleceram no Texas, diz Kelley.

E, seja em espanhol ou inglês, a versão Southwest da Underground Railroad produziu pelo menos um conto inesquecível: a história do homem que flutuou para a liberdade através do Rio Grande em um fardo de algodão. Kelley questiona (“Eu nem sei se o algodão flutua”), mas acha a conta “significativa além” de qualquer autenticação. “A história existe, significa alguma coisa”, diz ele, que um homem poderia navegar para a liberdade com a mesma mercadoria que engendrou sua escravidão.

Martin Kohn é escritor, crítico de teatro, editor, cantor e guitarrista e professor de jornalismo na Michigan State University.


Um capítulo da história dos Estados Unidos frequentemente ignorado: a fuga de escravos em fuga para o México

Roseann Bacha-Garza (à esquerda), uma historiadora da fronteira, está com Olga Webber-Vasques junto ao túmulo do tataravô desta última, o abolicionista John Ferdinand Webber, no cemitério da família. John Burnett / NPR ocultar legenda

Roseann Bacha-Garza (à esquerda), uma historiadora da fronteira, está com Olga Webber-Vasques junto ao túmulo do tataravô desta última, o abolicionista John Ferdinand Webber, no cemitério da família.

Em um cemitério esquecido na orla do Texas, no delta do Rio Grande, Olga Webber-Vasques diz que está orgulhosa do legado de sua família - mesmo que ela tenha acabado de saber a história completa.

Acontece que seus tataravós, que estão enterrados lá, eram agentes da ferrovia subterrânea pouco conhecida que passava pelo sul do Texas até o México durante os anos 1800. Milhares de escravos fugiram das plantações para chegar ao Rio Grande, que se tornou um rio de libertação.

"I don't know why there wasn't anything that we would've known as we were growing up. It amazes me to learn the underground deal — I had no idea at all," says Webber-Vasques, 70, who recently learned the story of her forebear John Ferdinand Webber from her daughter-in-law who has researched family history.

"I'm very proud to be a Webber," she says.

The flight of runaway slaves to Mexico is a chapter of history that is often overlooked or ignored. As the U.S. Treasury ponders putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill to commemorate her role in the northbound underground railroad, new attention is being paid to this southbound route.

Alice Baumgartner, a historian at the University of Southern California, is at the forefront of a burst of recent scholarship. A number of researchers are expanding knowledge of the important role that Mexico played in providing a refuge for enslaved people.

Alice Baumgartner, a historian at the University of Southern California, is the author of a groundbreaking new book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War. Paul Luke ocultar legenda

Alice Baumgartner, a historian at the University of Southern California, is the author of a groundbreaking new book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War.

Mexico represented liberty

Baumgartner's groundbreaking new book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War, was published late last year. She says Mexico in the 19th century is often regarded as "a place defined by poverty and political instability and violence" — and is rarely given credit for its role in providing a safe haven for runaway slaves.

"This history is to me most surprising because it shows us the side of Mexico as a place that actually was contributing to global debates about slavery and freedom," Baumgartner says.

From the 1830s up to emancipation, she estimates 3,000 to 5,000 enslaved people fled south and crossed over to free Mexican soil. That is far fewer than the estimated 30,000 to 100,000 enslaved people who crossed the Mason-Dixon line to reach free northern states and Canada.

But from the vantage of an East Texas plantation, liberty was a lot closer in Mexico.

Enslaved sailors and stowaways from New Orleans and Galveston, Texas, jumped ship in Mexican ports. Slaves drove wagons of cotton to market in Brownsville, Texas, and then slipped across the muddy river to Matamoros, Mexico. But their main mode of transportation was on horseback traversing the vast, feral stretches of South Texas down to the border.

"Sometimes someone would come 'long and try to get us to run up north and be free. We used to laugh at that," said former slave Felix Haywood, interviewed in 1937 for the federal Slave Narrative Project.

Haywood was 92 at the time, blind, white-haired and weather-beaten. He was born into slavery and as a young man tended cattle and sheep for ranchers around San Antonio.

Former slave Felix Haywood, 92 years old when he was photographed in San Antonio in 1937, told an interviewer, "All we had to do was to walk, but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande." Biblioteca do Congresso ocultar legenda

Former slave Felix Haywood, 92 years old when he was photographed in San Antonio in 1937, told an interviewer, "All we had to do was to walk, but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande."

"There wasn't no reason to run up north," he continued in the interview. "All we had to do was to walk, but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande. In Mexico, you could be free. They didn't care what color you was — black, white, yellow or blue. Hundreds of slaves did go to Mexico and got on all right."

Pathways to get to the Rio Grande

While the northbound underground railroad depended on a network of people who sheltered and aided fugitive slaves, the southern route was more informal.

"We didn't have a conductor like a Harriet Tubman, and we didn't have a certain station like they did in Philadelphia where they could live and make some money," says Roseann Bacha-Garza, a borderlands historian at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and one of the few experts on the southern route to freedom.

"What we did have down here were pathways that people could follow to get to the Rio Grande."

There were, however, abolitionists on the border who could be counted on to help Black people escape the southwestern extreme of the slave South.

In the Webber Cemetery lie the remains of John Webber and his wife, Silvia Hector Webber. The cemetery is situated just north of the twisting Rio Grande, near the town of Donna, Texas.

Webber was a white settler new to Texas who fell in love with Hector, an enslaved woman. They had three children together, and he bought their freedom from his business partner. They homesteaded in the hamlet that now bears his name — Webberville, east of Austin.

But Texas was still a slave state. And the suffocating racial codes of antebellum Texas eventually drove the family away. They moved to the Rio Grande Valley, where they bought a ranch just downstream from another interracial abolitionist family — Nathaniel Jackson and his African American wife, Matilda Hicks Jackson.

Both the Webbers and the Jacksons were well-known in the clandestine grapevine of runaways.

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"They knew they were sympathetic to their cause," Bacha-Garza says. "The families had their own licensed ferry landings on their properties, which made it very easy for them to shepherd these runaway slaves across the river into free Mexico."

The breakneck flight from an East Texas cotton plantation to the border was a perilous journey. Runaway slaves had to survive the Nueces Strip, the 160-mile expanse between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. It's the same treacherous ranchland where today immigration agents find the scattered bones of unauthorized migrants who perished on the trek north.

"It's a dry, parched landscape. There's not many trees. No matter what time of year, it is hot, hot, hot," Bacha-Garza says. "No running streams, snakes, scorpions. It was not an easy trip, but it was a doable trip."

Kyle Ainsworth, project director of the Texas Runaway Slave Project, searches for notices about fugitive slaves in 19th-century Texas newspapers. His project is housed at the East Texas Research Center at Stephen F. Austin State University. John Burnett/NPR ocultar legenda

Kyle Ainsworth, project director of the Texas Runaway Slave Project, searches for notices about fugitive slaves in 19th-century Texas newspapers. His project is housed at the East Texas Research Center at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Back then, the borderlands were different from the rest of slaveholding Texas. A white man, his Black wife and their children could live in peace.

"Along the river, you don't see the deeply ingrained racism because the river has been home to a mixture of people — mestizos, mulattoes," says Francisco Guajardo, CEO of the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. "The river is a place of tolerance, believe it or not. The racial codes were not enforced down here because there was nobody to enforce them."

Most fugitive slaves in Texas did run south — a fact known, in part, through the painstaking work being done by the Texas Runaway Slave Project, housed at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Researchers looked through nearly 19,000 Texas newspapers from the 1840s through the 1860s.

"And it's from this research that we've been able to find so much about runaway slaves escaping to Mexico," says project director Kyle Ainsworth.

On his computer, he reads an item in the Galveston Weekly News from May 11, 1858. "$25 Reward. Ran away on the 19th of April, from W.T. Stevens' plantation . a Mulatto Boy, named Tom, about 28 years old. . Was raised in Milam county, Texas . and he is supposed to be there or on his way to Mexico."

Researchers are learning about the flight of enslaved people to Mexico by unearthing notices like this one that appeared in the Galveston Weekly News in 1858. East Texas Digital Archives/Stephen F. Austin State University ocultar legenda

Mexico began to gradually abolish slavery soon after it declared independence from Spain in 1821. The Mexican Congress fully outlawed slavery in 1837, well before the United States did so with the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836 and eventually joined the U.S. as a slave state. Mexico lost again in the Mexican-American War, and the Rio Grande became the southern boundary of the United States.

Baumgartner says Mexico's abolition of slavery exerted a gravitational pull on enslaved people in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as King Cotton was expanding.

So while Mexico lost huge expanses of its territory in the wars, she says its anti-slavery position gave it a sort of "moral capital."

"Mexico was much less powerful than the United States, but anti-slavery gave it a way to find victory in defeat. The United States being this aggressive, slaveholding conquering nation and Mexico as this country that could actually stand upright before the civilized world for its anti-slavery positions."

Mexico did have a system of forced labor even after it abolished slavery. Hacienda owners depended on debt peonage to keep their workers in bondage, and some considered that a form of slavery.

But many Mexicans were sympathetic to fugitive slaves from Texas and the United States, according to María Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.

In fact, Mexicans would often put up a fight against vigilantes and bounty hunters from Texas looking for escaped slaves who had crossed over the river to free Mexican soil.

"Mexican authorities at times would help the now-free men and women in Mexico from being taken and returned back to the United States," says Hammack, who is writing her dissertation on the Webber family and how fugitive slaves gained freedom in Mexico.

Moreover, Mexican laborers working in Texas befriended slaves and acted as guides to help them escape south. This happened so often that enslavers came to distrust any Mexican.

"Under Texas law, Mexicans and enslaved persons were not allowed to be found together or to collaborate or even speak to each other," Hammack says.

She says that when she was growing up in Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, she never learned about the outsize role that her country played in Texas slavery.

María Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, has unearthed the story of Silvia Hector Webber, an enslaved woman who became an abolitionist in the Texas-Mexico borderlands. John Burnett/NPR ocultar legenda

María Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, has unearthed the story of Silvia Hector Webber, an enslaved woman who became an abolitionist in the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

"I didn't know that Mexico was a safe haven for individuals to find freedom in the 19th century."

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that Texas changed the way students learn about the Civil War. They're now taught that slavery did play a central role in the war.

But slaveholding was also a driving force in the Texas Revolution, and historians note that this is still downplayed in celebrations of Texas Independence Day. On Tuesday, the state marks 185 years since declaring independence from Mexico.

Historians point out that some enslaved people saw Mexican troops as their liberators and that slaves fled to the ranks of the retreating Mexican army, hoping to make it to free Mexico, after the decisive Battle of San Jacinto, near present-day Houston.

Educators in Texas may be eager to include the southbound underground railroad into their classrooms, if Alaine Hutson is a barometer. She's a history professor at Huston-Tillotson University, a historically Black college in Austin.

While Hutson says she knew Mexico had outlawed slavery before the U.S. did, she did not know the full history of the southbound route to freedom.

She says this new material fits into a theme she always emphasizes with her students — that African Americans throughout history have been architects of their own liberation, like the former slave turned abolitionist Silvia Hector Webber.

"African Americans during slavery, after slavery, during Reconstruction, during Jim Crow and after Jim Crow, and some would say into the new Jim Crow, have always tried to decide as much about our fate as possible," Hutson says.

"And so it was nice to see that African Americans in Texas had the opportunity to help people get away to Mexico. And so Silvia and her family were doing that here in Texas."

Hutson began teaching this history to her African American studies class at Huston-Tillotson this year. During a recent Zoom class, she asked her students to reflect on it.

"The thing that really caught my eye was that African Americans were going to another country and actually treated better, knowing we had freedoms in Mexico that we didn't have in the United States," says Duntavian Thomas, a 24-year-old kinesiology major from Nacogdoches. "As soon as African Americans touched down on Mexican soil, we were free."


Myth Battles Counter-Myth

The appeal of romance and fancy in stories of the Underground Railroad can be traced to the latter decades of the 19th century, when the South was winning the battle of popular memory over the meaning of the Civil War — sending Lost Cause mythology deep into the national psyche and eventually helping to propel the Virginia-born racist Woodrow Wilson into the White House. In the face of a dominating Southern interpretation of the meaning of the Civil War, many white Northerners sought to preserve a heroic version of their past and found a useful tool in legends of the Underground Railroad.

Often well-meaning white people crafted “romantic adventure stories — about themselves,” as Blight puts it, stories that placed white “conductors” in heroic and romantic roles in the struggle for black freedom, stealing agency from supposedly helpless and nameless African Americans (who braved the real dangers), a counterpart to popular images of a saintly, erect Abraham Lincoln bequeathing freedom to passive, kneeling slaves. With the collapse of Reconstruction in 1876 — often blamed on supposedly ignorant or corrupt black people — the winning of freedom became a tale of noble, selfless white efforts on behalf of a downtrodden, faceless, nameless, “inferior” race.

Much of contemporary misunderstanding and myth about the Underground Railroad originated with Wilbur Siebert’s 1898 study. Siebert interviewed nearly everyone still living who had some memory related to the network and even traveled to Canada to interview former slaves who traced their own routes from the South to freedom.

While Siebert ignored the most fanciful stories he heard, he placed far too much emphasis on the work of so-called white conductors and depicted the experience as a very systematic and interrelated series of way stations and routes — which he traced in detailed maps — not unlike a railroad line or system of rail lines. As David Blight remarks, Siebert “fashioned a popular story of primarily white conductors helping nameless blacks to freedom.”


A Chapter In U.S. History Often Ignored: The Flight Of Runaway Slaves To Mexico

In a forgotten cemetery on the edge of Texas in the Rio Grande delta, Olga Webber-Vasques says she's proud of her family's legacy — even if she only just learned the full story.

Turns out her great-great-grandparents, who are buried there, were agents in the little-known underground railroad that led through South Texas to Mexico during the 1800s. Thousands of enslaved people fled plantations to make their way to the Rio Grande, which became a river of deliverance.

"I don't know why there wasn't anything that we would've known as we were growing up. It amazes me to learn the underground deal — I had no idea at all," says Webber-Vasques, 70, who recently learned the story of her forebear John Ferdinand Webber from her daughter-in-law who has researched family history.

"I'm very proud to be a Webber," she says.

The flight of runaway slaves to Mexico is a chapter of history that is often overlooked or ignored. As the U.S. Treasury ponders putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill to commemorate her role in the northbound underground railroad, new attention is being paid to this southbound route.

Alice Baumgartner, a historian at the University of Southern California, is at the forefront of a burst of recent scholarship. A number of researchers are expanding knowledge of the important role that Mexico played in providing a refuge for enslaved people.

Mexico represented liberty

Baumgartner's groundbreaking new book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War, was published late last year. She says Mexico in the 19th century is often regarded as "a place defined by poverty and political instability and violence" — and is rarely given credit for its role in providing a safe haven for runaway slaves.

"This history is to me most surprising because it shows us the side of Mexico as a place that actually was contributing to global debates about slavery and freedom," Baumgartner says.

From the 1830s up to emancipation, she estimates 3,000 to 5,000 enslaved people fled south and crossed over to free Mexican soil. That is far fewer than the estimated 30,000 to 100,000 enslaved people who crossed the Mason-Dixon line to reach free northern states and Canada.

But from the vantage of an East Texas plantation, liberty was a lot closer in Mexico.

Enslaved sailors and stowaways from New Orleans and Galveston, Texas, jumped ship in Mexican ports. Slaves drove wagons of cotton to market in Brownsville, Texas, and then slipped across the muddy river to Matamoros, Mexico. But their main mode of transportation was on horseback traversing the vast, feral stretches of South Texas down to the border.

"Sometimes someone would come 'long and try to get us to run up north and be free. We used to laugh at that," said former slave Felix Haywood, interviewed in 1937 for the federal Slave Narrative Project.

Haywood was 92 at the time, blind, white-haired and weather-beaten. He was born into slavery and as a young man tended cattle and sheep for ranchers around San Antonio.

"There wasn't no reason to run up north," he continued in the interview. "All we had to do was to walk, but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande. In Mexico, you could be free. They didn't care what color you was — black, white, yellow or blue. Hundreds of slaves did go to Mexico and got on all right."

Pathways to get to the Rio Grande

While the northbound underground railroad depended on a network of people who sheltered and aided fugitive slaves, the southern route was more informal.

"We didn't have a conductor like a Harriet Tubman, and we didn't have a certain station like they did in Philadelphia where they could live and make some money," says Roseann Bacha-Garza, a borderlands historian at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and one of the few experts on the southern route to freedom.

"What we did have down here were pathways that people could follow to get to the Rio Grande."

There were, however, abolitionists on the border who could be counted on to help Black people escape the southwestern extreme of the slave South.

In the Webber Cemetery lie the remains of John Webber and his wife, Silvia Hector Webber. The cemetery is situated just north of the twisting Rio Grande, near the town of Donna, Texas.

Webber was a white settler new to Texas who fell in love with Hector, an enslaved woman. They had three children together, and he bought their freedom from his business partner. They homesteaded in the hamlet that now bears his name — Webberville, east of Austin.

But Texas was still a slave state. And the suffocating racial codes of antebellum Texas eventually drove the family away. They moved to the Rio Grande Valley, where they bought a ranch just downstream from another interracial abolitionist family — Nathaniel Jackson and his African American wife, Matilda Hicks Jackson.

Both the Webbers and the Jacksons were well-known in the clandestine grapevine of runaways.

"They knew they were sympathetic to their cause," Bacha-Garza says. "The families had their own licensed ferry landings on their properties, which made it very easy for them to shepherd these runaway slaves across the river into free Mexico."

The breakneck flight from an East Texas cotton plantation to the border was a perilous journey. Runaway slaves had to survive the Nueces Strip, the 160-mile expanse between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. It's the same treacherous ranchland where today immigration agents find the scattered bones of unauthorized migrants who perished on the trek north.

"It's a dry, parched landscape. There's not many trees. No matter what time of year, it is hot, hot, hot," Bacha-Garza says. "No running streams, snakes, scorpions. It was not an easy trip, but it was a doable trip."

Back then, the borderlands were different from the rest of slaveholding Texas. A white man, his Black wife and their children could live in peace.

"Along the river, you don't see the deeply ingrained racism because the river has been home to a mixture of people — mestizos, mulattoes," says Francisco Guajardo, CEO of the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg. "The river is a place of tolerance, believe it or not. The racial codes were not enforced down here because there was nobody to enforce them."

Most fugitive slaves in Texas did run south — a fact known, in part, through the painstaking work being done by the Texas Runaway Slave Project, housed at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. Researchers looked through nearly 19,000 Texas newspapers from the 1840s through the 1860s.

"And it's from this research that we've been able to find so much about runaway slaves escaping to Mexico," says project director Kyle Ainsworth.

On his computer, he reads an item in the Galveston Weekly News from May 11, 1858. "$25 Reward. Ran away on the 19th of April, from W.T. Stevens' plantation . a Mulatto Boy, named Tom, about 28 years old. . Was raised in Milam county, Texas . and he is supposed to be there or on his way to Mexico."

Mexico began to gradually abolish slavery soon after it declared independence from Spain in 1821. The Mexican Congress fully outlawed slavery in 1837, well before the United States did so with the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836 and eventually joined the U.S. as a slave state. Mexico lost again in the Mexican-American War, and the Rio Grande became the southern boundary of the United States.

Baumgartner says Mexico's abolition of slavery exerted a gravitational pull on enslaved people in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as King Cotton was expanding.

So while Mexico lost huge expanses of its territory in the wars, she says its anti-slavery position gave it a sort of "moral capital."

"Mexico was much less powerful than the United States, but anti-slavery gave it a way to find victory in defeat. The United States being this aggressive, slaveholding conquering nation and Mexico as this country that could actually stand upright before the civilized world for its anti-slavery positions."

Mexico did have a system of forced labor even after it abolished slavery. Hacienda owners depended on debt peonage to keep their workers in bondage, and some considered that a form of slavery.

But many Mexicans were sympathetic to fugitive slaves from Texas and the United States, according to María Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.

In fact, Mexicans would often put up a fight against vigilantes and bounty hunters from Texas looking for escaped slaves who had crossed over the river to free Mexican soil.

"Mexican authorities at times would help the now-free men and women in Mexico from being taken and returned back to the United States," says Hammack, who is writing her dissertation on the Webber family and how fugitive slaves gained freedom in Mexico.

Moreover, Mexican laborers working in Texas befriended slaves and acted as guides to help them escape south. This happened so often that enslavers came to distrust any Mexican.

"Under Texas law, Mexicans and enslaved persons were not allowed to be found together or to collaborate or even speak to each other," Hammack says.

She says that when she was growing up in Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, she never learned about the outsize role that her country played in Texas slavery.

"I didn't know that Mexico was a safe haven for individuals to find freedom in the 19th century."

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that Texas changed the way students learn about the Civil War. They're now taught that slavery did play a central role in the war.

But slaveholding was also a driving force in the Texas Revolution, and historians note that this is still downplayed in celebrations of Texas Independence Day. On Tuesday, the state marks 185 years since declaring independence from Mexico.

Historians point out that some enslaved people saw Mexican troops as their liberators and that slaves fled to the ranks of the retreating Mexican army, hoping to make it to free Mexico, after the decisive Battle of San Jacinto, near present-day Houston.

Educators in Texas may be eager to include the southbound underground railroad into their classrooms, if Alaine Hutson is a barometer. She's a history professor at Huston-Tillotson University, a historically Black college in Austin.

While Hutson says she knew Mexico had outlawed slavery before the U.S. did, she did not know the full history of the southbound route to freedom.

She says this new material fits into a theme she always emphasizes with her students — that African Americans throughout history have been architects of their own liberation, like the former slave turned abolitionist Silvia Hector Webber.

"African Americans during slavery, after slavery, during Reconstruction, during Jim Crow and after Jim Crow, and some would say into the new Jim Crow, have always tried to decide as much about our fate as possible," Hutson says.

"And so it was nice to see that African Americans in Texas had the opportunity to help people get away to Mexico. And so Silvia and her family were doing that here in Texas."

Hutson began teaching this history to her African American studies class at Huston-Tillotson this year. During a recent Zoom class, she asked her students to reflect on it.

"The thing that really caught my eye was that African Americans were going to another country and actually treated better, knowing we had freedoms in Mexico that we didn't have in the United States," says Duntavian Thomas, a 24-year-old kinesiology major from Nacogdoches. "As soon as African Americans touched down on Mexican soil, we were free."

And finally today, decades after legendary singer Billie Holiday last took the stage, she is back in the spotlight. Hulu just released "The United States Vs. Billie Holiday," a film about the jazz icon starring Andra Day and directed by Lee Daniels. And while many people might know Holiday's struggles with addiction from previous treatments of her life, this film focuses on something else - the way Holiday was targeted by federal authorities, both for her addiction and for her activism through her art, especially her insistence on singing the famous anti-lynching anthem "Strange Fruit."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRANGE FRUIT")

BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze. Fruta estranha pendurada nos choupos.

MARTIN: The film is based in part on reporting for the book "Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs" by Johann Hari. It's about why and how certain drugs came to be criminalized in the U.S. Hari served as an executive producer of the new film, and when we spoke, he told me how he learned about how Holiday became the focus of the anti-drug war.

JOHANN HARI: And one of the questions I asked myself was just, well, when did we even start going to war against people with addiction problems? When did we get the idea that was a good idea? And I learned about this man, Harry Anslinger, who's probably the most influential person who no one's ever heard of. And our film is really the story of the collision between him and Billie Holiday.

So in 1939, she walks on stage at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, and she sings that incredible song that you just played a clip from, "Strange Fruit." It's the idea that in the South, there's this strange fruit that hangs from the trees. It's the bodies of Black men who'd been murdered. And sometime later, after she first performed this song, she received a warning to stop singing it. And she refused. And the next day, she was arrested. And this is part of this epic conflict that took place between Billie Holiday and her bravery and Harry Anslinger.

So Harry Anslinger invented the modern war on drugs. He's the first person to ever use that phrase. He was the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and he really built the drug war around two groups he hated intensely. The first was Black people. The second was people with addiction problems. So to him, Billie Holiday is the incarnation of everything he hated. She's a Black woman standing up to white supremacy. And because she'd been horrifically abused as a child, she had an addiction problem. And the film is really the story of her brave resistance to him.

MARTIN: But why do you think it is that he was so fixated on Black people and drug use? And that - you point out that there were other - you know, white people who had - white celebrities, white socialites - who similarly had these problems, but he didn't have the same kind of disdain for them or hatred for them. Por que você acha que é isso? I mean, just - he just thought that white people who fell into addiction somehow were what? It was a mistake, whereas with Black people, it was somehow genetic or something? Like, can you unpack that a little bit?

HARI: I think we've seen that more recently if you compare how people reacted to - the general public reaction to the rise of crack addiction in the 1980s and early 1990s and the rise of opioid addiction in more recent years. Those are comparable tragedies with comparable causes, mostly lying in despair, right? The opposite of addiction is connection. Of course, there's been a racialized way of interpreting this. In fact, one of the reasons the drug war is created is as a way to suppress Black people quite consciously.

If you look at the early documents, as I did, around the foundation of the drug war, you know, it's founded in this extreme racial hysteria. It's this belief that Black people and Latinos are using drugs, forgetting their place, in inverted commas, and attacking white people. And this absolutely informs how Harry Anslinger thinks about Billie Holiday, that she's forgetting her place, right?

This is a - this is his worst nightmare. She's a Black woman standing up to white supremacy and persuading other white people. This, to him, is a nightmare, and he had a long record of using his power to try to suppress speech he didn't agree with. He did this with scientists who criticized his policies. And I think it's pretty clear it was one aspect of why he so viciously goes after Billie Holiday. You have to account for, why is the most vocally anti-racist person, Billie Holiday, the person he most viciously persecutes? I mean, he even gloats about it in his writing. After she died, he writes gloatingly, well, there'll be no more "Good Morning Heartache" for her.

MARTIN: Wow. Uau. I confess I never heard this name before. I mean, I think people know a lot about prohibition - right? - prohibition against alcohol. And they know a lot about those figures. And then they know that - they know kind of that there was this war on drugs, which I think people associate with Richard Nixon. Why do you think Harry Anslinger's role in this is not so well known or the origins of this is not so well known?

HARI: It took three transformations in consciousness for us to be able to see Billie Holiday the way that we do in this film. One - and the story of what Harry Anslinger did to Billie Holiday. One is a transformation in how we see race. Your listeners don't need me to explain how that transformation's been happening. One is a transformation in how we think about addiction.

So Harry Anslinger was one of the pioneers of the idea that addiction is a moral failing, right? If you're addicted, you party too hard. You indulged yourself. That's why this happened to you. Increasingly - and the best scientific evidence that I go through in my book, Chasing The Scream" - shows that addiction is, in fact, a response to deep pain and suffering.

And the third transformation, I would say, is a transformation in how we think about sexual abuse. One of the reasons - I think the main reason - that Billie had the addiction problem she had is because she was a survivor of horrific sexual abuse. Again, you can see very clearly why someone who had survived such a terrible thing would need to anesthetize themselves, initially with alcohol, later with heroin.

MARTIN: It sounds like this story really haunts you.

HARI: Yeah. This is really close to my heart because, you know, some of the people I most love have addiction problems. A very close relative of mine at the moment is struggling with addiction problems. And I know this might sound a bit grandiose, but I really feel like what the people who made this film have done - Lee Daniels, the amazing director, Andra Day, the goddess who plays Billie Holiday, Suzan-Lori Parks, who wrote the amazing screenplay - I feel like in some way, we have avenged Billie Holiday.

Now, it's not enough. The vengeance should have come in her lifetime. She should have been vindicated then. But we weren't ready to listen. The wider society was so lost in its hatred of Black people, of addicts, of so many groups. But I feel like now when we remember Billie Holiday, we won't remember, oh, the genius who was brought down by her flaws. We will remember the genius who was not only a genius in music, but a genius in life and a moral genius who saw ahead, who saw what had to be done.

And if we had listened to Billie Holiday then, there would be a lot of Black people who were killed who'd still be alive, a lot of Black people who were imprisoned who would have lived free lives, and a lot of people who died of addictions who would have lived to recover and have good lives. I think it's time we started really listening to Billie Holiday.

MARTIN: Johann Hari is the author of "Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs." He's also an executive producer of the new movie "The United States Vs. Billie Holiday," which is out now on Hulu.

Johann Hari, thanks so much for talking with us today.

HARI: Oh, it's such an honor to be on your show. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL OF ME")

ANDRA DAY: (Singing) All of me, why not take all of me? Can't you see I'm no good without you? Take my lips. I want to lose them. Take my arms, I'll never use them. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Story of the Underground Railroad to Mexico gains attention

HOUSTON — While researching U.S. Civil War history in South Texas, Roseann Bacha-Garza came across the two unique families of the Jacksons and the Webbers living along the Rio Grande. White men headed both families. Both of their wives were Black, emancipated slaves.

But Bacha-Garza, a historian, wondered what they were doing there in the mid-1800s.

As she dug into oral family histories, she heard an unexpected story. The two families' ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico, descendants said. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

“It really made sense the more I read about it and the more I thought about it,” Bacha-Garza said of the secretive route.

Like the more well-known Underground Railroad to the North, which helped fugitive slaves flee to Northern states and Canada, the path in the opposite direction provided a pathway to freedom south of the border, historians say. Enslaved people in the Deep South took to this closer route through unforgiving forests then desert with the help of Mexican Americans, German immigrants, and biracial Black and white couples living along the Rio Grande. Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829, a generation before President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

But just how organized the Underground Railroad to Mexico was and what happened to former slaves and those who helped them remains a mystery. Some archives have since been destroyed by fire. Sites connected to the route sit abandoned.

“It’s larger than most people realized,” Karl Jacoby, co-director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, said of the route.

Slave owners took out newspaper ads offering rewards and complaining that their “property” was likely heading to Mexico, Jacoby said. White Texans banished Mexican Americans from towns after accusing them of helping slaves escape.

Slave-catching mobs ventured into Mexico only to face armed resistance in small villages and from Black Seminoles — or Los Mascogos — who had resettled in northern Mexico, said Jacoby, author of “The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire.”

Escaped slaves adopted Spanish names, married into Mexican families and migrated deeper into Mexico — disappearing from the record and history.

Historians have known about the secretive path for years. “ The Texas Runaway Slave Project ” at Stephen F. Austin State University includes a database of runaway slave advertisements that detail the extent of the trail. The Federal Writers' Project of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration gathered stories as part of its Slave Narrative Collection, including ones from former slaves openly talking about the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Former Texas slave Felix Haywood told those interviewed in 1936, for example, that slaves would laugh at the suggestion they should run north for freedom.

“All we had to do was walk, but walk south, and we'd be free as soon as we crossed the Rio Grande,” Haywood said.

And in 2010, the U.S. National Park Service outlined a route from Natchitoches, Louisiana, through Texas to Monclova, Mexico, that could be considered a rough path of the Underground Railroad south. A bill that President George W. Bush signed six years earlier designated El Camino Real de los Tejas as a National Historic Trail and encouraged the development of partnerships to create more understanding around this overlooked freedom road.

But this Underground Railroad is just starting to enter the public's consciousness as the U.S. becomes more diverse and more people show an interest in studying slavery, said Bacha-Garza, a program manager for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley's Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools in Edinburg, Texas.

Bacha-Garza said Nathaniel Jackson, a white southerner, purchased the freedom of Matilda Hicks, a Black slave who was his childhood sweetheart, as well as Hicks' family. Jackson married Hicks and moved from Alabama to Texas before the U.S. Civil War. There, along the Rio Grande, they encountered another biracial couple, Vermont-born John Ferdinand Webber and Silvia Hector, who was Black and also a former slave.

The examination of the Underground Railroad to Mexico comes as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism. Also, this year Mexico counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category for the first time in its census.

Over the last 50 years, the fields of African American and Chicano Studies have boomed with groundbreaking research and new work redefining the U.S. experience. But rarely do the two fields interact beyond 20th century civil rights tensions, said Ron Wilkins, a recently retired Africana Studies and History professor from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

And as a result, stories about African Americans and Mexican Americans working together to fight racism are not shared, Wilkins said, including the history of the Underground Railroad to Mexico.

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