La historia

El ferrocarril subterráneo poco conocido que iba hacia el sur hasta México

El ferrocarril subterráneo poco conocido que iba hacia el sur hasta México



We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

El ferrocarril subterráneo corría tanto hacia el sur como hacia el norte. Afortunadamente, la esclavitud también era ilegal en México.

Los investigadores estiman que entre 5,000 y 10,000 personas escaparon de la esclavitud a México, dice Maria Hammack, quien está escribiendo su disertación sobre este tema en la Universidad de Texas en Austin. Pero ella cree que el número real podría ser aún mayor.

“Se trataba de rutas clandestinas y si te atrapaban te mataban y linchaban, por lo que la mayoría de la gente no dejaba muchos registros”, dice Hammack.

Hay alguna evidencia de que tejanos, o mexicanos en Texas, actuaron como “conductores” en la ruta sur ayudando a la gente a llegar a México. Además, Hammack también ha identificado a una mujer negra y dos hombres blancos que ayudaron a escapar a trabajadores esclavizados y trataron de encontrarles un hogar en México.

México abolió la esclavitud en 1829 cuando Texas todavía era parte del país, lo que en parte llevó a inmigrantes blancos esclavistas a luchar por la independencia en la Revolución de Texas. Una vez que formaron la República de Texas en 1836, volvieron a legalizar la esclavitud, y continuó siendo legal cuando Texas se unió a los Estados Unidos como estado en 1845.

Las personas esclavizadas en Texas sabían que había un país al sur donde podían encontrar diferentes niveles de libertad (aunque existía la servidumbre por deudas en México, no era lo mismo que la esclavitud de bienes muebles). Hammack ha descubierto a un fugitivo llamado Tom que había sido esclavizado por Sam Houston. Houston fue un presidente de la República de Texas que luchó en la Revolución de Texas. Una vez que Tom cruzó la frontera, se unió al ejército mexicano contra el que Houston había luchado.

Las personas esclavizadas fugitivas llegaron a México de muchas maneras diferentes. Algunos iban a pie, mientras que otros iban a caballo o subían a escondidas a bordo de transbordadores con destino a puertos mexicanos. Se difundieron historias sobre personas esclavizadas que cruzaron el río Grande que divide a Texas de México flotando en fardos de algodón, y varios periódicos de Texas informaron en julio de 1863 que tres personas esclavizadas habían escapado por esta vía. Incluso si esto no era logísticamente posible, la imagen de flotar hacia la libertad en un símbolo de la esclavitud era fuerte.

LEER MÁS: Cómo funcionaba el ferrocarril subterráneo

Pero no solo las personas esclavizadas en Texas encontraron la libertad en México. "Encontré personas que llegaron desde Carolina del Norte, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama", dice Hammack.

Los esclavistas sabían que las personas esclavizadas escapaban a México, y Estados Unidos intentó que México firmara un tratado de esclavos fugitivos. Así como la Ley de esclavos fugitivos de 1850 había obligado a los estados libres a devolver a los fugitivos al sur, Estados Unidos quería que México devolviera a los esclavos fugitivos a Estados Unidos. pie en suelo mexicano. A pesar de esto, algunos propietarios estadounidenses de personas esclavizadas aún contrataban a cazadores de esclavos para secuestrar ilegalmente a los fugitivos en México.

No está claro qué tan organizado estaba el "ferrocarril subterráneo" del sur. Hammack dice que algunas personas esclavizadas pueden haber llegado a México sin ayuda. Otra evidencia sugiere que los tejanos, especialmente los tejanos pobres, jugaron un papel en ayudar a los fugitivos a llegar a México.

Hammack y la investigadora Roseann Bacha-Garza también identificaron a una familia de raza mixta de Alabama que se mudó al sur de Texas cerca del Río Grande y ayudó a personas esclavizadas a escapar a México. La esposa, Matilda Hicks, fue una mujer anteriormente esclavizada. Su esposo, Nathaniel Jackson, era hijo del hombre en cuya plantación solía trabajar.

Además, algunos abolicionistas del norte viajaron al sur para ayudar a las personas esclavizadas a llegar a México.

“Me he encontrado con abolicionistas del norte que iban a México a pedirle a México que les permitiera comprar tierras para establecer colonias para esclavos fugitivos y negros libres”, dice Hammack. A principios de la década de 1830, el abolicionista cuáquero Benjamin Lundy “estaba solicitando activamente al gobierno mexicano que permitiera el establecimiento de colonias para, supongo que lo que consideraríamos ahora, refugiados”.

El plan de Lundy de iniciar una colonia libre en la región mexicana de Texas se vio frustrado cuando se separó de México y legalizó la esclavitud. Más tarde, en 1852, grupos Seminole que incluían esclavos fugitivos solicitaron tierras al gobierno mexicano. “Todavía pertenece a sus descendientes y todavía viven allí hasta el día de hoy en México”, dice Hammack.

Estos y otros refugiados que huían de la esclavitud a través del "ferrocarril subterráneo" del sur se beneficiaron de la voluntad de México de brindarles un refugio seguro.


La historia del ferrocarril subterráneo a México llama la atención

HOUSTON - Mientras investigaba la historia de la Guerra Civil de los Estados Unidos en el sur de Texas, Roseann Bacha-Garza se encontró con las dos familias únicas de los Jackson y los Webbers que vivían a lo largo del Río Grande. Los hombres blancos encabezaban ambas familias. Sus dos esposas eran negras, esclavas emancipadas.

Pero Bacha-Garza, un historiador, se preguntó qué estaban haciendo allí a mediados del siglo XIX.

Mientras investigaba las historias familiares orales, escuchó una historia inesperada. Los ranchos de las dos familias sirvieron como parada en el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México, dijeron los descendientes. En todo Texas y partes de Louisiana, Alabama y Arkansas, académicos y defensores de la preservación están trabajando para reconstruir la historia de una parte en gran parte olvidada de la historia estadounidense: una red que ayudó a miles de esclavos negros a escapar a México.

“Realmente tenía sentido cuanto más leía y más pensaba en ello”, dijo Bacha-Garza sobre la ruta secreta.

Al igual que el ferrocarril subterráneo más conocido del norte, que ayudó a los esclavos fugitivos a huir a los estados del norte y Canadá, el camino en la dirección opuesta proporcionó un camino hacia la libertad al sur de la frontera, dicen los historiadores. Las personas esclavizadas en el sur profundo tomaron esta ruta más cercana a través de bosques implacables y luego desérticos con la ayuda de mexicoamericanos, inmigrantes alemanes y parejas birraciales de blancos y negros que viven a lo largo del Río Grande. México había abolido la esclavitud en 1829, una generación antes de la Proclamación de Emancipación del presidente Abraham Lincoln.

Pero qué tan organizado estaba el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México y qué les sucedió a los ex esclavos y a quienes los ayudaron sigue siendo un misterio. Desde entonces, algunos archivos han sido destruidos por el fuego. Los sitios conectados a la ruta están abandonados.

"Es más grande de lo que la mayoría de la gente pensaba", dijo sobre la ruta Karl Jacoby, codirector del Centro para el Estudio de Etnicidad y Raza de la Universidad de Columbia.

Los dueños de esclavos sacaron anuncios en los periódicos que ofrecían recompensas y se quejaban de que su "propiedad" probablemente se dirigía a México, dijo Jacoby. Los tejanos blancos expulsaron a los mexicoamericanos de las ciudades después de acusarlos de ayudar a los esclavos a escapar.

Las turbas cazadoras de esclavos se aventuraron en México solo para enfrentarse a la resistencia armada en pequeñas aldeas y de los seminoles negros, o Los Mascogos, que se habían reasentado en el norte de México, dijo Jacoby, autor de “La extraña carrera de William Ellis: el esclavo de Texas que se convirtió en un Millonario mexicano ".

Los esclavos fugitivos adoptaron nombres españoles, se casaron con miembros de familias mexicanas y emigraron más profundamente a México, desapareciendo del registro y la historia.

Los historiadores conocen el camino secreto desde hace años. El “Proyecto de esclavos fugitivos de Texas” en la Universidad Estatal Stephen F. Austin incluye una base de datos de anuncios de esclavos fugitivos que detallan la extensión del rastro. El Proyecto Federal de Escritores de la Administración de Progreso de Obras de la era de la Depresión recopiló historias como parte de su Colección Narrativa de Esclavos, incluidas las de antiguos esclavos que hablaban abiertamente sobre el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México. El ex esclavo de Texas, Felix Haywood, dijo a los entrevistados en 1936, por ejemplo, que los esclavos se reirían de la sugerencia de que debían correr hacia el norte en busca de libertad.

"Todo lo que teníamos que hacer era caminar, pero caminar hacia el sur, y estaríamos libres tan pronto como cruzáramos el Río Grande", dijo Haywood.

Y en 2010, el Servicio de Parques Nacionales de EE. UU. Delineó una ruta desde Natchitoches, Louisiana, a través de Texas hasta Monclova, México, que podría considerarse un camino accidentado del Ferrocarril Subterráneo hacia el sur. Un proyecto de ley que el presidente George W. Bush firmó seis años antes designó El Camino Real de los Tejas como Sendero Histórico Nacional y alentó el desarrollo de asociaciones para crear una mayor comprensión en torno a este camino de la libertad que se pasa por alto.

Pero este Ferrocarril Subterráneo está comenzando a entrar en la conciencia del público a medida que Estados Unidos se vuelve más diverso y más personas muestran interés en estudiar la esclavitud, dijo Bacha-Garza, gerente de programa del Proyecto de Arqueología Histórica Comunitaria con Escuelas de la Universidad de Texas Rio Grande Valley. en Edinburg, Texas.

Bacha-Garza dijo que Nathaniel Jackson, un sureño blanco, compró la libertad de Matilda Hicks, una esclava negra que fue su novia de la infancia, así como la familia de Hicks. Jackson se casó con Hicks y se mudó de Alabama a Texas antes de la Guerra Civil de Estados Unidos. Allí, a lo largo del Río Grande, se encontraron con otra pareja birracial, John Ferdinand Webber y Silvia Hector, nacidos en Vermont, que era negra y también ex esclava.

El examen del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México se produce en un momento en que Estados Unidos está experimentando un ajuste de cuentas racial en torno a la vigilancia policial y el racismo sistémico. Además, este año México contó a su población afro-mexicana como su propia categoría por primera vez en su censo.

Durante los últimos 50 años, los campos de los estudios afroamericanos y chicanos han experimentado un auge con investigaciones innovadoras y nuevos trabajos que redefinen la experiencia de los EE. UU. Pero rara vez los dos campos interactúan más allá de las tensiones de derechos civiles del siglo XX, dijo Ron Wilkins, profesor de Estudios e Historia Africana recientemente jubilado de la Universidad Estatal de California, Dominguez Hills.

Y como resultado, las historias sobre afroamericanos y mexicoamericanos que trabajan juntos para luchar contra el racismo no se comparten, dijo Wilkins, incluida la historia del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México.

“Si conociéramos esta historia, nos uniríamos y fortaleceríamos esa solidaridad”, dijo Wilkins, un ex miembro del Comité Coordinador de Estudiantes No Violentos.

Algunas familias mexicoamericanas se están encontrando teniendo conversaciones incómodas sobre la raza a raíz de su nueva conciencia del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México. Ramiro Ramírez, de 72 años, psicólogo, ganadero y descendiente de los Jackson, dijo que los miembros de la familia a menudo discutían entre ellos cuando se enteraron de que Matilda Jackson era una ex esclava y tenían "sangre negra".

“Estaba muy orgulloso. Pero también estaba muy enojado ”, dijo Ramírez, quien vive en la ciudad fronteriza de Mercedes, Texas. “Incluso después de 200 años, el racismo es muy fuerte. La gente no quiere hablar de eso ".

Dijo que le gustaría conocer a los descendientes de los esclavos que, con la ayuda de su familia, escaparon a México. Los imagina luciendo muy parecidos a él, pero con vidas diferentes al sur de la frontera.


Ferrocarril subterráneo a México: la otra vía de escape de la esclavitud

HOUSTON (AP) - Mientras investigaba la historia de la Guerra Civil de Estados Unidos en el sur de Texas, Roseann Bacha-Garza se encontró con las dos familias únicas de los Jackson y los Webbers que vivían a lo largo del Río Grande. Los hombres blancos encabezaban ambas familias. Sus dos esposas eran negras, esclavas emancipadas. Pero Bacha-Garza, un historiador, se preguntó qué estaban haciendo allí a mediados del siglo XIX.

Mientras investigaba las historias familiares orales, escuchó una historia inesperada. Los ranchos de las dos familias sirvieron como parada en el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México, dijeron los descendientes. En todo Texas y partes de Louisiana, Alabama y Arkansas, académicos y defensores de la preservación están trabajando para reconstruir la historia de una parte en gran parte olvidada de la historia estadounidense: una red que ayudó a miles de esclavos negros a escapar a México.

“Realmente tenía sentido cuanto más leía y más pensaba en ello”, dijo Bacha-Garza sobre la ruta secreta.

En esta foto del 27 de septiembre de 2017, la presidenta de la Coalición de Preservación de la Ciudad de Freedmen # 8217, Dorris Ellis Robinson, a la derecha, y Catherine Roberts, a la izquierda, observan un modelo de la Ciudad de Freedmen & # 8217s, un área construida por esclavos emancipados después de la Guerra Civil, en Houston. Se cree que el área estuvo conectada al Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México. | Russell Contreras / AP

Al igual que el ferrocarril subterráneo más conocido del norte, que ayudó a los esclavos fugitivos a huir a los estados del norte y Canadá, el camino en la dirección opuesta proporcionó un camino hacia la libertad al sur de la frontera, dicen los historiadores. Las personas esclavizadas en el sur profundo tomaron esta ruta más cercana a través de bosques implacables y luego del desierto con la ayuda de mexicoamericanos, inmigrantes alemanes y parejas interraciales de blancos y negros que viven a lo largo del Río Grande. México abolió la esclavitud en 1829, una generación antes de la Proclamación de Emancipación del presidente Abraham Lincoln.

Pero qué tan organizado estaba el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México y qué sucedió con los ex esclavos y quienes los ayudaron sigue siendo un misterio. Desde entonces, algunos archivos han sido destruidos por el fuego. Los sitios conectados a la ruta están abandonados.

"Es más grande de lo que la mayoría de la gente pensaba", dijo sobre la ruta Karl Jacoby, codirector del Centro para el Estudio de Etnicidad y Raza de la Universidad de Columbia.

Los dueños de esclavos sacaron anuncios en los periódicos que ofrecían recompensas y se quejaban de que su "propiedad" probablemente se dirigía a México, dijo Jacoby. Los tejanos blancos expulsaron a los mexicoamericanos de las ciudades después de acusarlos de ayudar a los esclavos a escapar.

Las turbas cazadoras de esclavos se aventuraron en México solo para enfrentarse a la resistencia armada en pequeñas aldeas y de los seminolas negros, o Los Mascogos, que se habían reasentado en el norte de México, dijo Jacoby, autor de La extraña carrera de William Ellis: el esclavo de Texas que se convirtió en millonario mexicano.

Los esclavos fugitivos adoptaron nombres españoles, se casaron con miembros de familias mexicanas y emigraron más profundamente a México, desapareciendo del registro y la historia.

Los historiadores conocen el camino secreto desde hace años. El “Proyecto de esclavos fugitivos de Texas” en la Universidad Estatal Stephen F. Austin incluye una base de datos de anuncios de esclavos fugitivos que detallan la extensión del rastro. El Proyecto Federal de Escritores de la Administración de Progreso de Obras de la era de la Depresión recopiló historias como parte de su Colección Narrativa de Esclavos, incluidas las de antiguos esclavos que hablaban abiertamente sobre el Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México. El ex esclavo de Texas, Felix Haywood, dijo a los entrevistados en 1936, por ejemplo, que los esclavos se reirían de la sugerencia de que debían correr hacia el norte en busca de libertad.

"Todo lo que teníamos que hacer era caminar, pero caminar hacia el sur, y estaríamos libres tan pronto como cruzáramos el Río Grande", dijo Haywood.

Y en 2010, el Servicio de Parques Nacionales de EE. UU. Describió una ruta desde Natchitoches, Louisiana, a través de Texas hasta Monclova, México, que podría considerarse un camino accidentado del Ferrocarril Subterráneo hacia el sur. Un proyecto de ley que el presidente George W. Bush firmó seis años antes designó El Camino Real de los Tejas como Sendero Histórico Nacional y alentó el desarrollo de asociaciones para crear una mayor comprensión en torno a este camino de la libertad que se pasa por alto.

Pero este Ferrocarril Subterráneo está comenzando a entrar en la conciencia del público a medida que Estados Unidos se vuelve más diverso y más personas muestran interés en estudiar la esclavitud, dijo Bacha-Garza, gerente de programa del Proyecto de Arqueología Histórica Comunitaria con Escuelas de la Universidad de Texas Rio Grande Valley. en Edinburg, Texas.

Bacha-Garza dijo que Nathaniel Jackson, un sureño blanco, compró la libertad de Matilda Hicks, una esclava negra que fue su novia de la infancia, así como la familia de Hicks. Jackson se casó con Hicks y se mudó de Alabama a Texas antes de la Guerra Civil de Estados Unidos. Allí, a lo largo del Río Grande, se encontraron con otra pareja interracial, John Ferdinand Webber y Silvia Hector, nacidos en Vermont, que era negra y también ex esclava.

El examen del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México se produce en momentos en que Estados Unidos está pasando por un ajuste de cuentas racial en torno a la vigilancia policial y el racismo sistémico. Además, este año México contó a su población afro-mexicana como su propia categoría por primera vez en su censo.

Durante los últimos 50 años, los campos de los estudios afroamericanos y chicanos han experimentado un auge con investigaciones innovadoras y nuevos trabajos que redefinen la experiencia de los EE. UU. Pero rara vez los dos campos interactúan más allá de las tensiones de derechos civiles del siglo XX, dijo Ron Wilkins, profesor recientemente retirado de Estudios e Historia Africana de la Universidad Estatal de California, Dominguez Hills.

En esta foto del 27 de septiembre de 2017 se muestran las calles adoquinadas de Freedmen & # 8217s Town, un área construida por esclavos emancipados después de la Guerra Civil en Houston. Se cree que el área estaba conectada al ferrocarril subterráneo a México. | Russell Contreras / AP

Y como resultado, las historias sobre afroamericanos y mexicoamericanos que trabajan juntos para luchar contra el racismo no se comparten, dijo Wilkins, incluida la historia del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México.

“Si conociéramos esta historia, nos uniríamos y fortaleceríamos esa solidaridad”, dijo Wilkins, un ex miembro del Comité Coordinador de Estudiantes No Violentos.

Algunas familias mexicoamericanas se están encontrando teniendo conversaciones incómodas sobre la raza a raíz de su nueva conciencia del Ferrocarril Subterráneo a México. Ramiro Ramírez, de 72 años, psicólogo, ranchero y descendiente de los Jackson, dijo que los miembros de la familia a menudo discutían entre ellos cuando se enteraban de que Matilda Jackson era una ex esclava y tenían "sangre negra".

“Estaba muy orgulloso. Pero también estaba muy enojado ”, dijo Ramírez, quien vive en la ciudad fronteriza de Mercedes, Texas. “Incluso después de 200 años, el racismo es muy fuerte. La gente no quiere hablar de eso ".

Dijo que le gustaría conocer a los descendientes de los esclavos que, con la ayuda de su familia, escaparon a México. Los imagina luciendo muy parecidos a él, pero con vidas diferentes al sur de la frontera.


HECHO HISTÓRICO: El primer ferrocarril subterráneo corrió hacia el SUR durante más de 100 años

CHARLESTON, S.C. & # 8212 Si bien la mayoría de los estadounidenses están familiarizados con Ferrocarril subterráneo que ayudó a los esclavos del sur a escapar hacia el norte antes de Guerra civil, el primer camino clandestino hacia la libertad de la nación transcurrió durante más de un siglo en la dirección opuesta.

& # 8216LIKE & # 8217 NewsOne & # 8217s Página de Facebook para mantenerse al día con las noticias negras de todo el mundo

Las historias de ese & # 8220railroad & # 8221 menos conocido se compartirán del 20 al 24 de junio en el Conferencia Nacional de Ferrocarriles Subterráneos en St. Augustine, Florida. La red de simpatizantes dio refugio a quienes huían de sus amos, incluidos muchos indios americanos que ayudaron a los esclavos a escapar a lo que entonces era el territorio español de Florida. Eso duró desde poco después de la fundación de Carolina Colony en 1670 hasta después de la Revolución Americana.

Se escaparon no solo al sur sino a México, el Caribe y el oeste americano.

Y el & # 8220railroad & # 8221 ayuda a explicar, al menos en parte, por qué la cultura duradera de los descendientes de esclavos & # 8211 conocida como Gullah en Carolina del Sur y Geechee en Florida y Georgia & # 8211 existe a lo largo de la costa noreste de Florida.

& # 8220Es & # 8217s una historia fascinante y la mayoría de la gente en Estados Unidos está estancada & # 8211 están estancados en 1964 y la Ley de Derechos Civiles o están estancados en el Guerra civil, & # 8221 dijo Derek Hankerson, quien es descendiente de Gullah y propietario de una pequeña empresa en St. Augustine, Florida. & # 8220 Hemos estado deseando compartir estas historias. & # 8221

Debido a que hay pocos registros, se desconoce cuántos esclavos africanos pudieron haber escapado a lo largo del ferrocarril. Pero el sueño de la libertad en Florida sí jugó un papel en la 1739 Stono Rebellion fuera de Charleston, la mayor revuelta de esclavos en la Norteamérica británica.

Los esclavos probablemente comenzaron a huir hacia Florida cuando se estableció Carolina del Sur en 1670, dijo Jane Landers, una historiadora de la Universidad de Vanderbilt que ha investigado ampliamente el tema. La primera mención de esclavos fugitivos en los registros españoles fue en 1687 cuando ocho esclavos, incluido un bebé lactante, aparecieron en San Agustín.

España se niega a devolverlos y en cambio les da santuario religioso, y esa política se formaliza en 1693. La única condición es que quienes buscan santuario se conviertan al catolicismo.

& # 8220Fue un cambio total en la geopolítica del Caribe y después de eso, cualquiera que salga de un área protestante para solicitar santuario lo obtiene & # 8221 Landers.

Esa promesa de libertad jugó un papel importante en la Rebelión Stono, cuando un grupo de unos 20 esclavos irrumpió en una tienda, recogiendo pistolas y otras armas, en septiembre de 1739.

Mark Smith, historiador de la Universidad de Carolina del Sur, dijo que los líderes esclavistas eran de lo que ahora es Angola en África. Eran católicos, porque su tierra natal era en ese momento un puesto de avanzada portuguesa. Y se cree que fueron soldados en su tierra natal.

Habrían sabido del rumor de la libertad en la Florida española y decidieron iniciar la revuelta el 9 de septiembre, fiesta de la Natividad de la Santísima Virgen María.

& # 8220 Tienen una bandera blanca, que no es una bandera de rendición. Es una bandera de celebración de María, y gritan 'Libertad'. No se rebelan solo como esclavos, sino como esclavos católicos '', dijo Smith.

Al menos 20 blancos murieron en la rebelión. La milicia más tarde alcanzó a los esclavos y 34 de ellos murieron. Algunos de los que escaparon fueron encontrados y ejecutados más tarde, aunque algunos aparentemente llegaron a un lugar seguro en Florida porque hay informes de que más esclavos llegaron a San Agustín en los días siguientes, dijo Landers.

El criollo gullah todavía se habla en las iglesias del noreste de Florida, dijo Landers.

Hankerson, quien creció con historias del Ferrocarril Subterráneo, dijo que los esclavos fugitivos recibieron ayuda de las tribus indígenas americanas, incluidos los Creeks, los Cherokees y los Yemassee. También avanzaron más profundamente en Florida y encontraron refugio con los Seminoles.

Excepto por unos 20 años cuando los británicos celebraron a San Agustín entre el final de la guerra francesa e india y el final de la Revolución Americana, la política española de santuario permaneció en vigor hasta 1790 cuando el secretario de Estado Thomas Jefferson convenció a la corona española de terminarlo. Muchos fugitivos escaparon en medio del caos y la violencia de la revolución, y mantener ese corredor abierto podría haber agotado las colonias del sur de esclavos, dijo Landers.

A diferencia del Ferrocarril Subterráneo que va hacia el norte, la primera red era más informal: ni los esclavos ni las tribus indígenas que los ayudaron dejaron registros escritos, y no había una estructura eclesiástica como la de los cuáqueros organizando el esfuerzo, dijo Landers. Se desconoce exactamente cuántos se quedaron entre los indios americanos o cuántos murieron.

Los británicos vieron a los esclavos como propiedad y trabajo para sus plantaciones y ofrecieron recompensas por su regreso.

Por el contrario, dijo Landers, & # 8220los españoles creen que los indígenas y los africanos podrían convertirse y, como tales, eran humanos y tenían familias y almas que salvar & # 8221.


LibertyVoter.Org


El esclavo fugitivo, pintado por John Adam Houston.

El ferrocarril subterráneo corría tanto hacia el sur como hacia el norte. Para los esclavos en Texas, el refugio en Canadá debió parecerles increíblemente lejano. Afortunadamente, la esclavitud también era ilegal en México.

Los investigadores estiman que entre 5,000 y 10,000 personas escaparon de la esclavitud a México, dice Maria Hammack, quien está escribiendo su disertación sobre este tema en la Universidad de Texas en Austin. Pero ella cree que el número real podría ser aún mayor.

“Se trataba de rutas clandestinas y si te atrapaban te mataban y linchaban, por lo que la mayoría de la gente no dejaba muchos registros”, dice Hammack.

Hay alguna evidencia de que tejanos, o mexicanos en Texas, actuaron como “conductores” en la ruta sur ayudando a la gente a llegar a México. Además, Hammack también ha identificado a una mujer negra y dos hombres blancos que ayudaron a escapar a trabajadores esclavizados y trataron de encontrarles un hogar en México.


Una subasta de esclavos en Austin, Texas.

México abolió la esclavitud en 1829 cuando Texas todavía era parte del país, lo que llevó a los inmigrantes blancos esclavistas a luchar por la independencia en la Revolución de Texas. Una vez que formaron la República de Texas en 1836, volvieron a legalizar la esclavitud, y continuó siendo legal cuando Texas se unió a los Estados Unidos como estado en 1845.

Las personas esclavizadas en Texas sabían que había un país al sur donde podían encontrar diferentes niveles de libertad (aunque existía la servidumbre por contrato en México, no era lo mismo que la esclavitud de bienes muebles). Hammack ha descubierto a un fugitivo llamado Tom que había sido esclavizado por Sam Houston. Houston fue un presidente de la República de Texas que luchó en la Revolución de Texas. Una vez que Tom cruzó la frontera, se unió al ejército mexicano contra el que Houston había luchado.

Las personas esclavizadas llegaron a México de muchas formas diferentes. Algunos iban a pie, mientras que otros iban a caballo o se colaron a bordo de transbordadores con destino a puertos mexicanos. Se difundieron historias sobre personas esclavizadas que cruzaron el río Grande que divide a Texas de México flotando en fardos de algodón, y varios periódicos de Texas informaron en julio de 1863 que tres personas esclavizadas habían escapado por esta vía. Incluso si esto no era logísticamente posible, la imagen de flotar hacia la libertad en un símbolo de la esclavitud era fuerte.

Actos de esclavos fugitivos (TV-PG 1:57)

Pero no fueron solo las personas esclavizadas en Texas quienes encontraron la libertad en México. & # 8230leer más


Del sur a la libertad

El Ferrocarril Subterráneo también corría hacia el sur, no hacia los estados propietarios de esclavos, sino alejándose de ellos hacia México, que comenzó a restringir la esclavitud en la década de 1820 y finalmente la abolió en 1829, unos treinta y cuatro años antes de la Proclamación de Emancipación de Abraham Lincoln.

Esto puede ser historia, pero es una novedad para muchos que asisten a la exposición "Pathways to Freedom" en el Museo de Historia Africana Charles H. Wright de Detroit, que se puede ver hasta el 31 de marzo. "La mayoría de la gente se sorprende", dice Patrina Chatman, del museo. comisario de exposiciones. Si bien existe abundante documentación, sin mencionar el folclore, perteneciente a la red de guías y santuarios que ayudaron a las personas esclavizadas a escapar a la libertad en los estados del norte y Canadá, el registro es menos abundante sobre el Ferrocarril Subterráneo que conducía a México.

"Esas historias no se contaron", dice Patricia Ann Talley, "porque esas historias terminaron en español". Pero incluso en México las historias no son muy conocidas, continúa Talley, un nativo de Detroit y afroamericano que vive en México y que inició la exposición "Pathways to Freedom" con Candelaria Donaji Méndez Tello, una afro-mexicana. Los dos se conocieron en un festival por la paz en México en 2010 y se hicieron amigos. Hasta entonces, dice Talley, "nunca pensé en los afro-mexicanos". La exposición, financiada en parte por el Consejo de Humanidades de Michigan, enfatiza las experiencias compartidas y la historia de los estadounidenses negros y los mexicanos negros. “No me di cuenta”, dice Talley, “de lo abundante que es la raza africana en México”, pero pronto se enteró de que incluso más africanos fueron traídos como esclavos al México colonial de los que fueron traídos a la América colonial.

Con la esclavitud llegó el deseo de libertad, y ahí es donde gira la narrativa de “Caminos hacia la libertad”, ajustando su lente hacia México. "Cuando escucho que se aplica el término 'ferrocarril subterráneo', no me quejo", dice el historiador Sean M. Kelley, "pero no estaba ni de lejos tan bien organizado" como la operación más conocida que condujo a Canadá. Kelley, profesor asociado de historia en Hartwick College en Oneonta, Nueva York, ha escrito sobre la esclavitud a lo largo de la frontera entre Texas y México.

Las rutas de escape a México "eran conocidas entre los esclavos en Texas", dice Kelley, y también lo era la realidad política de que "existe esta otra república y se han librado de la esclavitud". México obtuvo la independencia de España en 1821 después de una prolongada rebelión y comenzó a aprobar medidas contra la esclavitud, prohibiéndola finalmente en 1829 por decreto del entonces presidente Vicente Guerrero, quien pudo haber sido de ascendencia africana.

Aunque México prohibió la esclavitud, Texas, entonces una colonia de México, mantuvo a sus esclavos. De hecho, la esclavitud fue una de las causas de la revolución que condujo a la independencia de Texas en 1836. Texas fue admitida en los Estados Unidos en 1845 como un estado esclavista y el número de esclavos allí aumentó exponencialmente.

La mayoría de los esclavos que escaparon a México procedían de Texas y, en menor medida, de Luisiana, señala Kelley, al igual que la mayoría de los que escaparon hacia el norte procedían de lugares vecinos de los estados del norte. El viaje hacia la libertad en México, incluso desde Texas, fue "largo, difícil y peligroso", dice Kelley. Así como no hay cifras firmes sobre cuántas personas esclavizadas escaparon a Canadá (las estimaciones oscilan entre 30.000 y 100.000), no existen cifras fiables sobre cuántas personas escaparon a México. Un Texas Ranger en el siglo XIX puso el número en cuatro mil, pero "cuantificar esto nunca va a suceder", dice Kelley.

El Ferrocarril Subterráneo que conducía a México no tenía un análogo conocido de Harriet Tubman, una ex esclava, que en una docena de viajes llevó a unas setenta personas a la libertad, pero Texas tenía sus propios libertadores. “Hubo complicidad de parte de los tejanos [hispanos en Texas] y algunos de los alemanes” que se habían establecido en Texas, dice Kelley.

Y ya sea en español o en inglés, la versión del Southwest del Ferrocarril Subterráneo produjo al menos una historia inolvidable: la historia del hombre que flotó hacia la libertad a través del Río Grande en un fardo de algodón. Kelley lo cuestiona ("Ni siquiera sé si el algodón flota") pero encuentra que la cuenta es "significativa más allá" de cualquier autenticación. “La historia existe, significa algo”, dice, que un hombre podría navegar hacia la libertad con la misma mercancía que engendró su esclavitud.

Martin Kohn es escritor, crítico de teatro, editor, cantante y guitarrista y profesor de periodismo en la Universidad Estatal de Michigan.


Un capítulo en la historia de Estados Unidos que a menudo se ignora: la huida de esclavos fugitivos a México

Roseann Bacha-Garza (izquierda), una historiadora de la zona fronteriza, junto a Olga Webber-Vasques junto a la tumba del tatarabuelo de esta última, el abolicionista John Ferdinand Webber, en el cementerio familiar. John Burnett / NPR ocultar leyenda

Roseann Bacha-Garza (izquierda), una historiadora de la zona fronteriza, junto a Olga Webber-Vasques junto a la tumba del tatarabuelo de esta última, el abolicionista John Ferdinand Webber, en el cementerio familiar.

En un cementerio olvidado en las afueras de Texas en el delta del Río Grande, Olga Webber-Vasques dice que está orgullosa del legado de su familia, incluso si acaba de conocer la historia completa.

Resulta que sus tatarabuelos, que están enterrados allí, eran agentes del poco conocido ferrocarril subterráneo que atravesaba el sur de Texas hasta México durante el siglo XIX. Miles de esclavos huyeron de las plantaciones para dirigirse al Río Grande, que se convirtió en un río de liberación.

"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 leyenda

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 del Congreso ocultar leyenda

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.

President Biden Takes Office

Biden Administration Will 'Speed Up' Efforts To Put Harriet Tubman On $20 Bill

Nacional

Descendants Of Native American Slaves In New Mexico Emerge From Obscurity

Educación

Texas Students Will Soon Learn Slavery Played A Central Role In The Civil War

"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 leyenda

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 leyenda

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 leyenda

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. Extraña fruta colgando de los álamos.

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 qué crees que es? 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. Guau. 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. Muchas gracias.

(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.


Ver el vídeo: Derek Chauvins bodycam footage shown for first time at George Floyd trial (Agosto 2022).