Escape To North

By Jean Choi

Instructions: How To Get to North

To get to Canada, you would have to be real cautious!! Since you live in Georgia, your journey is going to be pretty long and hard. First, remember to wait a few weeks after winter before you leave. That's when birds migrate to the north so they will help you show you the way to north. When you know the time is right (when the overseer falls asleep), carefully start your way towards the woods. Be extra careful to make walk quietly if you want to avoid flogging from your overseer. There are a lot of people working for peculiar institutions and the penalties are getting harsher for runaway slaves every day.

Make sure you go the direction where there is some stream nearby, just in case you want to lose your scent from the dogs or when your master or overseer starts to look for you with their dogs.

From there (the closest stream), you'll see a boat hiding between the huge trees with a yellow marking on it-- you can't miss it. A man,who knows the Underground Railroad very well, will be there waiting for you. There will be other darkies from the Black Belt so you won't be the only one there. He has a boat so he will help y'all cross the river and from there, he will help you get to the Ohio River and cross it. It's the border between north and the south so that's when you know you are getting closer to north. You will be staying at his house for a few days before someone else helps you again to get to Canada.

These are my advice to you. Before you leave, have some courage and hope. Just remember, Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey are planning a slave revolt so have some hope!

Extra Tips!

  1. The North Star can always be used to find which direction is north
  2. Moss usually grows on the north side of tree trunks, and can be used to tell direction if it is daytime or cloudy


Songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "Go Down Moses" may have contained secret messages detailing escape routes for runways. Another popular song was "Follow the Drinking Gourd," which was a term that referred to the shape of the Big Dipper.


"Follow The Drinking Gourd"
(song lyrics)

The riverbank makes a very good road
The dead trees show you the way
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on
Follow the drinking gourd

When the sun comes back and the first quail calls
Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man is waiting to carry you to freedom
If you follow the drinking gourd

The banks of the Tombigbee River were lined with dead trees marked by drawings of a left foot and a peg foot in order to distinguish the Tombigbee from its tributaries. The song suggests that a fugitive should flee the South during the winter months: "when the first quail calls," because it is during this time of year that the Ohio River, a place where most fugitives look for, is frozen and could therefore be walked upon.