By: Drew McAdams
A Slave's Guide to Freedom
Escaping from a large slave plantation or even a small farm is no easy task. All slaves dream of getting out of the horrendous cycle of Peculiar Institution, but in order to do so, you must have a plan. Following are the steps needed to get out of this Black Belt region and eventually to a save place up North.
1. The first step to this escape plan is to figure out a way to get out of your cabin at night without your overseer growing suspicious. Walk outside as if your were going to use the restroom, and then your journey will begin. Don't bother making a break for it in the daytime. The chances of a slave getting caught during the day is much higher, you will need the darkness to keep you hidden.
2. Once you begin your escape you need to search for the North Star. You can find that at the very tip of the Little Dipper, and it is the brightest star in the sky. This star will be your guide to the north. During the day and on cloudy night skies, when you can't see the North Star, you can use the moss on the tree trunks to guide you. Moss grows on the North side of trees and it will serve as another compass to keep you going north.
3. While you are on your journey, there will be slave catchers trying to round up the darkies to bring back to the owner. If you are to be caught by one of these men, you will be returned to the plantation and the floggings you will receive from your owner will be brutal. One way to keep yourself from getting caught is to travel along rivers and swamps. By doing this you will mask your scent and it will be easier to stay hidden.
4. As you continue to travel north, you will reach the Ohio River. You must cross the river, and once you do, there will be stationmasters set up close to your location. You will be looking specifically for a house in Ripley, Ohio owned by a man named John Rankin. He will leave a burning candle in his window at night. When you find this light, you will know you have arrived.
5. This stationmaster will house and feed you for that night and the he will get you connected to the Underground Railroad. This is a secret organization that will transport you through the North and eventually to Ontario Canada.
6. Once you get connected with the Underground Railroad, you will be taken by the conductor and transported to the next stations. Along the way there will be what are called stockholders. These people will be there to give you food and Clothes. During this time period, you will be referred to as baggage. Do not be afraid of these people, they are the ones who will get you the freedom you desire.
7. There are some large populated African American settlements in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Although with the new laws requiring the return of runaway slaves, your destination is set for Ontario Canada.
8. Once you are taken through the north, you will be put on a boat and transported across Lake Erie into Ontario, Canada. From then on your life is in your own hands.
Escape may not be the only option for freedom, but it is the best chance a slave has. Other slaves such as Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey have tried to lead Slave rebellions. Although some of these have been successful in making a statement to white plantation owners, they have not gained slaves any freedom, which should be the ultimate goal. If you follow my set of instructions, freedom might be within your reach.
Follow the Drinking Gourd
This was a song created to help slaves find their way up north:
"Follow the drinking gourd, follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is awaiting for to take you to freedom,
If you follow the drinking gourd.
The riverbank will make a very good road, the dead trees show you the way,
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on, Follow the drinking gourd.
The river ends between two hills, Follow the drinking gourd,
There's another river on the other side, Follow the drinking gourd.
Where the great big river meets the little river, Follow the drinking gourd,
The old man is awaiting for to take you to freedom,
If you follow the drinking gourd."