How To Escape Slavery

For Dummies

Why should you try?

Life as a slave isn't all that great. Long hours, abusive owners, brutal floggings for even the slightest misbehavior, and being sold away from your family like an animal are things all slaves must endure, and make for a life that is simply not fit for a human being. When wrapped in the chains of slavery, the future may seem bleak and hopeless. But is it really? Follow these instructions and you just might earn yourself a life as a free man.


Step 1: Slip away from your owners.

This is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of your grand escape, but it certainly doesn't have to be the most difficult. Nighttime is indisputably the best time to flee from the plantation or farm where you are held prisoner; just make sure that your overseer is asleep or otherwise occupied, and you should be able to get away relatively easily. Don't tell anyone you don't plan to bring with you about your escape, even if they're darkies like yourself; you never know who might rat you out and foil your plans before they're even set in motion. Let's not forget the efforts of Denmark Vesey, whose plans for a slave uprising in North Carolina were brought to a screeching halt when word leaked out and the authorities caught him before he could even begin his plot's execution. Don't assume that telling other slaves won't result in the failure of the plot; not everyone will be lucky enough to stage a rebellion as successful as Nat Turner's, be it a full-scale violent revolt like his or a trek to Canada like your own. The fewer people who know of your intentions, the better.


Step 2: Begin heading north.

So you've escaped from your captors and are officially a fugitive. What now?

Head north! Not only will you quickly escape the black belt where most slave plantations are located, but you'll be on the right track to Canada, where you can finally be safe not only from your original owners (they can only reclaim you if you remain in the States -- Canada is your sanctuary!) but you will no longer be forced to witness the horrors of slavery firsthand. After all, the "peculiar institution" that plagues the United States was abolished in Canada by British Parliament in 1834!


So how do you stay on the right course and not get turned around on your journey? A variety of helpful tricks and tips have been accumulated by thousands of like-minded darkies before you. Some of the most well-known of these tips include the fact that moss grows primarily on the north sides of trees, and to follow the North Star to keep you moving in the right direction. (Another similar method of orienting yourself properly is referenced in "Follow the Drinking Gourd", which is attached to this guide.)


Evading capture will not be an easy feat, of course. Your ex-owners will doubtlessly notice your escape, and they will almost certainly send hunters to pursue you. Hiding during the day and traveling at night, as well as passing through any stream or river you encounter to mask your scent, will certainly bolster your chances of succeeding in your trek to Canada. But no one man can undertake this journey alone, which leads us to the next part of this guide:

Step 3: Get help!

An escaped darkie's journey doesn't have to be a lonely one. In recent years, a certain network called the Underground Railroad was organized and so far has seen great success. Made up of both freed black men and women and whites who sympathize with our cause, its primary purpose is to help shuttle fugitive ex-slaves to the north. You will most likely encounter safe houses between the black belt and the North; some will have a kind of signal to alert you to the homeowner's, or the "conductor's", good intentions, such as a candle in the window. Sometimes you may encounter a fellow fugitive who will direct you to one of these "stations". Regardless, the conductors of the Underground Railroad will be happy to aid you by providing food, shelter, and direction.



Most will probably point you towards Cleveland, Ohio, which is likely one of the safest places in the United States for a darkie. It's a bustling community of both black and white men and women, and is far, far away from the Southern plantation from which you came. Some may be tempted to end their journey here and settle down; but as comfortable and welcoming as Cleveland may seem, it's not entirely safe. There's still the risk that a white man will capture you here and drag you back to the South. For this reason alone, it's worth traversing the final stretch to Canada, preferably on the boat of a wealthy and sympathetic white man. No matter how you get there, Canada must remain your ultimate destination.

Follow the Drinking Gourd