by Alice L. Baumgartner
A brilliant and surprising account of the coming of the American Civil War, showing the crucial role of slaves who escaped to Mexico.
The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837.
In South to Freedom, historian Alice L. Baumgartner tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in the United States. Southerners hoped that annexing Texas and invading Mexico in the 1840s would stop runaways and secure slavery's future. Instead, the seizure of Alta California and Nuevo México upset the delicate political balance between free and slave states. This is a revelatory and essential new perspective on antebellum America and the causes of the Civil War.
"Scholars of the Underground Railroad have long known that a small stream of runaways escaped to Mexico, but Alice Baumgartner's South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War offers its first full accounting....It is primarily concerned with understanding why the U.S. failed to stop slavery's expansion, why Mexico did, and using that knowledge to cast the coming of the Civil War in a new light....Baumgartner has achieved a rare thing: She has made an important academic contribution, while also writing in beautiful, accessible prose."-- The New Republic
"Baumgartner brilliantly enhances our understanding of the antebellum period and the Civil War by turning toward 'slavery's other border.'"-- National Book Review
About the Author:
Alice L. Baumgartner is assistant professor of history at the University of Southern California. She received an MPhil in history from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar, and a PhD in history from Yale University. She lives in Los Angeles, California.