As we all know, Black slaves in the United States used many means to escape to freedom. Courageous people like Harriet Tubman personally helped many slaves escape. Others ran off on their own, as on the current John Legend produced series “Underground,” named after the so-called “Underground Railroad,” the escape routes and safe houses by which many runaways escaped detection. Sometimes lighter skinned slaves, often the children of slave masters, escaped north by “passing” as whites. There was even Henry “Box” Brown, who, in 1849, actually mailed himself north to abolitionists here in Philadelphia in a wooden crate. Here’s something to think about the next time you’re on a luxurious cruise…
Some slaves escaped to the North and freedom aboard trading ships that routinely sailed along the east coast of the United States in the 19th century. Particularly in the port town of Edenton, North Carolina, many slaves escaped with the help of black stewards and cooks on ships sailing for the northern and mid Atlantic states and Canada. Many of these stewards and cooks, along with the ferrymen who carried passengers and cargo between the shore and the ships were slaves themselves! They would help the runaways conceal themselves in the safest areas of the ships.
It became such a problem for southern slaveholders that some southern legislatures passed Negro Seamen’s Acts designed to restrict the movements of northern Black seamen in southern ports, under the assumption that they were enticing southern slaves to escape north. Despite these measures, Blacks continued to work as crewmen on these trading ships and slaves continued to escape. In her book,”Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself” escaped slave Harriet Jacobs describes how Blacks in Edenton and Black seamen working on the ships helped her escape to Philadelphia on a northbound schooner.
To see the picture that inspired me to write this, check it out here —> PICTURE