South to Freedom: Book summary and reviews of South to Freedom by Alice L. Baumgartner

South to Freedom

Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War

by Alice L. Baumgartner

South to Freedom by Alice L. Baumgartner X
South to Freedom by Alice L. Baumgartner
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]n...eye-opening and immersive account of how Mexico's antislavery laws helped push America to civil war...This vivid history of 'slavery's other border' delivers a valuable new perspective on the Civil War." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Baumgartner focuses on...big-picture developments while also telling the stories of some of those who found freedom in Mexico...A lucid exploration of a little-known aspect of the history of slavery in the U.S." - Kirkus Reviews

"Taken for granted, borders between two nations have the power to constrain curiosity and limit the self-understanding of both nations. But when the research of a gifted historian defies a border, as Alice L. Baumgartner's South to Freedom demonstrates, the result is the revelation of a story of great consequence. When Texas slaves seized the opportunities presented by Mexico's precedent-setting initiatives in emancipation, the actions of a comparatively small group of people shaped a historical event of enormous scale: the American Civil War." - Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West

"South to Freedom reorders the way we should think and teach about the slavery expansion crisis in the middle of the nineteenth century. Indeed, it reorders how to think about the huge question of the coming of the American Civil War. Not many books these days can make that claim. With astonishing research and graceful writing, this one can." - David W. Blight, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

"In this deeply researched and pathbreaking study of southern slaves who escaped to Mexico and carved out new lives in the decades prior to the Civil War, Alice Baumgartner has succeeded in explaining a mystery that historians had been unable to unravel. How many slaves ran South to freedom, rather than North, and how did their assertiveness influence the coming of the Civil War? Baumgartner explores not only the familiar sectional controversy that led the southern states to secede from the union, but more importantly, South to Freedom examines the rich and complicated lives and the multifaceted roles that enslaved people played in Mexico. This book will contribute immensely to our understanding of sectional politics, as well as the manner in which Mexico asserted its 'moral power' to reject an inhumane institution and to assist fugitive slaves in recreating their lives as free men and women." - Albert S. Broussard, author of Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900-54

"Enslaved freedom-seekers in the antebellum United States looked not only to the North Star, but also to the southern border with Mexico. In a fast-paced narrative that moves deftly between the histories of both countries, Alice Baumgartner demonstrates the far-reaching impact of Mexico's free-soil policies. She shows, with eloquence and insight, how enslaved people themselves ignited the fuse that led to a civil war -- and the final abolition of slavery on the North American continent." - W. Caleb McDaniel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America

This information about South to Freedom shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Alice L. Baumgartner

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.

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