South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War

South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War


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.

Author: Alice L Baumgartner

Alice L Baumgartner

Alice Baumgartner is the author of "South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves and the Road to Civil War" (Basic Books, 2020).

Baumgartner received an M.Phil in Latin American Studies from the University of Oxford and a Ph.D. in History from Yale University. Her March 2015 article in the Journal of American History, “‘The Line of Positive Safety’: Borders and Boundaries in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 1848-1880,” won the Louis Pelzer Award from the Organization of American Historians and the Bolton-Cutter Prize from the Western History Association.

After postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and the University of Southern California, she will join the history department at USC as an assistant professor.