hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of
Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Thursday, April 8, 2021 – 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Alice Baumgartner, in conversation with David Blight about her book, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to Civil War (Basic Books 2020)
Thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico. In South to Freedom, historian Alice L. Baumgartner tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery in 1837 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.
“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