TRICKS AND DETERMINATION (Illustration) American History Biographies African American History Civil Rights Law and Politics Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Slaves and Slave Owners

William Still tells the stories of many slaves who successfully (and unsuccessfully) tried to escape slave status in his book, The Underground Railroad. This image depicts a slave escaping from Alabama on top of a railcar. Image online, via Project Gutenberg.


With bloodhounds and patrollers on their trail, runaway slaves had to use their imagination to elude capture. Years after he was emancipated, Walter Rimm still remembered the tricks some used:

My pappy wasn't 'fraid of nothin'. He am light cullud from de white blood, and he runs away sev'ral times. Dere am big woods all round and we sees lots of run-awayers.

One old fellow name John been a run-awayer for four years and de patterrollers tries all dey tricks, but dey can't cotch him. Dey wants him bad, 'cause it 'spire other slaves to run away if he stays a-loose. Dey sots de trap for him. Dey knows he like good eats, so dey 'ranges for a quiltin' and gives chitlin's and lye hominey.

John comes and am inside when de patterrollers rides up to de door. Everybody gits quiet and John stands near de door, and when dey starts to come in he grabs de shovel full of hot ashes and throws dem into de patterrollers faces. He gits through and runs off, hollerin', "Bird in de air!"

One woman name Rhodie runs off for long spell. De hounds won't hunt her. She steals hot light bread when dey puts it in de window to cool, and lives on dat. She told my mammy how to keep de hounds from followin' you is to take black pepper and put it in you socks and run without you shoes. It make de hounds sneeze.

 In short ... fugitives would do what was necessary to avoid being recaptured and forced back into slavery.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Mar 01, 2015

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"TRICKS AND DETERMINATION" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2002. Jul 21, 2018.
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