Water was the way–how enslaved people escaped to freedom

The brave and daring tomboy who loves horses, Realie

The brave and daring tomboy who loves horses, Realie

Realie Baxter made a big sacrifice one March morning in 1844.  She dared to believe that she had a right to freedom and in her defiance, she ran away from her home and seventeen brothers and sisters. Still, the story of my character Realie and her flight to freedom is one that didn’t happen too often in the reality of nineteenth century life.

We are told so often about the wonders of the Underground Railroad, and how many escaped enslaved people used secret means to find shelter in accepting homes through codes with quilts being hung out and other paraphernalia. We learn in school of the Quakers and other white abolitionists who were willing to help enslaved people to escape. What we don’t know is that those incidents were the exceptions. They were the rarities amongst the very small percentage of those who were able to escape.

Most of the successful escapes occurred over water in some respect.  Frederick Douglass took a boat and two trains to freedom.  Harriet Jacobs escaped to hide in a swamp first and then moved to her grandmother’s garret for seven years until it was safe to go northward, by boat.

For Douglass and Jacobs to ensure that they were truly free for the remainder of their lives, benefactors had to make a financial transaction with their former owners and purchase them. Many of the enslaved who were in this position hated that money had to change hands, but it was the only way to ensure their liberty. This is the part of some of the “escape to freedom” tales that gets left out.  So-called “free” people were always looking over their shoulder unless they ensured their freedom by a financial transaction that occurred officially in a court or by with an official document–like a will.  As many saw in last year’s 12 Years a Slave, free people were never really free in the United States. It would take a war to free them after too many Realie Baxters dared to steal themselves to liberty.

The back of the book summary  for The Lawyer’s Luck:

Oberlin, Ohio – 1844

Lawrence Stewart is a rare man. Raised with his grandmother’s Miami Indian tribe, he’s a Negro with brown skin, and has consistently walked between two worlds most of his life. He devotes his time and study to becoming a lawyer, fully intending to obtain justice for the ousted Miami Indians. No Negro man has accomplished these things before, but he is not daunted. He studies for his exams as he rides circuit through the backwoods of Ohio, handing out justice to people who cannot easily reach a courthouse.  His life is perfectly set until one June day….

Aurelia “Realie” Baxter made her way from enslavement in Georgia to the free land Lake Huron in Ohio. Far from happy as a slave doing the bidding of a woman cooped up in a house all day, Realie is a bona fide tomboy with a special gift with horses. Now, she is so close to freedom in Canada, she can smell it, but her plans are interrupted when Lawrence shoots her…by mistake….

Lawrence cannot study encumbered with the care of an enslaved woman, but he’s responsible for her injury…

Realie wants to get to Canada, but Lawrence won’t let her get away in trying to help her…

One chance meeting can change your life from what you thought you wanted….to what you really need.


6 thoughts on “Water was the way–how enslaved people escaped to freedom

  1. I have always thought water has special powers as a symbol, transportation, life force. Thanks for bringing this part of history to light.

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