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Marie Jeanne: A Story of Resistance Connecting Early American & Early Mexican histories

Marie Jeanne escaped from her Louisiana enslaver in the 1790s and made it to San Antonio de Bexar where she claimed her freedom and called herself Maria Juana.

Since the 1790s she pleaded with her former enslaver to buy her own son’s freedom and bring him to San Antonio, but the enslaver consistently refused.

As a free woman in San Antonio, she then petitioned the governor for assistance, and finally, on February 9, 1808, Marie Jeanne was able to purchase the freedom of her own son for four hundred pesos.

This case was like a puzzle. I searched many archives across Texas and Louisiana to piece together Marie Jeanne’s life. My first chapter centers her empowering story more fully.

#BlackWomen #FreedomFighters #South of #USSlavery #FreedomDestinations #Mexico

Abraham, Or Doming Otero: Engineering Lives in Mexican Freedom

Abraham was a freedom fighter who left US slavery on February of 1832. He made it to Veracruz Mexico, and there he claimed freedom. As a free man and after settling in Mexico he called himself Domingo Otero. In 1848, the widow of Otero’s former enslaver learned of his whereabouts. Immediately, she sent petitions, through the Governor of Louisiana, to the Governor of Veracruz to have Otero extradited from Mexico and returned to her and to US enslavement. Otero, a skilled master mason (who was fully trilingual –spoke English, Spanish and French)–, however, was a free man. And he remained free south of US Slavery because the country refused to entertain all extradition requests.

#FreedomFighters #BlackLiberation #MexicanDestinations

Archival Documents for Otero can be found at the Wilson Library, Special Collections, UNC Chapel Hill.


Samuel Hudson:  Returning to  Help His People

Samuel Hudson was a freedom fighter born in Mississippi who left enslavement to be free in Mexico. He was on Mexico for about 6 years and returned to the US after emancipation because he wanted to teach at freedmen schools. He said:

“I am a native of Mississippi. I am twenty years of age and have been ashore. I ran away in the year 1860 and have been in Mexico until 1866 when I since returned to the United States and have made my home in Texas. I am now anxious to apply my qualifications for the education of my race.”

Samuel Hudson, “Application for appointment as Teacher of the Freedmen,” May 1, 1867, Letters Received, Register 1, A-L, 1866-1867, Part 3, Freedmens Bureau Records.

#FreedomFighters #MexicanFreedom #Teachers #FreedmenSchools #PrimaryRecords

Slavery in Texas: Setting Limits to Accessing Freedom

Slaveholders in Texas (& across many Southern states also) actively and illegally crossed into Mexico to pursuing formerly enslaved persons who fled from their bondage. Bexar County (San Antonio) slaveholders had official plans on what to do with enslaved persons that slave hunters illegally brought back to the US from Mexican territory.

#FreedomSeekers #SlaveHunters #MexicanDestinations

Roda: An Oddysey to México, An Expected Ending

19 year old Roda dressed as a man and with another companion fled Missouri and sought to reach freedom in Mexico.

After almost almost a four-month journey, in the town of Dhanis, Texas, not too far from the road that led to Piedras Negras, Mexico, she & her companion asked about the way to Mexico. Unfortunately, they were discovered and caught.

Her companion was able to escape, but Roda was committed to the San Antonio de Bexar jail, where a few days later she gave birth to her son. #1856 #FreedomSeekers #FreedomFighters #MexicanDestinations #ManyDidNotMakeItToFreedom

Adaline: Fleeing Bondage Across Texas’s Hill Country

Adaline was a freedom seeker who fled her Blanco County enslaver. She likely traveled south along the Pedernales River hoping to reach Mexico. Many German abolitionist families were known to live in the area and to offer safe havens. Was there a way station for the Underground Railroad located in Blanco County? Did Adaline make it to Mexico? By Steve Rossignol:

Alfred: Making to His to México

Alfred crafted his own channel to liberation from Colorado County, Texas, southward in 1862. He fled a mere 14 days before Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation through which, by law, Alfred would have become free.

The Thomas Family: Saving Themselves From a Lifetime of Slavery

Mr. David Thomas, with his daughter and three grand children, fled US slavery and went to Mexico. He immediately presented himself in the local ayuntamiento of the town of Allende to petition for asylum “to save his family from slavery.”

I am not sure if he ever applied for formal citizenship, but he did receive residency and protection under the laws as any other Mexican citizen.

April 23, 1849

Document is from the Archivo General del Estado de Coahuila

Matilde: A Story of Fighting for Freedom More than Once

Mathilde was a freedom fighter. She escaped her enslaver’s plantation in Louisiana in the 1840s and engineered her own channels to liberation to reach Mexico. She became free as soon as she set foot on Mexican soil.

Her enslaver pursued her, illegally entered Mexico and when he found her, he hired slave hunters to help him take Mathilde back under his bondage.

But Mathilde put up a fight and with the aid of a Mexican family she was able to not only stop the gang of slave hunters from taking her back to US slavery but she helped throw her former enslaver in a Mexican jail.

I found Mathilde in two separate archives in Mexico, the first in Mexico City at the #SRE and the second in the Archivo Histórico de Matamoros in the State of Tamaulipas. And although these records have helped me better understand her freedom fight, there is so much that these don’t tell me.

I hope more scholars continue digging and help highlight more of the story of Mathilde and the thousands of people who sought and experienced Mexican freedom at the many levels it materialized.

Matilda & Her daughter Harriet Ann had, by October 8th, 1850, already escaped bondage and gone to Mexico.

Isabella: A Black Woman’s Fight Utilizing Mexican Law

Isabella, an African-born woman, took her enslaver to court and argued that she had been smuggled into Mexico by the slave trader James Fannin before 1836, and that because Mexican law declared any enslaved person who was smuggled into that Republic free, she was therefore free as soon as she had landed on Mexican soil.

Isabella also declared that shortly thereafter she was forced by her Anglo enslaver to go to Louisiana where she had been repeatedly sold, between 1836 and 1842, even though she had made sure she told every enslaver who bought her that she was a free woman.

Isabella was correct and understood the laws of the spaces she was held. In 1824 Mexico passed the Federal Act of 1824, a law that prohibited the introduction of any enslaved persons, from any foreign country, into Mexican territory, including Mexican Texas. The law stated that any enslaved person who was smuggled automatically gained their freedom upon setting foot on Mexican territory.

Excerpt is from a 107-page court case document located in the manuscript collections at LSU.

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