Black History: Researcher traces escape routes slaves in Natchitoches used to get to freedom
NATCHITOCHES, La. (KSLA) -Dr. Rolonda Teal is a historical archaeologist and professor and has spent much of her adult life researching the escape routes of people enslaved in Natchitoches.
In the early 1800s, the Cane River served as a passageway to freedom to Nacogdoches, Texas. Slavery didn’t really start in Texas until the 1840s.
Dr. Teal added that the route along the Cane River led to an area near the Sabine River that was considered a neutral spot — if slaves could make it there.
“Slaves that lived in Natchitoches, in about 20 miles you were in a neutral territory, and when you crossed the Sabine River you were in another country, Spain.”
Dr. Teal says slaves then would continue to travel into Mexico because they had a better chance of maintaining that freedom. Many did not make it to freedom and were captured.
“So what it really shows is not necessarily a successful escape attempt, but it shows people were always trying to change their conditions.”
At that time, minimal records were maintained regarding African-Americans other than the price of how much they were worth or sold at auction. Dr. Teal says there certainly were not any records of escape attempts.
Through paper trails and family accounts, Dr. Teal is keeping history alive. She says much of this history has been left out of the history books and she along with other researchers are working to help fill in the gap.
“It gives another perspective of what happened to enslaved people who tried to seek freedom.”
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