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Slave rescues and the Underground Railroad, United States

Richard J. M. Blackett


On an early spring afternoon almost one year to the day before the outbreak of the Civil War , a large pine box was thrown onto the platform from a train at Seymour, Indiana. The impact caused the box to break and out fell a black man who was immediately arrested. As it turned out, he was a slave from Nashville, Tennessee. Even before the train had reached Seymour, the slave's owner had wired authorities in Louisville, Kentucky to be on the lookout for Aleck who, as he later told an inquiry, was assisted in his efforts to escape by Nathan James, a free black, Alf Savage, a slave who had lived relatively freely in the city for many years, and an unnamed “white man.” Aleck, who attended the same church as James, had paid the white man $60 and a silver watch to cover the cost of his escape. James had procured the box and he and Savage made sure that the box, addressed to Levi Coffin in Cincinnati, got to the local office of the Adams Express Company. Aleck's bid for freedom may have failed, but its organization and the people involved in its execution had been a thorn in the side of the slave system for many years. The incident gives us a rare glimpse into the nature and workings of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) in the South: the slave, determined to be free, was aided by a fellow slave and a free black, both of whom chose to stay behind, and a mysterious white man, who from all ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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