“Underground Railway to Pensacola,” Houston Maritime Museum, January 24
The “Underground Railway” to Pensacola:
Slaves, Abolitionists, and Florida’s Gulf Coast
In the decades before the Civil War, Pensacola, Florida was a maritime and military community that shared little in common with other seaports along the South’s Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Indeed, because of arid soil, shallow waters, and an extraordinary multiracial, multiethnic, and international population, Pensacola remained on the margins of antebellum southern society. As a result, the city earned a reputation as a gateway to freedom for enslaved people across the Deep South who found the northernmost routes of escape inaccessible. Through an examination of Pensacola during the antebellum era, this lecture tells the forgotten story of fugitive slaves and their allies along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Matt Clavin is an award-winning teacher and historian of the United States and Atlantic world at the University of Houston. He received his Ph.D. at American University in Washington, D.C., and is the author of Aiming for Pensacola: Fugitive Slaves on the Atlantic and Southern Frontiers, which was published by Harvard University Press in 2015. He is currently working on several research projects, including a retelling of the Battle of Negro Fort, a deadly conflict between the United States Army and Navy and hundreds of fugitive slaves and Choctaw Indians in Spanish Florida, and an examination of both the meaning and memory of the Declaration of Independence in nineteenth-century America.