Terms like “slave stampede” or “stampede of slaves” began appearing in American newspapers in the late 1840s, as a way to describe larger groups of Black freedom seekers moving together toward liberation, sometimes armed and ready to defend themselves.  With or without weapons, the national press tended to portray these group escapes as powerful forms of mobile insurrections. The term spread quickly during the fugitive crisis of the 1850s, and eventually became a staple of the sectional debate.  This website contains over 1,000 newspaper articles detailing nearly 200 attempted stampedes mainly from across the Upper South between 1847 and 1865.  Our focus, however, has been on eastern Missouri and the numerous group escapes that occurred across the Missouri borderlands.  For this project area, we have provided extensive, multi-media narratives covering more than two dozen of these recorded stampedes along with supporting information on various other types of known escapes from across the state, ultimately involving over 1,500 freedom seekers from Missouri alone.  We have also incorporated these individual stories into an online monograph (with clickable footnotes) that can help explain why both abolitionists and slaveholders viewed such slave stampedes as a powerful form of revolutionary action.  We argue that slave stampedes have been underestimated as a concept for study and should be regarded as one of the more potent Black-led contributions to the destruction of American slavery.  Please take a look at these resources and decide for yourself.  We will always welcome your feedback or questions via email: hdivided@dickinson.edu. 

Project Organizers

Dr. Deanda Johnson, National Park Service Network to Freedom

Prof. Matthew Pinsker, House Divided Project at Dickinson College

QUICK LINKS