Turns out there was another Underground Railroad that helped Southern slaves escape their masters before the Civil War—only it ran the other way and relied partly on help from American Indians. Reporting on an upcoming conference in St. Augustine, Fla., the AP describes a lesser-known railroad that once shuttled slaves out west, abroad, or to the Spanish territory of Florida. "It's a fascinating story and most people in America are stuck—they are either stuck on 1964 and the Civil Rights Act or they are stuck on the Civil War," says a St. Augustine business owner.
Less documented than the storied Underground Railroad that ran north, this pipeline probably started after South Carolina was established in 1670 and increased after a slave rebellion in Charleston in 1739. Some slaves took refuge among American Indians, while others fled to Spanish-owned, Catholic Florida and were accepted as religious refugees from Protestant lands. Says one historian: "The Spanish believe the indigenous people and Africans could be converted and as such were humans and had families and souls to save." (Read more slave stories.)