In Aiming for Pensacola, Matthew J. Clavin contends that existing scholarship on fugitive slaves in the antebellum era has neglected liminal spaces in the antebellum South, where enslaved people could find sympathetic allies willing to aid them in escaping bondage. Clavin maintains that Pensacola served as one such place, remaining on the social, economic, and geographic margins of the South. As rigid racial hierarchies and fanatical defenses of slavery developed throughout most of the region, Clavin argues that many Pensacolans defied fugitive slave laws to shield enslaved people from authorities.

The author excels in his use of documentary evidence to establish the prevalence of antislavery sentiment in antebellum Pensacola. Clavin mines runaway slave advertisements and legal records for details about the experiences of individual refugees and their collaborators. These sources confirm Pensacola’s reputation as a refuge for fugitives by voicing...

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