The Rescue of Randall Burton

September, 1854 | Aquinnah
1850 "The Bath Slave Case" article from the Liberartor retelling daring Aquinnah Wampanoag assisted Underground Railroad escape of Randall Burton

In 1854, 31-year-old Randall Burton escaped slavery in Florida by hiding in the woods and eventually stowing away on the Franklin, a northern bound ship. The ship's captain, Francis Cook, discovered his presence by the time the Franklin landed in Holmes Hole Martha’s Vineyard, and tried to turn him in to authorities. (1)

With the help of the cook, also of color, he outwitted the Captain and escaped to shore. Burton hid in the swamps in Aquinnah for several days, until he was discovered by Wampanoag women. (2) The women waded into the swamp to rescue him, convincing Burton of their friendship by offering food and women’s clothing to use as a disguise. After emerging from the swamp, they hurried him in their wagon to a boat waiting in Menemsha Bight on the coast of Aquinnah Territory. Burton was then sailed to the safety of New Bedford, a well known juncture on the underground railroad. (3) The story garnered national press coverage because of the instrumental role that women played in the escape.


1. “A Slave Case.” Vineyard Gazette. 09.29.1854 ( https://vineyardgazette.com/news/1854/09/22/runaway-slave )

2. “Rev. Theodore Parker’s Thanksgiving Sermon.” The Liberator. V. 24. No. 49. 12.08.1854 ( https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/rf55zp277 )

3. “The ‘Bath’ Slave Case.” The Liberator. V. 24. No. 40. 10.06.1854 ( https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/5h742559j )


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