She Hid Her Gender To Escape Slavery

Maria Weems Portrait in male attire
Leslie Taylor-Grover
November 16, 2021

Anna Weems watched her as her brothers were sold down South. Her father had managed to purchase her mother and sister’s freedom – but their enslaver refused to sell Anna! What was he planning to do with her?

Everyone knew what could happen to an enslaved girl. The enslaver made Weems sleep beside his bed to keep her close. So she began planning, and one anguish-filled night she finally slipped out under the cover of darkness. Enraged, he put a $500 bounty on her head! She kept running.

The Underground Railroad hid her first in the Black community, then at the home of a white doctor. Slave catchers were everywhere, but Weems wasn’t going to give up. She had plans of her own.

When winter began, the doctor gave her a pair of pants, a boy’s shirt, and a hat. Dressed as a boy, she swung up on the doctor’s horse-drawn carriage as the “coachman.” At every stop, she nearly fainted from tense nerves. Did anyone suspect her dangerous ruse?

No! She made it to her aunt and uncle in Canada. Weems’ story demonstrates a valuable lesson for us as we fight for liberation. When we're faced with a seemingly impossible obstacle, we may have to get creative to overcome it!

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