Many West Africans were sold to south plantation owners who cultivated rice in the marshy lowlands in South Carolina. Planters preferred West Africans because they were experienced rice farmers who could make the plantations successful. African American men and woman of all ages left the plantation and headed North for freedom. But most runaway slaves were young men who could withstand the hardships of fugitive life. To escape the deep South and make it North to New York, Massachusetts or Canada meant a journey of hundreds of miles. They usually went on foot. Escaped slaves faced a life of hardship, with little food, infrequent access to shelter or medical care and the constant threat of local sheriffs, slave catchers or civilian lynch mob.