Africans brought to Jamestown are the first slaves imported
into Britain's North American colonies. Like indentured
servants, they were probably freed after a fixed period of
Massachusetts jurist and printer, Samuel Seawell, publishes
the first North American antislavery tract, The Selling of
Describing slaves as real estate, Virginia
lawmakers allow owners to bequeath their slaves. The same
law allowed masters to “kill and destroy” runaways.
Battles at the Massachusetts towns of
Lexington and Concord on April 19 spark the war for American
independence from Britain.
Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia founds the
world’s first abolitionist society.
Benjamin Franklin becomes its president in 1787.
The Continental Congress asserts "that these
United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and
Slave Act of 1793
The United States outlaws any efforts to
impede the capture of runaway slaves. However many Northern
states sought ways to circumvent the Act; indeed the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled in 1842 that the states did not have to
offer aid in the hunting or recapture of slaves, greatly
weakening the law of 1793.
Importing African slaves is outlawed, but
was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and
anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress,
involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western
territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana
Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north except within
the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. Prior to
the agreement, the House of Representatives had refused to
accept this compromise, and a conference committee was
Term 'Underground Railroad'
There are several versions of
the origin of the term "Underground Railroad." One story
says that in 1831 a fugitive slave named Tice Davids escaped
from Kentucky to safer ground in Sandusky, in northern Ohio.
When David's master looked in vain for him in Ripley, just
across the Ohio River, he is said to have commented, "The
nigger must have gone off on an underground railroad."
Another version explains that the term came into use among
slave hunters in Pennsylvania who experienced similar
frustrations. Yet a third story places the origin in
Washington DC, in 1839, when a fugitive slave, after being
tortured, allegedly claimed that he was to have been sent
north, where "the railroad ran underground all the way to
Boston." Whatever the actual first use of the term, it was
common by the mid-1840s to speak and write of the
Underground Railroad as a clandestine system for runaway
slaves. It was already in part a legend, a construction of
historical memory, as much as it was historical by the time
of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
England abolishes slavery in its colonies including Jamaica,
Barbados, and other West Indian territories.
The Compromise of 1850 was a package
of five bills, passed in the United States in September
1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the
slave states of the South and the free states of the North
regarding the status of territories acquired during the
Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The compromise, drafted by
Whig Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky and brokered by Clay and
Democrat Stephen Douglas, avoided secession or civil war and
reduced sectional conflict for four years. See also below.
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
response to the weakening of the original fugitive slave
act, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed by the United
States Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850 between
Southern slave-holding interests and Northern Free-Soilers.
This was one of the most controversial acts of the 1850
compromise and heightened Northern fears of a "slave power
conspiracy". The new law declared that all runaway slaves
were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters. Any
Federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an
alleged runaway slave was liable to a fine. Law-enforcement
officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone
suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than
a claimant's sworn testimony of ownership.
On October 1. 1851, William
Henry, an escaped slave who called himself 'Jerry', was
arrested in Syracuse, New York under the Fugitive Slave Law.
The anti-slavery Liberty Party was holding its state
convention in the city, and when word of the arrest spread,
several hundred abolitionists including Charles Augustus
People] broke into the city jail and freed Jerry.
The event came to be widely known as the Jerry Rescue.
In the aftermath, the Congregationalist minister Samuel
Ringgold Ward had to flee to Canada to escape persecution
because of his participation.
The fight against slavery in
Central New York and the Finger Lakes region and the desire
to help escaped slaves occurred because New York State was a
free state and a number of well positioned citizens
who were sympathetic to the slaves lived in the area. The
central location of Syracuse meant that many slaves passed
through the area "on their way to freedom" in Canada .
Setting aside the Missouri Compromise
of 1820, Congress permits these two new territories to
choose whether to allow slavery. Violent clashes erupt.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857),
also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a landmark
decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African
descent brought into the United States and held as slaves
(or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were
not protected by the Constitution and were not U.S.
citizens. Since passage
of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the decision
has not been a precedent case, but retains historical
significance as perhaps the worst decision ever made by the
Abraham Lincoln of Illinois becomes the first Republican to
win the United States Presidency.
Four years of brutal conflict claim 623,000 lives.
President Abraham Lincoln decrees that all slaves in Rebel
territory are free on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation only
freed those slaves in states that were in rebellion against
the United States. The proclamation did not free slaves in
the states that never left the Union.
Amendment to the United States Constitution Outlaws Slavery
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