What Were The Punishments Of Slaves Were Caught Escaping Through The Underground Railroad? (Professionals recommend)

If they were caught, any number of terrible things could happen to them. Many captured fugitive slaves were flogged, branded, jailed, sold back into slavery, or even killed. Not only did fugitive slaves have the fear of starvation and capture, but there were also threats presented by their surroundings.

What was the punishment for the Underground Railroad?

A severe beating was the most common form of discipline, usually administered with a bull whip or a wooden paddle. The offender would be hung by the hands or staked to the ground and every slave on the plantation would be forced to watch the whipping to deter them from running away.

What were the punishments for helping runaway slaves?

Any person aiding a runaway slave by providing shelter, food or any other form of assistance was liable to six months’ imprisonment and a $500 fine an expensive penalty in those days.

What punishment did slaves receive?

Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, beating, mutilation, branding, and/or imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted out in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but masters or overseers sometimes abused slaves to assert dominance.

What did slaves do after they escaped?

Most large plantations in the South, however, had slaves who escaped. Slaves’ resistance to captivity took many forms, such as performing careless work, destroying property, or faking illness. Many enslaved persons who were able chose escape, however. Some tried to rejoin family members living on a nearby properties.

Why was there violence in Kansas in the 1850s?

Sporadic outbursts of violence occurred between pro- and anti-slavery forces in late 1855 and early 1856. Despite the visibility of the violence in Kansas, relatively few of the settlers in the new territory were deeply invested in the conflict over slavery.

How did slaves at Mount Vernon resist what were the punishments?

Enslaved people at Mount Vernon found many ways to resist bondage and challenge George Washington’s authority. Resistance ranged from subtle behavior like pretending to be sick, working slowly, and stealing supplies, to more visible actions like fighting with overseers and running away.

How did George Washington punish slaves?

He whipped, beat, and separated people from their families as punishment. Washington also relentlessly pursued escaped slaves and circumvented laws that would allow his enslaved workers freedom if they did manage to escape to neighboring states.

What did the slaves eat?

Weekly food rations — usually corn meal, lard, some meat, molasses, peas, greens, and flour — were distributed every Saturday. Vegetable patches or gardens, if permitted by the owner, supplied fresh produce to add to the rations. Morning meals were prepared and consumed at daybreak in the slaves’ cabins.

Why did slaves escape?

Many enslaved people wanted to be free so they could develop their own talents and make some money of their own. They wanted to be free to live where they chose, to get an education and, especially, to stay with their families.

Underground Railroad

Escapees from slavery travelled north in order to reclaim their freedom and escape harsh living conditions in their home countries. They required daring and cunning in order to elude law enforcement agents and professional slave catchers, who were paid handsomely for returning them to their masters’ possession. Southerners were extremely resentful of people in the North who helped the slaves in their plight. They invented the name “Underground Railroad” to refer to a well-organized network dedicated to keeping slaves away from their masters, which occasionally extended as far as crossing the Canadian border.

In 1850, Congress created the Fugitive Slave Law, which imposed severe fines on anybody found guilty of assisting slaves in their attempts to flee.

Underground Railroad “Stations” Develop in Iowa

Iowa shares a southern border with Missouri, which was a slave state during the American Civil War. The abolitionist movement (those who desired to abolish slavery) built a system of “stations” in the 1840s and 1850s that could transport runaways from the Mississippi River to Illinois on their route to freedom. Activists from two religious movements, the Congregationalists and the Quakers, played crucial roles in the abolitionist movement. They were also involved in the Underground Railroad’s operations in the state of New York.

  • According to one source, there are more than 100 Iowans who are participating in the endeavor.
  • The Hitchcock House, located in Cass County near Lewis, is another well-known destination on the Underground Railroad in one form or another.
  • George Hitchcock escorted “passengers” to the next destination on his route.
  • Several of these locations are now public museums that are available to the general public.
  • Individual families also reacted when they were approached for assistance.
  • When the Civil War broke out and the Fugitive Slave Law could no longer be enforced in the northern states, a large number of slaves fled into the state and eventually settled there permanently.

Iowa became the first state to offer black males the right to vote in 1868. It was determined that segregated schools and discrimination in public accommodations were both unconstitutional in Iowa by the Supreme Court.

Iowa: A Free State Willing to Let Slavery Exist

Slavery has been a contentious topic in the United States since its inception, and it continues to be so today. As new states entered the Union, the early fights did not revolve over slavery in the South but rather its expansion. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 created an east-west line along the southern boundary of Missouri, which would remain in place for the rest of time, separating free and slave settlement. States to the south may legalize slavery, whilst states to the north (with the exception of slave state Missouri) were prohibited from doing so.

  • The majority of Iowans were ready to allow slavery to continue in the South.
  • They enacted legislation in an attempt to deter black people from settling in the state.
  • Iowa did have a tiny community of abolitionists who believed that slavery was a moral wrong that should be abolished everywhere.
  • This increased the likelihood that Nebraska, which borders Iowa on its western border, would become a slave state.
  • The Republican Party has evolved as a staunch opponent of any future expansion of slavery into western areas in the United States.

Supporting Questions

  • $200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
  • “Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Print, 1850 (Image)
  • Fugitive Slave Law, 1850 (Document)
  • Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Document)
  • Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847 (Do

How did runaway slaves rely on the help of abolitionists to escape to freedom?

  • Article from the Anti-Slavery Bugle titled “William and Ellen Craft,” published on February 23, 1849 (Document)
  • Anti-Slavery Bugle Article titled “Underground Railroad,” published on September 16, 1854 (Document)
  • “A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article published on November 8, 1855 (Document)
  • William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, circa 1890 (Image)
  • “Fugitive

How did some runaway slaves create their own opportunities to escape?

  • A newspaper article entitled “The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry Box Brown” published on June 23, 1849 (Document)
  • The Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, published in 1850 (Image, Document)
  • “The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” illustration published in 1850 (Image)
  • Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” published on June 14, 1862 (Do

$200 Reward: Poster for the Return of Formerly-Enslaved People, October 1, 1847

  • After escaping enslavement, many people depended on northern whites to guide them securely to the northern free states and eventually to Canadian territory. For someone who had previously been forced into slavery, life may be quite perilous. There were incentives for capturing them, as well as adverts such as the one seen below for a prize. More information may be found here.

“Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law” Illustration, 1850

  • Written in strong opposition to the Runaway Slave Act, which was approved by Congress in September 1850 and expanded federal and free-state duty for the return of fugitive slaves, this letter is full of anger. The bill called for the appointment of federal commissioners who would have the authority to enact regulations. More information may be found here.

Fugitive Slave Law, 1850

  • As a result of the Fleeing Slave Law of 1850, it became unlawful for anybody in the northern United States to aid fugitive slaves in their quest for freedom. This statute supplemented the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act with additional clauses addressing runaways, and it imposed even harsher sanctions for interfering with their escape. More information may be found here.

Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “William and Ellen Craft,” February 23, 1849

  • In this article from the abolitionist journal, The Anti-Slavery Bugle, the narrative of Ellen and William Craft’s emancipation from slavery is described in detail. Ellen disguised herself as a male in order to pass as the master, while her husband, William, claimed to be her servant as they made their way out of the building. More information may be found here.

Anti-Slavery Bugle Article – “Underground Railroad,” September 16, 1854

  • The Anti-Slavery Bugle article indicates the number of runaway slaves in northern cities in 1854, based on a survey conducted by the organization. This group contained nine slaves from Boone County, Kentucky, who were seeking refuge in the United States. Their captors were said to be on the lookout for them in Cincinnati, and they were found. More information may be found here.

“A Presbyterian Clergyman Suspended for Being Connected with the Underground Railroad” Article, November 8, 1855

  • This newspaper story was written in Fayettville, Tennessee, in 1855 and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a priest in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article details his ordeal in detail. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting escaped slaves on their way to freedom. More information may be found here.

William Maxson Home in West Liberty, Iowa, 1890

  • It was published in the Fayetteville, Tennessee, newspaper in 1855, and is a good example of historical journalism. When Rev. T. B. McCormick, a clergyman in Indiana, was suspended for his membership in the Underground Railroad, the article tells what happened. In the narrative, he is accused of supporting fugitive slaves on their way out of the country. More information may be found at:

“Fugitive Slave Case Was Tried” – A Daily Gate City Article, April 13, 1915

  • This story, which was published in the Keokuk, Iowa, newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915, is about a trial that took place in Burlington in 1850. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had fled from Missouri and had worked for him as slaves. More information may be found here.

“The ‘Running of Slaves’ – The Extraordinary Escape of Henry ‘Box’ Brown” Article, June 23, 1849

  • It was published in the Keokuk, Iowa newspaper The Daily Gate City in 1915 and is about a trial that took place in Burlington, Iowa, in 1850 and was published in The Daily Gate City. Buel Daggs, the plaintiff, sought $10,000 in damages as recompense for the services of nine slaves who had escaped from Missouri and had been working for him. More information may be found at:

Henry “Box” Brown Song and the Engraved Box, 1850

  • Image of the engraving on the box that Henry “Box” Brown built and used to send himself to freedom in Virginia. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. There is a label on the box that says “Right side up with care.” During his first appearance out of the box in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the attached song, Henry “Box” Brown sang a song that is included here. More information may be found here.

“The Resurrection of Henry ‘Box’ Brown at Philadelphia” Illustration, 1850

  • Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped from Richmond, Virginia, in a box measuring three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two and a half feet broad, is depicted in a somewhat comical but sympathetic manner in this artwork. In the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s administrative offices. More information may be found here.

Robert Smalls: “The Steamer ‘Planter’ and Her Captor,” June 14, 1862

  • The escape of Robert Smalls and other members of his family and friends from slavery was chronicled in detail in an article published in Harper’s Weekly. Smalls was an enslaved African American who acquired freedom during and after the American Civil War and went on to work as a ship’s pilot on the high seas. More information may be found here.
See also:  Why Is The Underground Railroad Everywhere Now? (Correct answer)

“A Bold Stroke for Freedom” Illustration, 1872

  • The image from 1872 depicts African Americans, most likely fleeing slaves, standing in front of a wagon and brandishing firearms towards slave-catchers. A group of young enslaved persons who had escaped from Loudon by wagon are said to be shown in the cartoon on Christmas Eve in 1855, when patrollers caught up with them. More information may be found here.

Additional Resources:

  • Harriet Tubman Day is observed annually on March 31. The statement issued by the State of Delaware on the observance of Harriet Ross Tubman Day on March 10, 2017 may be seen on the website. Governor John Carney and Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long both signed the statement. Harriet Tubman – A Guide to Online Resources A wide range of material linked with Harriet Tubman may be found in these digital collections from the Library of Congress, which include manuscripts, pictures, and publications. It is the goal of this guide to consolidate connections to digital materials about Harriet Tubman that are available throughout the Library of Congress website. Scenes from Harriet Tubman’s Life and Times The website, which is accessible through the Digital Public Library of America, contains portions from the novel Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, written by Sarah Bradford in 1869 and published by the American Library Association.
  • Maryland’s Pathways to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in the State of Maryland On this page, you can find primary materials pertaining to Maryland and the Underground Railroad. Information from three former slaves, Samuel Green, Phoebe Myers, and others is included in this collection. “The Underground Railroad: A Secret History” by Eric Foner is a book on the history of the Underground Railroad. The author of this piece from The Atlantic discusses the “secret history” of the Underground Railroad, which he believes reveals that the network was not nearly as secretive as many people believe. Emancipation of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery According to “Documenting the American South,” this webpage focuses on how slaves William and Ellen Craft escaped from Georgia and sought asylum and freedom in the United States’ northern states.

Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (8th Grade)

The content anchor requirements for Iowa Core Social Studies that are most accurately reflected in this source collection are listed below. The subject requirements that have been implemented to this set are appropriate for middle school pupils and cover the major areas that make up social studies for eighth grade students in the United States.

  • S.8.13.Explain the rights and obligations of people, political parties, and the media in the context of a range of governmental and nonprofit organizations and institutions. (Skills for the twenty-first century)
  • SS.8.19.Explain how immigration and migration were influenced by push and pull influences in early American history. SS.8.21.Examine the relationships and linkages between early American historical events and developments in the context of wider historical settings
  • In your explanation of how and why prevalent social, cultural, and political viewpoints altered over early American history, please include the following information: SS.8.23.Explain the numerous causes, impacts, and changes that occurred in early American history
  • And The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, Washington’s Farewell Address, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty with France, the Monroe Doctrine, the Indian Removal Act, the Missouri Compromise, Dred Scott v. Sanford, and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo are examples of primary and secondary sources of information that should be critiqued with consideration for the source of the document, its context, accuracy, and usefulness.

Eastern Illinois University : Teaching with Primary Sources

However, many of the intriguing and lesser known elements of the Underground Railroad are not included in many textbooks, despite the fact that it is an essential part of our nation’s history. It is intended that this booklet will serve as a window into the past by presenting a number of original documents pertaining to the Underground Railroad. Broadsides, prize posters, newspaper clippings, historical records, sheet music, pictures, and memoirs connected to the Underground Railroad are among the primary sources included in this collection.

The Underground Railroad was a covert structure established to assist fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom in the United States.

As a result, secret codes were developed to aid in the protection of themselves and their purpose.

Runaway slaves were referred to as cargo, and the free persons who assisted them on their journey to freedom were referred to as conductors.

Stations were the names given to the safe homes that were utilized as hiding places along the routes of the Underground Railroad. These stations would be identified by a lantern that was lighted and hung outside.

A Dangerous Path to Freedom

Traveling through the Underground Railroad to seek their freedom was a lengthy and risky trek for escaped slaves. Runaway slaves were forced to travel long distances, sometimes on foot, in a short amount of time in order to escape. They accomplished this while surviving on little or no food and with little protection from the slave hunters who were rushing after them in the night. Slave owners were not the only ones who sought for and apprehended fleeing slaves. For the purpose of encouraging people to aid in the capture of these slaves, their owners would post reward posters offering monetary compensation for assisting in the capture of their property.

  1. Numerous arrested fugitive slaves were beaten, branded, imprisoned, sold back into slavery, or sometimes killed once they were apprehended.
  2. They would have to fend off creatures that wanted to kill and devour them while trekking for lengthy periods of time in the wilderness, as well as cross dangerous terrain and endure extreme temperatures.
  3. The Fleeing Slave Law of 1850 permitted and promoted the arrest of fugitive slaves since they were regarded as stolen property rather than mistreated human beings under the law at the time.
  4. They would not be able to achieve safety and freedom until they crossed the border into Canada.
  5. Aside from that, there were Underground Railroad routes that ran south, on their way to Mexico and the Caribbean.
  6. He was kidnapped from his northern abode, arrested, and prosecuted in Boston, Massachusetts, under the provisions of this legislation.
  7. After the trial, Burns was returned to the harshness of the southern states, from which he had thought he had fled.

American Memory and America’s Library are two names for the Library of Congress’ American Memory and America’s Library collections.

He did not escape via the Underground Railroad, but rather on a regular railroad.

Since he was a fugitive slave who did not have any “free papers,” he had to borrow a seaman’s protection certificate, which indicated that a seaman was a citizen of the United States, in order to prove that he was free.

Unfortunately, not all fugitive slaves were successful in their quest for freedom.

Harriet Tubman, Henry Bibb, Anthony Burns, Addison White, Josiah Henson, and John Parker were just a few of the people who managed to escape slavery using the Underground Railroad system.

He shipped himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a box that measured three feet long, two and a half feet deep, and two feet in diameter. When he was finally let out of the crate, he burst out singing.

ConductorsAbolitionists

Train conductors on the Underground Railroad were free persons who provided assistance to escaped slaves moving via the Underground Railroad system. Runaway slaves were assisted by conductors, who provided them with safe transportation to and from train stations. They were able to accomplish this under the cover of darkness, with slave hunters on their tails. Many of these stations would be in the comfort of their own homes or places of work, which was convenient. They were in severe danger as a result of their actions in hiding fleeing slaves; nonetheless, they continued because they believed in a cause bigger than themselves, which was the liberation thousands of oppressed human beings.

  • They represented a diverse range of ethnicities, vocations, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Due to the widespread belief that slaves were considered property, the freeing of slaves was perceived as a theft of slave owners’ personal belongings.
  • Captain Jonathan Walker was apprehended off the coast of Florida while attempting to convey slaves from the United States to freedom in the Bahamas.
  • With the following words from one of his songs, abolitionist poet John Whittier paid respect to Walker’s valiant actions: “Take a step forward with your muscular right hand, brave ploughman of the sea!
  • She never lost sight of any of them during the journey.
  • He went on to write a novel.
  • John Parker is yet another former slave who escaped and returned to slave states in order to aid in the emancipation of others.

Rankin’s neighbor and fellow conductor, Reverend John Rankin, was a collaborator in the Underground Railroad project.

The Underground Railroad’s conductors were unquestionably anti-slavery, and they were not alone in their views.

Individuals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur and Lewis Tappan founded the American Anti-Slavery Society, which marked the beginning of the abolitionist movement.

The group published an annual almanac that featured poetry, paintings, essays, and other abolitionist material.

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who rose to prominence as an abolitionist after escaping from slavery.

His other abolitionist publications included the Frederick Douglass Paper, which he produced in addition to delivering public addresses on themes that were important to abolitionists.

Anthony was another well-known abolitionist who advocated for the abolition of slavery via her speeches and writings.

For the most part, she based her novel on the adventures of escaped slave Josiah Henson.

Efforts of Abolitionists Telling Their Story:Fugitive Slave Narratives

Henry Bibb was born into slavery in Kentucky in the year 1815, and he was the son of a slave owner. After several failed efforts to emancipate himself from slavery, he maintained the strength and persistence to continue his struggle for freedom despite being captured and imprisoned numerous times. His determination paid off when he was able to successfully escape to the northern states and then on to Canada with the assistance of the Underground Railroad, which had been highly anticipated. The following is an excerpt from his tale, in which he detailed one of his numerous escapes and the difficulties he faced as a result of his efforts.

  • I began making preparations for the potentially lethal experiment of breading the shackles that tied me as a slave as soon as the clock struck twelve.
  • On the twenty-fifth of December, 1837, the long-awaited day had finally arrived when I would put into effect my previous determination, which was to flee for Liberty or accept death as a slave, as I had previously stated.
  • It took every ounce of moral strength I have to keep my emotions under control as I said goodbye to my small family.
  • Despite the fact that every incentive was extended to me in order to flee if I want to be free, and the call of liberty was booming in my own spirit, ‘Be free, oh, man!
  • I was up against a slew of hurdles that had gathered around my mind, attempting to bind my wounded soul, which was still imprisoned in the dark prison of mental degeneration.
  • Furthermore, the danger of being killed or arrested and deported to the far South, where I would be forced to spend the rest of my days in hopeless bondage on a cotton or sugar plantation, all conspired to discourage me.
  • The moment has come for me to follow through on my commitment.
  • This marked the beginning of the construction of what was known as the underground rail route to Canada.

For nearly forty-eight hours, I pushed myself to complete my journey without food or rest, battling against external difficulties that no one who has never experienced them can comprehend: “not knowing when I might be captured while traveling among strangers, through cold and fear, braving the north winds while wearing only a thin layer of clothing, pelted by snow storms through the dark hours of the night, and not a single house in which I could enter to protect me from the storm.” This is merely one of several accounts penned by runaway slaves who were on the run from their masters.

See also:  How Old Was When Harriet Tubman Stop Helping Other Slaves Cross The Railroad Underground? (The answer is found)

Sojourner Truth was another former slave who became well-known for her work to bring slavery to an end.

Green and many others, including Josiah Henson, authored autobiographies in which they described their own personal experiences.

Perhaps a large number of escaped slaves opted to write down their experiences in order to assist people better comprehend their struggles and tribulations; or perhaps they did so in order to help folks learn from the mistakes of the past in order to create a better future for themselves.

fugitive slave

The term “fugitive slave” refers to any individual who managed to flee slavery in the time leading up to and including the American Civil War. In general, they sought sanctuary in Canada or in free states in the North, while Florida (which had been under Spanish authority for a time) was also a popular destination. (See also the Black Seminoles.) Enslaved persons in America have wished to escape from their masters and seek refuge in other countries since the beginning of the slave trade. “An insatiable thirst for freedom,” said S.J.

  1. The majority of slaves were uneducated and had little or no money, as well as few, if any, goods.
  2. In order to reach safety in a free state or in Canada, many runaways had to traverse considerable miles on foot, which they did in many cases.
  3. The majority of those who were returned to their owners were subjected to severe punishment in an effort to discourage others from attempting to flee.
  4. Because of the tremendous physical difficulty of the voyage to freedom, the majority of slaves who managed to escape were young males, rather than women.
  5. After the development of the Underground Railroad, a network of persons and safe houses that had developed over many years to assist runaway slaves on their treks north, fugitive slaves’ escape became simpler for a period of time.
  6. According to some estimates, the “railroad” assisted as many as 70,000 people (but estimates range from 40,000 to 100,000) in their efforts to emancipate themselves from slavery between 1800 and 1865.
  7. The runaways would travel in small groups during the night, sometimes covering a distance of 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km) between train stations, constantly running the danger of being apprehended.
  8. The majority of the time, their new lives in the so-called free states were not significantly better than their previous ones on the plantation.

The passage of the Fugitive Slave Actof 1850, which allowed for heavy fines to be levied against anyone who interfered with a slaveowner in the process of recapturing fugitive slaves and forced law-enforcement officials to assist in the recapture of runaways, exacerbated the situation in the North even further.

  • Some of those who managed to flee penned memoirs on their ordeals and the obstacles they encountered on their trip to safety in the north.
  • An further work, Slave Life in Virginia and Kentucky; or, Fifty Years of Slavery in the Southern States of America(1863), relates the story of a slave called Francis Fedric (sometimes spelt Fredric or Frederick), who was subjected to horrific violence at the hands of his master.
  • The Resurrection of Henry “Box” Brown at the Pennsylvania Convention Center It is depicted in an undated broadside issued in Boston as the Resurrection of Henry “Box” Brown, which took place in Philadelphia.
  • The Library of Congress is located in Washington, D.C.
  • He is first filled with excitement at the realization that he has landed at a free condition.
  • Bowie’s Frederick Douglass is a biography.
  • Bowie’s portrait of Frederick Douglass as a fugitive slave was published as the cover artwork for a piece of sheet music, The Fugitive’s Song, that was written for and dedicated to Douglass in 1845.

This alone was enough to dampen the ardor of my enthusiasm.

However, I was overcome with loneliness.

Runaway slaves’ experiences are represented in a number of famous works of American literature, including Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Scarlet Letter.

Eliza Harris is a fugitive slave who In a similar vein, Jim in Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(1884) is an escaped slave who befriends and defends Huck.

In Toni Morrison’s powerfulPulitzer Prize-winning novelBeloved, a third, more modern depiction of the experiences of a fugitive is told from the perspective of an African American woman (1987).

It is based on true events and portrays the narrative of Sethe, a fugitive who chooses to kill her young kid rather than allow herself to be captured and imprisoned by her captors. Naomi Blumberg was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.

Fugitive Slave Acts

Runaway slaves were captured and returned to their owners under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Acts, which were a set of federal statutes passed in 1850 and 1851, respectively, in the United States. The original Fugitive Slave Act, passed by Congress in 1793, empowered local governments to catch and return fugitive slaves to their owners while also imposing penalties on anybody who assisted them in their escape. Widespread opposition to the 1793 statute resulted in the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which expanded the number of rules applicable to runaways and imposed even harsher penalties for interfering with their arrest or capture attempts.

What Were the Fugitive Slave Acts?

Slave laws were implemented in some of the thirteen original colonies as early as 1643 and the New England Confederation, and slave laws were afterwards enacted in a number of the thirteen original colonies. Runaways were prevented from going to Canada by a 1705 statute established by New York, while Virginia and Maryland developed laws giving rewards for the apprehension and return of fugitive enslaved individuals in the United States and Canada, among other things. As at the time of the Constitutional Convention (in 1787), numerous northern states had abolished slavery.

Southern officials were afraid that these new free states might serve as safe havens for fugitive slaves and were relieved to discover that the Constitution had a “Fugitive Slave Clause.” According to this clause (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3) in the case that a person confined to service or labor fled to a free state, he or she would not be liberated from their bondage obligations.

Fugitive Slave Act of 1793

However, even after the Fugitive Slave Clause was ratified into law in the United States Constitution, anti-slavery feeling persisted in most of the Northern United States during the late 1780s and early 1790s, with many petitioning Congress to abolish the institution entirely. Ultimately, Congress approved the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, in response to increased pressure from Southern legislators, who believed that the slave question was causing a wedge between the newly constituted states. Many of the provisions of this decree were identical to those of the Fugitive Slave Clause, but it offered a more thorough description of how the legislation was to be put into effect.

  1. In the case that they apprehended a suspected runaway, these hunters were required to take them before a judge and present documentation demonstrating that the individual was their property.
  2. A $500 fine was also levied on anybody who assisted in harboring or concealing fugitives under the terms of the statute.
  3. Northerners were outraged at the prospect of their states becoming a hunting ground for bounty hunters, and many contended that the law amounted to legalized kidnapping in the first instance.
  4. Most Northern states refused to be implicated in the system of slavery and, as a result, they purposefully ignored to enforce the legislation.

They even enacted “Personal Liberty Laws,” which granted alleged runaways the chance to stand trial in front of a jury and also safeguarded free blacks, many of whom had been seized by bounty hunters and sold into slavery.

Prigg v. Pennsylvania

It wasn’t until the 1842 Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania that the validity of Personal Liberty Statutes was called into question. After capturing a suspected slave in Pennsylvania, Edward Prigg, a Maryland man, was charged with kidnapped and sentenced to prison. The Supreme Court found in Prigg’s favor, establishing the precedent that federal law trumped any state actions that sought to interfere with the Fugitive Slave Act, as interpreted by the Court. Despite landmark judgements such as Prigg v.

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, thousands of enslaved individuals had fled to free states through networks such as the Underground Railroad.

Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

Because of rising pressure from Southern lawmakers, Congress amended the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 and approved a new version the following year. This new rule, which was enacted as part of Henry Clay’s renowned Compromise of 1850—a set of laws that helped quell early aspirations for Southern secession—forcibly required individuals to aid in the arrest of runaway children. Moreover, it removed the right to a jury trial from the hands of enslaved people and increased the punishment for interfering with the rendition process to $1,000 and six months in prison.

  1. They were compensated more for returning a suspected runaway than they were for freeing them, prompting many to believe the legislation was prejudiced in favor of slaveholders in the Southern United States.
  2. As a result, states such as Vermont and Wisconsin developed additional legislation aimed at circumventing and even nullifying the rule, while abolitionists stepped up their efforts to help runaways.
  3. On rare occasions, the resistance erupted into riots and revolutions.
  4. Similar rescues were carried out in the following years in New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Acts

Widespread resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 resulted in the statute becoming essentially unenforceable in several Northern states by 1860, with only around 330 enslaved persons successfully returned to their Southern masters. Despite the fact that Republican and Free Soil members periodically filed measures and resolutions relating to the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act, the statute remained in effect until after the outbreak of the Civil War.

It wasn’t until a joint resolution of Congress passed on June 28, 1864, that both of the Fugitive Slave Acts were abolished.

Fugitive Slaves, Runaways, Enslavement, African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865, Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature, Toolbox Library, National Humanities Center

Virginia runaway ads, 1745-1775(PDF)
A runaway’s explanation, William Chase letter, 1827(PDF)
Escape to Canada, Littles’ narratives, 1856, excerpts(PDF)
Escape to Canada, W. W. Brown narrative, 1847, excerpts(PDF)
On running away, selections from WPA narratives, 1930s(PDF)

Widespread resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 resulted in the statute becoming essentially unenforceable in several Northern states by 1860, and only around 330 enslaved persons had been effectively returned to their Southern masters by that point. Republican and Free Soil legislators proposed proposals and resolutions linked to abolishing the Fugitive Slave Act on a regular basis, but the statute remained in effect until shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War. Neither the Fugitive Slave Act nor the Fugitive Slave Amendment were abolished by an act of Congress until June 28, 1864, respectively.

  1. Advertisements for runaways in Virginia. Runaway advertising may appear to be an unusual source of information on the motivations and goals of runaways, given that they are often boilerplate listings of names, physical descriptions, and monetary prizes offered. Many, however, such as these thirty-five Virginia advertisements from the 1700s, reveal a great deal about the runaways’ intentions and potential success, either directly (“he is such an ingenious fellow, that he can turn his hand to anything”) or indirectly (“he is such an ingenious fellow, that he can turn his hand to anything”) (“he has been much whipped, which his Back will show”). What characteristics do you notice in common among the fugitives? When do a group of slaves manage to escape together? Included are the escape and catch notifications of two fugitives, as well as an explanation for why their attempts failed. An explanation from a fugitive. When Anthony Chase fled from Maryland in 1827, he sent an explanation letter to Jeremiah Hoffman, to whom he had been contracted out by his master as a servant. “What can a man do,” he bemoans, “when his hands are tied and his feet are tied?” he wonders. As part of his commitment to compensate his owner’s widow (who had refused to release Chase as promised in her husband’s will), he says he will “show to her and the world that I don’t plan to be dishonest.” This letter, which was kept with the archives of Hoffman’s father at the Maryland Historical Society, is a monument to the heartbreaking decision to flee, especially in light of Chase’s adamant P.S. exonerating his wife of any complicity. We have no information on what happened to Anthony Chase. The Littles’ accounts of their journey to Canada. We do not know the first name of John Little’s wife, but they were married in Tennessee when they were both enslaved on the same plantation. It was 1841 when they managed to escape, crossing the Ohio River, walking across Illinois to reach Chicago, taking a train to Detroit, and then crossing into Canada, where they lived in the wilderness and began farming. Following their escape from slavery fourteen years later in 1855, abolitionist and Boston newspaperman named Benjamin Drew documented their stories of hardship and near-captivity. It took Little “all the way to Canada” to tell his story of being pursued by mountain lions like a wolf in the highlands. The next sections contain extracts from John Little’s story, as well as sidebars from his wife’s shorter but no less informative tale, entitled Escape to Canada: William Wells Brown’s narrative. According to William Wells Brown, who spent his youth as a slave in Canada, “I would dream at night that I was in Canada, and on awakening in the morning mourn, realizing that I had been so badly misled.” Brown, who was born in Kentucky in 1814, attempted to flee twice but was apprehended on both occasions. According to these portions from his 1847 account, at the age of twenty, he was successful in fleeing from a riverboat on the Ohio River and going through Ohio to Cleveland, where he was captured. What was it that caused him “extreme suffering” the night before he managed to escape? Why didn’t he have any fear of dying during his flight? What was it like for him during his first few days as a free man? How did he come up with his moniker as a free man
  2. When he was on the run. To round up the book, we hear the testimonies of seventeen previously enslaved persons who were interviewed by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, a New Deal program that was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). When the Civil War ended, six of the authors recount their own escapes from slavery
  3. Others describe assisting runaways, witnessing punishment, plotting their own escapes, reuniting with a fugitive parent, and witnessing long-hidden fugitive parents “come out from the woods from all directions” when the war was over. “This is what I know, not what anybody else says,” Margrett Nickerson assures us in an interview conducted more than seventy years after independence
  4. “I have personally witnessed this.”
See also:  Where Were The Slaves Go In The Underground Railroad? (Solution)

In Theme III: COMMUNITY,7: Fugitives, compare the accounts of two Underground Railroad “conductors” with the letters written by fugitives to their former slaveholders in Theme IV: IDENTITY,2, Slave to Free. (There are 31 pages total.) Questions for further discussion

  1. Why did someone choose to leave slavery in the first place
  2. What reasons influenced their decision
  3. In what circumstances and in what manner did they bring family members with them
  4. Why did some fugitives choose to return to their farms voluntarily
  5. List the instances of bravery, quick thinking, assistance, and good fortune that played a role in the successful escapes. What circumstances contributed to unsuccessful escape attempts
  6. Describe the reasons why some enslaved people decided not to try an escape (or a second escape). When it comes to successful runaway slaves’ life in freedom (before to 1865), how do they characterize them? What challengesremained
  7. Describe the types of slave resistance behaviors (and attitudes) that are shown in the fugitive advertising. Which aspects of their advertisements show that they have a hidden regard for their runaway slaves
  8. What opinions against slavery in general emerge from the advertisements for runaways placed by slaveholders
  9. Is it for this reason that Anthony Chase takes the uncommon step of sending a letter to explain his escape
  10. Is it for this reason that he insists his wife is not involved in his escape
  11. Describe why you believe Jeremiah Hoffman sent money to the owner of Chase’s land to compensate her for the loss of property. Compare and contrast the accounts of John Little and his wife, paying particular attention to the specifics of their escape and their subsequent life as farmers in Canada. What does each one place an emphasis on? Why
  12. Compare and contrast the Littles’ accounts with those of William Wells Brown, both of which were published before to the Civil War. Identify and compare the parallels and contrasts in their escapes, the audience for their written recollections, and the attitude they have about their newfound freedom. What is it about William Wells Brown’s choice of a new name that is so crucial to him after he has escaped? What makes him pick the name “Wells Brown”? Why did he retain the name “William”? Compare and contrast the accounts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Remember to take into account their audience as well as the period elapsed between enslavement and the tale, their attitude toward their former slaveholders, and their assessment of their own life as former slaves and subsequently freemen. Determine the spectrum of sentiments regarding fleeing expressed by African Americans who were questioned in the 1930s, and then compare them. What may be the source of this wide spectrum of sentiments, which does not exist in the nineteenth-century accounts
  13. And Create a fictional chat between the pair of fugitive slaves shown below by picking one of them at random. Identify a central subject for the debate (goals for escape, backup plan if caught, message to the twenty-first century, etc.). Include the following quotations:
  • -Bob, a runaway from 1767: “He has been missing for eight years, during which time he spent a portion of his time in Charleston, South Carolina. He knows how to read and write, and because he is a very creative individual, he will almost certainly manufacture a pass.” -“A fresh Negro man,” who fled in 1768: “As he had only arrived in the country three days before his, he could not have taken any specific path to prosecute him, nor did he speak English well enough to give any account of himself. In the words of Anthony Chase, the author of the 1827 letter of explanation: “I know that you will be surprised and shocked when you learn of the unexpected route that I am about to embark on, a step that I had not the faintest notion of taking.”
  • -Thomas Cole, a WPA interviewee who managed to flee the Confederacy during the Civil War: “When I make up my mind, he won’t stand a chance, because I’m going to go off with the first opportunity I have. Not knowing how to get out of dere, I headed north to where there aren’t any slaveowners to help me get out.”
  • -John Little, who escaped to Canada with his wife in 1841: “My wife worked right along with me, though at the time I was unaware of it
  • After all, we were raised as slaves, the women accustomed to working, and undoubtedly the same spirit has come with us here: I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see that she was a brave woman.” Mrs. John Little says the following:” “I had to develop a tough exterior. by the time I arrived in Canada, I was capable of handling an axe, a hoe, or anything else. I was pleased with myself for being able to contribute to getting things cleaned up so that we might have a place to live and enough to eat. I have lost two children to death, and the only one who has survived is a young girl of around five years old. She has only four years on the planet. If the Lord allows it, I aim to have her have a good education.”
  • -Ambrose Douglass, a WPA interviewee who was apprehended after each of his attempted escapes: “I was a young guy at the time, and I couldn’t understand why I should be considered anyone’s property. I’d flee whenever the opportunity presented itself. They came dangerously close to killing me on occasion, but for the most part, they just sold me. I suppose I was a bit husky in that regard. Although they tried their hardest, they were never able to obtain their money’s worth from me.” The following is an excerpt from a WPA interview with Martin Jackson: “Even with my decent treatment, I spent much of my time preparing and thinking about getting away. I could have done it easily, but my old father used to say, ‘It’s no use escaping from bad to worse.'”
  • -William Wells Brown, who eluded capture and fled to Canada in 1824 “During the last night of my enslavement, I did not sleep a wink or close my eyes for even a single second. When I wasn’t thinking about the future, I was thinking about the past.”
  • -John W. Fields, an interviewee for the Works Progress Administration who escaped to Indiana in 1864: “The most powerful hold the South had on us was our ignorance of the situation. We were aware that we might flee, but what would happen then?” The following is an excerpt from an 1855 interview with John Little, who escaped to Canada in 1841 and said, “If there is a man in the free States who claims the colored people cannot take care of themselves, I want him to come here and meet John Little.” Caroline Hammond, WPA interviewee, who fled to Pennsylvania about 1855 and was questioned in 1938: “On my next birthday. I will be 95. I am content with all the amenities of a poor person who is not reliant on anybody else for tomorrow.”
Runaway advertisements: 6
Chase letter: 2
Stills’ narratives: 9
W. W. Brown narrative: 7
WPA narratives: 7
TOTAL 31 pages
Supplemental SitesRunaway Journeys, in In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience, from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public LibraryThe Geography of Slavery in Virginia: 4,000 advertisements for runaway slaves and servants, from Tom Costa and the University of VirginiaFollow the Trail to Freedom in the 1850s, interactive map, from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American HistoryBeneath the Underground: The Flight to Freedom and Communities in Antebellum Maryland, from the Maryland State ArchivesWilliam Still,Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc., 1872, full text in digital images, from Maryland State ArchivesNorth American Slave Narratives(18th-19th century), Introduction, Dr.

William A.

  • “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
  • “Brown narrative,” 1st edition (1847)
  • And “Brown narrative,” 2nd edition (1849)
  • “Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave,” 2nd edition (1849)
  • -A North-side View of Slavery: The Refugee, 1856, by Benjamin Drew
  • Interviews with fugitive slaves in Canada, including John Little and his wife
  • -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • -An Introduction to the North American Slave Narratives (18th-19th centuries), by Dr. William A. Andrews, University of

WPA Slave Narratives, 1930s, full text as digital images, Library of CongressAn Introduction to the WPA Slave Narratives, Norman A. Yetman (Library of Congress)”Should the Slave Narrative Collection Be Used?,”by Norman A. Yetman (Library of Congress)Guidelines for Interviewersin Federal Writers’ Project (WPA) on conducting and recording interviews with former slaves, 1937(PDF)General Resourcesin African American HistoryLiterature, 1500-1865


Image: Runaway slave advertisement, no date, no publication. Reproduced by permission of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library,485464.*PDF file- You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you maydownload it FREEfrom Adobe’s Web site.

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