Revered William King successfully established Elgin as a settlement for fifteen former slaves from Louisiana. Beginning with 4,500 acres, Elgin grew to be over 9,000 acres. Black settlers could purchase land at $2.50 per acre, payable in 10 annual installments. Many whites in the area were strictly opposed to a free black settlement and organized vigilance committees to police the settlement. By 1855, 150 families inhabited Elgin and found work on the railroad. The community placed an emphasis on education; Elgin’s students learned Latin and Greek in addition to English, arithmetic, geography. The curriculum was so strong that white parents enrolled their children.
The first issue of the Emancipator was published on April 30, 1820 in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Elihu Embree published the paper to advocate the abolition of slavery, making it the nation’s first newspaper to focus entirely on abolition. Though short lived, the Emancipator enjoyed success boasting 2,000 subscribers by October when it went out of publication.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was enacted to correct the “flaws” of Article IV, Section 2 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which stated that fugitive slaves should be returned to their masters but did not outline the responsibility state governments had in settling disputes. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 stated that a slave catcher could seize a fugitive, present him to a judge or magistrate and return the fugitive to their master. By the 1830s several judges throughout the north began claiming that the Act was unconstitutional, and several northern states passed personal liberty laws that made it more difficult for slave catchers to leave with a free person of color.
The Fugitive Slave Act initially served as a bill intended to quell grievances from northern and southern states following the Mexican-American War. Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas pushed the bill through Congress as a separate set of laws in a series of acts known as the Compromise of 1850. Technically, the act was an amendment to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which southerners felt gave northern states too much leeway when it came to enforcing the return of fugitives. President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act into law on September 18, 1850. Endangering the 10,000 fugitive slaves living in free states, the act required that all runaway slaves be returned to their masters upon capture. Response to the law in the free states varied from county to county and depended on the abolitionist character of the community.
The members of American Anti-Slavery Society hoped that their Great Postal Campaign would plant seeds of antislavery but it created a frenzy of anti-abolitionist activity. By July 1835, the American Anti-Slavery Society had mailed about 175,000 pieces of antislavery literature to the South, infuriating southern slave owners. A North Carolina mob conducted a mock lynching in protest, rumors spread that southerners were planning to assassinate the society’s leaders and President Andrew Jackson condemned the group and urged Congress to ban antislavery literature from U.S. mail.
The John Hope Franklin Research Center is a repository for African and African-American studies documentation and an educational outreach division of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University. Founded in November 1995 with the support of its namesake, the distinguished historian John Hope Franklin, the Franklin Research Center seeks to collect, preserve, and promote the use of library materials bearing on the history of Africa and people of African descent. The Franklin Research Center is committed to preserving and making available pertinent printed and manuscript materials for the use of scholars, academic researchers, and others. The Duke University Library, in partnership with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, and North Carolina Central also houses several digital collections pertaining to African American history.
In 1840, Former members of the American Anti-Slavery Society formed the Liberty Party in an effort to bring political power to the abolitionist cause and to get abolitionists into public office. The party did not get much voter support and competition from national third party organizations made it difficult for the Liberty Party to advance their cause. After three failed attempts to elect a member of the party in the 1840, 1844 and 1848 elections, the Liberty Party became politically insignificant.
Nelson Hackett stole a horse, saddle, overcoat, and watch from his owner, Alfred Wallace, and escaped from Arkansas to settle in Upper Canada. Wallace soon discovered Hackett’s location and had him arrested and jailed in Sandwich, Ontario and later Detroit, Michigan. Under the charge of larceny, Hackett was extradited back to Wallace’s Arkansas plantation, where he was beaten and sold into Texas. The case upset Canadian and American abolitionists and soon influenced the decision to add Article 10 to the Webster-Ashburton Treaty that limited the extradition on criminals.
Not all runaway slaves tried to make their way north overland. Captain Edward Sayres leased the schooner Pearl intending to transport coal to Pennsylvania. When he could not find work, Sayres partnered with a man named Daniel Drayton to help 76 men, women and children escape slavery in Washington D.C. On April 13, 1848, the schooner set sail down the Potomac River but strong headwinds prohibited them from getting far. A group of slave owners and catchers caught up to the Pearl and overtook everyone on board. Many of the enslaved men and women were sold south and Sayres and Drayton were tried and found guilty.
The Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio is a National Historic Landmark and was a significant site of the Underground Railroad. Built in 1828, Rev. John Rankin’s home became a key location for food, shelter, and information for freedom seekers escaping southern slavery. The historic site contains the original woodwork and several of Rev. Rankin’s personal items. Owned by the Ohio Historical Society, this website provides detailed information about Rev. John Rankin the abolitionist, as well as educational tour information.