Lucie and Thornton Blackburn fled slavery in Kentucky for freedom in Detroit in 1831. They were both enslaved in Louisville when they met, and decided to run away together shortly after their owners agreed to let them get married. In 1833, slave catchers captured and jailed the couple. Detroit’s small, supportive black community refused to let them be returned to slavery. A large group of men and women gathered around the jailhouse and developed a plan to smuggle Lucie out of jail in another woman’s clothes. When the jailers attempted to march Thornton out of the city in chains, protestors surrounded his handlers and quickly shuffled him into a carriage before taking him and his wife across the river to Windsor.
Lucy Stone dedicated her life to abolitionism and the fight for women’s rights. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, making her the first woman in Massachusetts to earn a bachelor’s degree. After giving a speech at her brother’s church, William Lloyd Garrison hired her to be an abolitionist lecturer. When Congress ratified the Fifteenth Amendment after the Civil War, she broke with the majority of her female suffragist colleagues to support the amendment.
The Manumission Society of North Carolina was founded in 1816 by anti-slavery Quakers. Though most of the organization’s membership belonged to the Society of Friends, its membership grew to include Protestants and slave-owners. The society established branches throughout the state, collectively meeting once a year to discuss their activities. In its most public act, the society published An Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery in 1830 but disbanded four years later following a dispute over colonization.
The Manumission Society of Tennessee was organized on February 25, 1815 in Jefferson County. Within a year the society had branches around the entire state. Delegates around the state were expected to meet once a month and the entire membership was expected openly advertise and support the organization. In 1820, member Elihu Embree began publishing the Emancipator, America’s first newspaper devoted entirely to the abolition of slavery.
Upon being captured by slave catchers, Margaret Garner murdered her children to prevent them from returning to slavery. With her husband, four children, and in-laws, Garner had fled the Kentucky plantation on which they were enslaved. The family was discovered after they arrived in Cincinnati. Robert Garner fired a shot at the slave catchers, but he missed. Desperate, Margaret grabbed a knife and cut her daughter’s throat. The entire family was arrested and sold down river. The Garner family tragedy has inspired several works of art, from Thomas Satterwhite Noble’s 1867 work “The Modern Medea” to Toni Morrison’s haunting masterpiece Beloved.
The Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce in Marshall, Michigan, hosts this Michigan Underground Railroad website. Featuring the history of the ‘The Crosswhite Case,’ a narrative account of Calhoun County, as well as links to information about the UGRR stop in Marshall, MI, this website offers a wealth of Michigan historical information from 1848-1895.
Martin Delany was born in Charlestown, Virginia in 1812 to Pati, a freeborn seamstress and Samuel, a plantation laborer. Pati fled Virginia for Pennsylvania with her children and purchased her husband’s freedom in 1823. When he was 19, Delany attended the Lewis Woodson’s African Educational Society School in Pittsburgh. In 1846 he founded the Mystery, an abolitionist newspaper, leaving it to serve as editor of Frederick Douglass’s North Star. After the passing of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Delany became an active supporter of emigration. He wrote several works on race and traveled to Africa to set up an American colony for former slaves.
Mary Ann Shadd was born to free parents Abraham and Harriet Shadd on October 9, 1823. Her parents were leaders of a free black community in Wilmington, Delaware but moved the family to West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1833 to escape Delaware’s black codes. Shadd attended a Quaker school and learned literature, religion, writing, arithmetic, Latin, French and mechanical arts. As a teenager she returned to her hometown, opening a school for black children. She later taught in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, eventually moving to Canada with her family. In Canada she started a school, wrote several guides for fugitive slaves, started a newspaper and campaigned against Henry Bibb and the Refugee Home Society.
In 1838 or 1839, William and Nicholas Sullivan published the American Freeman, Michigan’s first abolitionist paper. Within a year of production, Seymour B. Treadwell took over the paper to stabilize it, but financial troubles led him to dissolve the paper entirely. Treadwell started another paper called the Michigan Freeman. In 1941, the Michigan Anti-Slavery Convention elected Theodore Foster and Guy Beckley to create the Signal of Liberty. Based in Ann Arbor, the Signal of Liberty was the most successful abolitionist paper in the state.
The American Anti-Slavery Society inspired the creation of many antislavery societies in Michigan. Elizabeth Chandler’s Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society was the first of its kind in Michigan in 1832. Four years later, the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society formed in Ann Arbor. In 1837, Robert Banks, William Lambert and Madison J. Lightfoot formed the Detroit Anti-Slavery Society.