Abuse of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

Many cases like this appeared in newspapers run by African American and white abolitionists. Collected from local papers and correspondents, they were shared to keep attention on the abuses of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. As long as this law was in place, free black Americans could be illegally kidnapped and taken south and sold without any evidence that they were previously enslaved.

This one appeared on the Frederick Douglass Paper on July 16, 1852.

KIDNAPPING. The Ironton Register details a case of kidnapping in Lawrence county. – A negro man, who had been for some time resident in that county, loaned some money to a white man, by name, Collier, who was to give a note for it, payable on demand; but, instead, a note was given payable in a year, including the interest. The negro could not read; but when he learned what the note was, called upon Collier for the money, which was refused.

A day or two after he sent for the negro to come and get his money. The next morning, Collier and two men, named Davis, were seen taking him bound towards the Ohio River. Collier soon after returned, and went to church with the negro’s clothes on!

The absence of the negro under the circumstances, excited the neighborhood, and Collier and the Davises were arrested and held to bail, jointly, in $300. It was soon after ascertained that the negro was in jail at Greenup, Kentucky. He had free papers, which were taken from him.

The accused were indicted but made their escape into Kentucky where they are at large. – Christian Free Press.

To learn more about this law and its tendency towards misuse, check out The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Explained.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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