This week, we’re going to wrap up our series on the Fugitive Slave Act, and the efforts of black and white abolitionists in Boston to resist what they saw as an unjust law. In last week’s show, we discussed how Lewis Hayden and the Vigilance Committee rescued the fugitive Shadrach Minkins from being returned to slavery. This week, we’re going to learn how that act of resistance led to a federal crackdown in Boston, look at two unsuccessful rescues that followed, and see how the unrest galvanized the apathetic population of Boston into a hotbed of radical abolitionism. Listen to this week’s episode for the exciting conclusion!
With our new President doing his best to enforce unjust executive orders, we thought this would be a good moment to revisit an era in which Boston resisted an unjust law. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, abolitionists in Boston felt that the values of Southern slave power were being forced upon a free city. In 1851, Shadrach Minkins was the first fugitive to be arrested in Boston, but before he could be returned to slavery, a multiracial mob stormed the courtroom and forcibly delivered him to the Underground Railroad. Listen to this week’s episode for the story!
Continue reading Episode 15: Resist! Shadrach Minkins and the Fugitive Slave Act (Black History Month Special, part 2)
Episode 14 deals with slavery and the underground railroad, certainly not humorous topics. But, as always, host Jake’s mush-mouth can make even the most somber topic ridiculous. The line seems so simple…
The Haydens regularly took in fugitive slaves. It’s thought that 25% of the escaped slaves who traveled through Boston passed through the Phillips Street home.
Good thing we’re learning to use our podcast editing software!
Lewis Hayden was born into slavery in Kentucky. When he was ten years old, his owner traded him to a traveling salesman for a pair of horses. But Hayden and his family eventually escaped to freedom, and they settled in Boston. Their Beacon Hill home was a refuge for enslaved people seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad, and he would go as far as threatening to blow the house up instead of cooperating with slave catchers, saying “Go in peace, or go in pieces!” After Lewis Hayden’s death, his wife Harriet endowed a scholarship for African American students at Harvard Medical School, the only endowment contribution to a university made by a formerly enslaved person. For more on these remarkable people, listen to this week’s show!
Boston in the 1600s was a theocracy, where the Puritan church ruled, and women were seen in many ways as the property of their husbands or fathers. Against that backdrop, a woman named Katherine Nanny Naylor stands out. She was able to win a divorce against her abusive and unfaithful husband, then spent the next 30 years as an entrepreneur. She provided herself and her family with a prosperous lifestyle, while living her life independently. Listen to this week’s episode, and celebrate Boston’s original nasty woman!
On August 22, 1927, Bartolomeo Sacco and Nicola Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair at Boston’s Charlestown State Prison. They were foreigners, accused of murder and ties to a shadowy terrorist group. Yet there were worldwide protests, and their funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Boston, with as many as 200,000 Bostonians in attendance. On the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, Governor Dukakis officially cleared their names and declared a day of remembrance for them. How did these men go from hated foreign enemies to victims of a politicized justice system? Find out in this week’s episode!
On a hot summer’s night in 1834, rumors swirled around a Catholic girls’ school in Charlestown. Catholicism was a frightening, unfamiliar religion, and Catholic immigrants were viewed with great suspicion. People said that the nuns were being held in slavery, or that Protestant children were being tortured and forcibly converted. A crowd gathered, and violence flared. When the sun rose the next morning, the Ursuline Convent lay in smoking ruins. Thirteen men were tried, but none served time. What deep seated biases led Yankee Boston down this dark road? Listen to this week’s episode to find out!
In August of 1801, a young man named Jason Fairbanks showed up on his sweetheart’s doorstep. He was covered in blood, and telling the story of a suicide pact gone wrong. This tale of a rich kid gone astray could be ripped from today’s tabloid headlines. Fairbanks and his presumed sweetheart Eliza Fales were the center of a sensational trial, a daring escape from jail, and a manhunt that stretched to the Canadian border. Does this story of star crossed lovers have a happy ending? Listen to this week’s show to find out!
There is a long history of shipwrecks in Boston Harbor. Many are terrifying, some are tragic. But one shipwreck is such an oddity that Boston hasn’t stopped talking about it for the past 75 years. When a freighter called The City of Salisbury steamed into Boston Harbor in 1938, it was loaded with exotic, tropical zoo animals. When it ran aground near Graves Light, you’ll never guess what happened next!
Life got in the way this week, and we didn’t have a chance to prepare a full episode. We’re going to do a miniature episode (minisode!), on this week’s historical anniversaries, with a quick discussion of Christmas in Puritan Boston. Enjoy!