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)
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!