Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From Fugitive Slave to Citizen

On February 15 in Black History...

Black Abolitionists Invade Boston Courtroom and Rescue Shadrach Minkins, a Fugitive Slave

On Saturday morning, February 15, 1851, two officers posing as customers at Taft’s Cornhill Coffee House seized the waiter Shadrach Minkins, a “stout, copper-colored man,” who had escaped from slavery in Virginia and settled in Boston. Minkins was taken to the nearby courthouse for a hearing. Lawyers Robert Morris, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Ellis Gray Loring and Samuel E. Sewall offered their services as Minkins’ counsel. They immediately filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Judicial Court seeking Minkins' release from custody.
Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, refused to consider the defense’s habeas corpus petition. Later, a crowd of black and white abolitionists entered the courthouse, overcame armed guards and forced their way into the courtroom.

In a chaotic struggle, black abolitionists arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic. From there, Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad. On an order from President Millard Fillmore, nine abolitionists, including Robert Morris, were indicted. Charges against some were dismissed, while others, including Morris and Hayden, faced a jury in court. Utimately, each was aquitted.  Source:  http://www.masshist.org/longroad/01slavery/minkins.htm

Shadrach Minkins: From Fugitive Slave to Citizen by Gary Collison An impressive feat of detective work lies behind this portrait of Shadrach Minkins, the first black man arrested in New England under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Minkins had escaped from slavery in Virginia and come to Boston, where he was arrested in February 1851. Before his case could come to trial, however, a group of black citizens invaded the courtroom and spirited Minkins away. Thereafter, except for scattered newspaper accounts and anecdotes, Minkins was lost to history. In uncovering evidence that Minkins settled in Montreal, where he helped establish a community of blacks who fled slavery, author Gary Collison restores Minkins and paints a fascinating portrait of those troubled times.  Source:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/474939

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