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Time Line of Slavery, Resistance and Freedom (1837 - 1893)

1840s - 1850s - 1860s - 1880s - 1890s

1837 Michigan becomes the nation's 26th state on January 26.
1837 Kalamazoo, Michigan, starts its first antislavery society.
1838 Seymour Treadwell publishes an antislavery book entitled American Liberties and American Slavery Morally and Politically Illustrated.
1838 Some 56 Lenawee County residents are members of the Raisin Anti-Slavery Society.
1839 William M. Sullivan of Jackson, Michigan, begins the American Freeman, the first antislavery newspaper in Michigan. Later in the year, it becomes the Michigan Freeman under the editorship of Seymour B. Treadwell.

The Havilands open the Raisin Institute in Lenawee County. It is the first school in Michigan to integrate students by race and gender.
1841-1847 Ann Arbor, Michigan, residents—including Guy Beckley and Theodore Foster—publish a national antislavery newspaper, the Signal of Liberty. It replaces the Michigan Freeman and is the voice of the Liberty Party.
1841 Sarah and Adam Crosswhite and four of their children escape the enslavement of Francis Giltner in Carroll County, Kentucky.
1842 The Michigan Antislavery Society Meeting is held in Marshall.
1843 Massachusetts and Vermont adopt personal liberty laws.

The Young's Prairie Anti-Slavery Meeting of Quakers is formed in Cass County, Michigan.
1845 Sampson Saunders of Cabell County, Virginia (now West Virginia), arranges for freedom and land in Cass County, Michigan, for those he once enslaved.
1846 The Hamiltons in Lenawee County ask a friend to write to John Bayliss to ask about the two children they had to leave behind in slavery.
1847 Robert J. Cromwell's barber advertisement appears in the Flint Republican on January 3.
In January, Francis Giltner sends his nephew David, grandson Francis Troutman and others to Marshall, Michigan, to recapture the Crosswhite family. Calvin Hackett, Planter Moss and Simon Harris are among the first to arrive to assist the Crosswhites. They are later joined by Samuel Camp, Oliver Comstock, Jarvis Hurd and Charles Gorham, among others.

In April, Perry Sanford and 12 others, including Dave Walker, Henry Buckner and Susan Reynolds, escape enslavement in Kinton County, Kentucky. An earlier group of 22 enslaved people, including William Casey, George Hamilton and Nelson Stephens, had preceded them in their escape. They come to Young's Prairie in Cass County, Michigan. In May, a man named David or John Dunn attempts to recapture Robert Cromwell in Detroit. Irish and African Americans resist the attempt.

On May 8, George De Baptiste, William Lambert and others submitted a series of resolutions to the Signal of Liberty in support of Cromwell and others like him. From April into August, Sanford, Casey and others help farm the land known as Young's Prairie and owned by Stephen Bogue, Zachariah Shugart and Josiah Osborn in Calvin Township, Cass County, Michigan.

In August, 22 Kentuckians, including Thornton Timberlake, Charles Scott and John L., Joseph A. and Milton W. Graves, and their assistants, seek to recapture the Young's Prairie people who had escaped from their Kinton County farms. They fail in their attempt.
1848 The U.S. Circuit Court fines Charles T. Gorham and other Marshall citizens for aiding the Crosswhites.

In December, George De Baptiste, William Lambert, Henry Bibb, Benjamin F. Dade, Alfred Derrick, Richard Gordon, M. J. Lightfoot and James Maten of Detroit issue a set of resolutions concerning the Crosswhite case. They are published on December 29 in the North Star, the national antislavery newspaper founded by Frederick Douglass.

Twenty individuals and two Kalamazoo newspapers, the Telegraph and the Kalamazoo Gazette, subscribed to the Signal of Liberty.

Sanford, Casey and others settle in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Rhode Island passes a personal liberty law.
1849 Kentuckians Scott, Timberlake and Graves sue seven Quakers in the U.S. Circuit Court in Detroit for the "value" of the Young's Prairie fugitives.
1850 Congress enacts the Fugitive Slave Law that allows for federal court-appointed commissioners to judge and settle "fugitive" cases and actively ensure the recapture and return of African Americans who had escaped slavery. Federal marshals were ordered to help recapture formerly enslaved people or receive a $1,000 fine for deliberately neglecting to do so. If someone escaped while held by a marshal, the marshal had to forfeit the full value that an "owner" claimed they were owed for the person or people who escaped from him or her. Anyone found guilty of encouraging and supporting escapees could be fined and imprisoned for up to six months. Recaptured women and men could not testify against white people.

Vermont adopts personal liberty laws. Other states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Kansas and Wisconsin, will follow during the coming decade. The laws forbid justices and judges to recognize the claims of slave owners, extend the Habeas Corpus Act and the privilege of jury trial to fugitives, and punish false testimony. In 1859, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin declares the federal Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional.

Henry W. Bibb publishes his autobiography, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself.
1851-1853 Henry Bibb publishes the Voice of the Fugitive, the first Canadian black newspaper.
1851 A "Robert Cromwell" is listed in the Chatham, Ontario, census.

John P. Chester attempts to recapture Willis and Elsie Hamilton in Lenawee County, Michigan. He accuses David Gordon and his family in Ypsilanti, Michigan, of being the Hamilton family.
1853 The Anti-Slavery Baptist Association is organized at Chain Lake Baptist Church in Cass County, Michigan.
1854 In March, a group in Ripon, Wisconsin, adopts a call for a new political party. Some will claim this as the birth of the Republican Party.

On July 6, Michigan Republicans meet in Jackson to nominate candidates for the fall election. The gathering is so large that it moves outside, "Under the Oaks." Michiganians later claim this as the birth of the Republican Party.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act sets aside the Missouri Compromise, which maintained a balanced number of slave and free sates by always admitting one free and one slave state to the Union at the same time. The new act lets Kansas and Nebraska decide whether they will allow slavery within their borders. In the end, neither does.
1855 Erastus Hussey, a member of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society and the Michigan Senate, and other senators introduced, and see passed, the Michigan Personal Freedom's Acts, P.A. 162 and 163.
1857 Sojourner Truth arrives in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that black people cannot be citizens and that Congress has no power to outlaw slavery in any territory.
1860 Abraham Lincoln of Illinois becomes the first Republican president of the United States.
1861-1865 The American Civil War is fought.
1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which grants freedom to "all persons held as slaves" within a state or part of a state "in rebellion against the United States."
1865 The United States adopts the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
1880 Levi Coffin publishes Reminiscences of Levi Coffin.
1882 Laura Haviland publishes A Woman's Life Work.
1884 A reporter from the Battle Creek Sunday Morning Call reports his interview with Perry Sanford.
1885 An interview with Erastus Hussey appears in Sunday Morning Call on May 3 and 10.
1886 An interview with William Lambert appears in Freedom's Railway: Reminiscences of the Brave Old Days of the Famous Underground Line Historic Scenes Recalled in the Detroit Tribune on January 17.
1890s Dr. Nathan and Pamela Thomas, who lived in Schoolcraft, Michigan, remember helping 1,000 to 1,500 African Americans who had escaped from slavery.
1893 On March 28, Fitch Reed writes to Wilbur Siebert, telling of his Lenawee County assistance to African Americans escaping with John Fairfield from Kentucky, through Ohio and southeastern Michigan.

Contact the Michigan Historical Center.

Updated 08/25/2010

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