Activities of the Underground Railroad Assisted escaping slaves in the U.S. Illegal group of abolitionists and sympathizers Helped conduct several thousand fugitive slaves to freedom
Organized Resistance ◦ Specific roles on the route Many known as “conductors” Set up secret meeting places, or “stations” Organized into small groups to avoid discovery
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Designed to stop these activities ◦ Federal commissions for fugitive slave cases ◦ Cases heard by commissioners, not juries ◦ Alleged slaves could not testify ◦ Simple affidavit enough to reclaim a “slave”
Impacted Marshal Service Federal Marshals required to assist slave hunters Could deputize bystanders on the spot Refusal to help was made a felony
Infuriated the North The Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the Act unconstitutional (overturned) Many states passed Personal Liberty Laws ◦ Laws stressed that residents of those states did not have to abide by the Fugitive Slave Act ◦ “Nullified” the Act ◦ Purpose?
Cracks in the Compromise The Fugitive Slave Act enflamed Northern opinion ◦ Assaulted ideas of personal liberty ◦ Assaulted ideas of fair play ◦ Growth of the “Slaveocracy” Reaction to the Act infuriated the South ◦ Would the “Free” states continue to abide by the Constitution? ◦ What protections existed for their “property”?
Summary: In a short response of one to two sentences, reply to the following prompt: Why is it important to investigate this particular episode of American history?