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Sat, 02.15.1851

Abolitionists Rescue a Slave From a Courtroom

Shadrach Minkins

*On this date in 1851, Black abolitionists broke into a Boston courthouse and rescued Shadrach Minkins, a fugitive slave. Born in Norfolk in 1800, Minkins was affected by the Nat Turner rebellion and the death of his owners, Thomas and Ann Glenn.

Minkins escaped north to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1850. A year later, working as a waiter serving breakfast at a coffeehouse in Boston, history caught up with him. Arrested, he was the first runaway to be detained in New England under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Minkins became a catalyst of one of the most dramatic episodes of rebellion and legal wrangling before the Civil War.

After his daring courthouse rescue, he escaped to Canada and created the city's first Black community with other African American expatriates in Montreal. Minkins died in 1875 without a country but a free man.


The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0

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