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Minkins' (wanted poster)
*The birth of Shadrach Minkins in 1814 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black fugitive slave.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, he escaped from slavery in 1849. Minkins settled in Boston, Massachusetts (a Free State), where he became a waiter. In 1850, Congress enacted the Fugitive Slave Law, which allowed federal agents to seize escaped slaves living in Free states and return them to their owners. United States Marshals arrested Minkins on February 15, 1851; but he was rescued by force by members of the anti-slavery Boston Vigilance Committee.
Minkins then was taken to Montreal, Canada, where he settled in the section of the city known as Old Montreal. There he became a waiter, a barber and then operating restaurants of his own and he married in 1853. The rescue of Minkins brought called for President Millard Fillmore to use federal troops to help marshals enforce the Fugitive Slave Law.
Fillmore's response was a cautious proclamation calling on the citizens of Boston to respect the law and aid in recapturing Minkins. The President also ordered Minkins' liberators to be prosecuted. This incident in his home state deeply embarrassed Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who hoped to be elected President in 1852 with Southern support.
Minkins died in Montreal on December 13, 1875. He is buried in an unmarked grave near two of his children in Mount Royal Cemetery.
The Massachusetts Historical Society