Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The More Things Change...

Cover to "The Boston Slave Riot," 1954"On Wednesday evening last, about eight o'clock, Anthony Burns, colored, while walking in Court street, was taken into custody..." The aftermath turned into a riot for social justice on the streets of Boston because of differential treatment based on skin color. No, this wasn't last Wednesday, it was in 1854.

Anthony Burns was a fugitive slave who had fled to Boston after escaping from Charles Suttle in Alexandria, Virginia. He was captured by order of a U.S. Federal Marshal compelled by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. By law, it was an open and shut case, but the strong abolitionist community in Boston took to the streets in protest and a riot ensued. Despite the social unrest. Burns was taken back to Virginia, then sold by Suttle. Burns's new "master" allowed a group of Bostonians, including Thomas Higginson, to buy his freedom. He went on to graduate from Oberlin College in 1858.

We just purchased The Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns (Boston: Fetridge and Co, 1854), a pamphlet with a contemporary account of the arrest, trial and riots--all of which transpired in a week.  You can read the sobering account yourself by asking for 1926 Coll B678.

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