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HS Unit I: Free But Far From Equal: The African American Experience in Massachusetts, 1780–1863 Lesson D: The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850: A Case Study of Resistance
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Key Questions

  1. What did African Americans and sympathetic whites do to try and end southern slavery?
  2. How did the Fugitive Slave Act contribute to escalating tensions between slave and free states?
  3. How did people in Massachusetts respond to the Fugitive Slave Act?
  4. What is civil disobedience? When is it used?

Activity 1: Analyzing the Fugitive Slave Act
Activity 2: Comparing and Contrasting Two Points of View in Newspaper Reports
Activity 3: Anthony Burns—Slave-Catchers Come to Boston for the Last Time
Primary Sources
Related Mass Moments

"Shadrach Minkins Seized"
In 1851 black activists freed a captured fugitive slave in Boston.

"Boston Minister Tried for Inciting a Riot"
With the help of black and white activists, fugitive slaves William and Ellen Craft eluded slave catchers.

"Fugitive Slave Anthony Burns Arrested"
Never again would slave catchers capture an escaped slave in Massachusetts.

lesson image credit: Broadside about a fugitive slave; Northern Illinois University