May 24, 1854

Fugitive Slave Anthony Burns Arrested

Region:
Greater Boston

On this day in 1854, Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave from Virginia, was arrested in Boston. His capture enraged black and white abolitionists. Two days after the arrest, a number of them attacked the federal courthouse with a battering ram, hoping to free Burns. Their attempt failed. Burns's defense lawyers were no more successful. After a brief trial, he was ordered returned to slavery. On June 2nd, thousands of people lined the streets of Boston. They hissed and shouted, "Shame! Shame!" as federal authorities escorted Anthony Burns to a ship waiting in the harbor. It took approximately 2,000 troops and cost $40,000 to maintain order and return the black man to bondage. No fugitive slave was ever captured in Massachusetts again.

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