From the African American Registry

On this date 1851, Black [and white] abolitionists broke into a Boston courthouse and rescued Shadrach Minkins, a fugitive slave.

Advertisement of sheriff’s sale of Shadrach Minkins, 1849 Courtesy Gary Collison

Advertisement of sheriff’s sale of Shadrach Minkins, 1849
Courtesy Gary Collison

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.

Attorney Robert Morris (1823–1882)  Recently admitted to the practice of law, Robert Morris served as one of the attorneys representing Shadrach Minkins. Morris was accused of opening the courtroom door to admit Shadrach’s rescuers and charged with treason for his action. After a jury trial, he was acquitted. Courtesy of the Social Law Library, Boston

Attorney Robert Morris
(1823–1882)
Recently admitted to the practice of law, Robert Morris served as one of the attorneys representing Shadrach Minkins. Morris was accused of opening the courtroom door to admit Shadrach’s rescuers and charged with treason for his action. After a jury trial, he was acquitted.
Courtesy of the Social Law Library, Boston

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

Read more about this incident and what happened to the abolitionist rescuers, here.

Read more Breaking News here.