The Circle Association's
African American History of Western New York state
1830 to 1865







21st century





1830a. In 1830, Austin Steward was approached by Blacks from Cincinnati who asked him to assist them in establishing the colony of Wilberforce in Ontario, Canada. For more details on Steward see Austin Steward timeline.

1830b. Thomas Leonard and his sister Jane moved to Onanadaga County from the South. More about Thomas and Jane Leonard.



1831a. Vine Street Church was organized in Buffalo.

1831b. Rochester's Austin Steward was vice-president of the First Annual Convention of People of Color held in Philadelphia. For more details on Steward see Austin Steward timeline.

1831c. Catherine Harris first moves from Buffalo to Jamestown.


1832a. Buffalo became a full-fledged city of over 10,000 inhabitants in 1832.

1832b. Henry Moxley (1815-1887), a fugitive slave from Virginia, settles in Buffalo. He becomes an important person in the religious and political community. He became a deacon of the A.M.E.Z. church and an organizer the 1843 National Convention of Colored Men. Also see 1867.


Thomas James becomes a Reverend in Rochester. [more on Thomas James]


1835a. Buffalo Fugitive Slave Case and Riot.-- Yesterday afternoon our streets were thronged by a mob under considerable excitement, produced by the arrest of a slave family and their subsequent rescue. As far as we can learn the facts, they are briefly these. One Tait, a slave agent from the south, having learned a family of slaves, consisting of a man [Stanford], his wife, and a child, were living at St. Catharines, U.C., went over and brought them away in the night. They were followed to this city, when a party of Blacks organized and pursued the kidnappers as far as Hamburg, where they effected a rescue, and bore the liberated individuals off in triumph with the intention of placing them again on the Canadian side, but when at the ferry, at Black Rock, a reencounter took place between them and several citizens, who had been called by the police to assist in arresting them, which resulted in some severe injuries on both sides. One young gentleman named Freemont, attached to Mr. Duffy's Theatre, received a dangerous contusion on the temple from an iron ball in the hand on one of the Blacks during the melee. The slaves succeeded in making good their escape. Eight or ten of the Blacks engaged in the riot have been committed by Justice Grosvenor, for trial. [Daily Commercial Advertiser (Buffalo, NY), July 13, 1835] -,_1835.html

1835b. An Abolitionist meeting in Utica is involuntarily dispersed.

1835c. Reverend Thomas James leaves Rochester for a church in Syracuse. [more]

1835. Austin Steward returns from the Wilberforce Colony with savings depleted. For more details on Steward see Austin Steward timeline.


1836a. The New York Women's Anti-Slavery Society bars blacks from membership.

1836b. The Ladies Literary and Dorcas Society, an organization of Black women was founded in Rochester New York.

1836c. The Michigan Street Baptist Church was found in Buffalo. Also see 1845 and 1892.

1836d. Escaped slave and Black Abolitionist lecturer and writer, William Wells Brown moves to Buffalo. Brown and members of Buffalo's Anti-Slave Society would watch for servants of the wealthy southerns visiting Niagara Falls. Secretly separating them from their masters, they would tell slaves that as New York was a free State, they were free. During the 1830s and 1840s, Brown worked jobs that gave him proximity to slaves. While working as a cook on a steamer from Cleveland to Buffalo, he concealed slaves and turned them over to a Canadian abolitionist. In the 1842 he took 70 slaves to their freedom. William Wells Brown lived at 13 Pine Street. In 1844 after lectuing in Attica, New York, Brown was refused accomodation. The next year he left Buffalo forever. [Goldman] [more on William Wells Brown]



1837a. The Young Ladies Literary Society, an organization of Black women was founded in Buffalo.

1837b. Austin Steward moves to Canandaigua New York where began writing the classic journal of black history, Twenty Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman: EMBRACING A CORRESPONDENCE OF SEVERAL YEARS, WILBERFORCE COLONY, LONDON, CANADA WEST . It was publishd in 1857. For more details on Steward see Austin Steward timeline.

1837c. American Anti-Slavery Society Branches in Western New York, 1837-38: List of Anti-Slavery Societies in the eight counties of Western New York (Alleghany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming) as reported in the published annual reports of the American Anti-Slavery Society for 1837 and 1838. Original spellings of place names and individuals have been retained. List includes the location, and may include the name of the branch secretary or secretaries, and the date that the branch was established.

1837d. Jermain Loguen moves from St. Catherines to Rochester. More on Jermain Loguen.



1838. Buffalo City Anti-Slavery Society was founded, prominent Black members included George Weir, jr., Abner Francis, and James Whitfield.


1839a. Harriet Powell, who was of one quarter African heritage, came to Syracuse around October 1, 1839, as a servant to a wealthy couple visiting from Mississippi. Originally from Onondaga County, the Davenport's were the toast of the town in Syracuse high society. They were also the subject of intense discussion as it became known their young companion was not a member of the family, as many had first assumed. As word spread that the beautiful young woman was held in slavery by the couple, plans were quickly made to offer her liberty. She was approached by African American employees of the Syracuse House, the downtown hotel (now the site of OnBank) where the family was staying. Harriet made up her mind to risk escape, knowing she'd never again see her mother and sister, who were also held in slavery by the Davenports. [more about Helen Powell]

1839b. In 1839 New York State's first public school opened in Buffalo. The school was not segregated. An African School is established in July within the Buffalo School System. This school is located on Washington Street and has 30 children attending. The total of$150 for teacher's salary suggests there was probably one teacher.



1840. A census said Buffalo housed over 18,000 people. Its Negro population as 350, some of whom were live-in domestic servents scattered about the city. Most lived in the Michigan-William Street area which remained the center of the African American area for at least 90 years.



1841. Abner H. Francis operated a clothing store and was one of the organizers of the local Colored Conventions in the 1830's and 1840's.


1842a. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 1842 William Wells Brown took 70 slaves to their freedom. For more on Brown read 1836.

1842b. Amy Post, from Rochester, helped to found the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society (WNYASS).


1843a. Instead of celebrating July 4, Buffalo's Black community celebrated July 3 the date of the 1843 emancipation of Blacks in British West Indies. There was a parade and pro-abolition speeches.

1843b. Organized by William Wells Brown, Samuel Davis, Abner Francis, William Hall, Henry Moxley (see 1832), the Charles L. Reason (the first Black math professor at a white college), Henry Thomas, and others, a National Convention of Colored Men was held at the Vine Street AME Church in Buffalo to find ways to end slavery. The keynote speaker, Samuel H. Davis of Buffalo, called on northern Blacks to take part in the great battle for our rights in common with other citizens of the United States. Other key people were George Weir, William Hall, Samuel Davis, and Henry Thomas.The meetings were to be held in an old building at the intersection of Washington and Seneca Streets, because it was the best place available to the local abolitionists who had arranged for the meetings. This structure had once been a Baptist church, but more recently it had been the central post office. There Douglass spoke daily for almost a week "to audiences constantly increasing in numbers and respectability," until a Baptist church "was thrown open" to him; and when the church became overcrowded, he "went on Sunday into the open Park and addressed an assembly of four or five thousand persons."

In his Address, Chairman Samuel H. Davis said:

"... we wish to secure for ourselves, in common with other citizens, the priviledge of seeking our wn happness in any part of th´country we choose ... unconstituÝionally denied us in part of this union. We wsh also to secu®e the elective franchise in those states where it is denied us - where are rights are legislated away, and our voice neither hárd nor regarded. We also wish to secure, for our children, especially the benefits of education, which in several States are entirely denied us and in others are enjoyed only in name. These, ad many other things, of which we justly complain, bear most heavily upon us as a people; and it is our right and our duty to seek for redress, in that way which will be most likely the desired end." [Buffalo Eveming News, April 3, 1973, B3]

1843c. Samuel Ringgold Ward and family moved to Geneva from Poukeepsie. More on Ward

Frederick Douglass attended both conventions. He reports:

For nearly a week I spoke every day in this old post office to audiences increasing in numbers and respectibility til the [Michigan Avenue] Baptist church was thrown open to me. When this became too small I went on Sunday into the open park and addressed an assembly of 4,000 persons. [Goldman]

1843d. Meeting in Buffalo around the same time as the Convention of Colored Men was the abolitionist National Convention of the Liberty Party. However, William Wells Brown did not trust the Liberty Party, a white man's organization (see 1836). [Allen]



1844a. William Wells Brown's East Aurora lecture: Early in the winter of 1844, probably in January, he went to East Aurora in Erie County. Upon arriving at the church, Brown found it already crowded-with what kind of audience they were not long discovering. As soon as Brown began his speech a mob consisting of the majority of the men present began coughing, whistling, and stamping their feet. During the barrage of noise thus created "unsalable eggs, peas, and other missiles were liberally thrown at the speaker". One of the eggs hit him in the face and spattered the bosom of his shirt, making, him look somewhat ridiculous for a few moments. If this was his first time to be so unceremoniously received by an audience, it was certainly not to be his last. From the experiences of other antislavery agents he already knew that he must either learn to master situations like this one or give up as an antislavery lecturer.

After half an hour of excitement Brown descended from the pulpit; and standing in front of the altar he told the rabble that he would not address them even if they wanted him to do so and that it any of them had been held in slavery as he had been, they would not have had the courage to escape, for their actions of the last half-hour had shown them to be cowards. Then he told of his life as a slave and how he had escaped and concluded his narrative with an appeal for the abolition of race prejudice and slavery. In this speech of an hour and a half he won the support of an erstwhile antagonistic audience for the cause he represented.

Prior to the meeting some members of the mob had taken to the belfry over the main entrance to the church a bag of flour which they had intended to empty on Brown when he went out. But the man who had been designated to decoy Brown to the place in which he could be floured and to signal his cohorts at the opportune time had been so favorably impressed by Brown's speech, that instead of leading Brown into the trap, he warned him concerning it, even telling him what the signal for the pouring of the flour was to be. Taking the scheme for a hoax, Brown maneuvered to get the flour poured on others, who proved to be some of the best citizens of the town - and thereby caused the perpetrators of the prank to be arrested.

[Brown, The Black man]

1844b. After escaping to Rochester in 1834, ex-slave John Jenkins works at various jobs. In 1838 he found his brother and learned the whereabouts of two daughters whom he worked to free. In 1844 he is listed 1844 as a grocer, but in 1847 he was called a doctor and practice at 39 Buffalo Street (now Main Street) in Rochester. Doctor Jenkins moved to Hamilton, Ontario after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed. By 1858 he was able to buy both of his daughters and bring them to him.


1845a. Buffalo's Michigan Street Baptist Church moves to 511 Michigan, a site presently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is, in 1997, the oldest building in Western New York continuously occupied by African Americans.
Photos of the church are from the late 19th and mid 20th centuries.
More on the Michigan Street Baptist Church

1845b. In Buffalo, a barber, D. Paul Brown, had his play about slavery performed in the Eagle Street Theater (Blacks were allowed to sit upstairs). Another Black barber, James Whitfield, had a book of anti-slavery poems published.



Samuel Ringgold Ward.became pastor of the Congregational Church in Cortland Village. More on Ward.



1847a. Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass, attracted by Susan B. Anthony's very active women's movement, moved their family (8 year old Rosetta, 7 year old Lewis, 5 year old Frederick, and 3 year old Charles) to Rochester New York. Even their prejudice forced the Douglass' children to be educated elsewhere.

The presence of Frederick Douglass, a famous ex-slave who became a prominent abolitionist, publisher and spokesman against slavery, helped to enhance Rochester's reputation as a liberal minded city. In fact, Douglass used his own Rochester home as one of the stops used for fugitive slaves. For more on the Douglasses see Douglass and family.

1847b. Martin R. Delany moves from Pittsburgh to Rochester in order to found with and work with Frederick Douglass on a new paper, North Star, printed in the basement of Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, a flourishing center for "underground" activities. Some local citizens were unhappy that their town was the site of a black newspaper, and the New York Herald urged the citizens of Rochester to dump Douglass's printing press into Lake Ontario. Gradually, Rochester came to take pride in the North Star and its bold editor. starting the North Star marked the end of his dependence on Garrison and other white abolitionists. The paper allowed him to discover the problems facing blacks around the country. Douglass had heated arguments with many of his fellow black activists, but these debates showed that his people were beginning to involve themselves in the center of events affecting their position in America. [Rollin]

Martin Robinson Delany after the Civil War

1847c. Attempt to free a slave at Niagara Falls, 1847: The Riot at Niagara Falls. A very unpleasant and distasteful circumstance took place here on our arrival, which disturbed the entire village. A few more such riots will turn the tide in favor of the Clifton House on the Canadian side. A slaveholder and his salve, a girl of twenty-two years of age arrived here and took lodgings at the Cataract Hotel, where there are a vast number of colored waiters. The girl made known her situation to one of them and stated that she was wretched beyond description because of the cruel treatment of her master and mistress. She wished him to convey here to the Canada side, where he should be protected by British laws. He was determined to free her if possible, but the master watched here carefully, and kept her so closely confined at night, as to render escape impracticable.

When ready to leave, her master contrived to detail the cars beyond the usual time. This was done to lull the suspicion of the colored people. He placed the girl in the car between himself and the window. She was heart broken when she found she was going back into slavery. The colored people attempted to take her out, but were prevented by a mob, who beat them severely. The cars were started in the midst of the scuffle. One of the colored men jumped on the car, and followed it to Lockpo rt, hoping to liberate the poor girl there. He was unsuccessful.

The same night, about eleven o'clock, several wicked boys began to fire off pistols, without balls. A report was then circulated thought town that the blacks had fired on the whites-- a statement utterly false, as I saw the whole transa ction from beginning to end. Not a colored man was seen in the street that night. It was a few drunken Irishmen, ripe for destruction, and several wicked young lads, commenced the work of destroying the little shanties of the poor blacks, and they would h ave burnt the whole of them if not fearful of setting fire to other houses. The mob made the slave case a pretext for attacking the colored people, because they sell root beer instead of brandy, and took away the custom from the grog dealers. On Sunday th e 11th, notices in writing were put up in different public places, ordering all the blacks to clear out in twenty-four hours. I told them not to regard these notices, but to keep perfectly quiet. They did not, and here the matter ended. They are still the re as numerous as ever. [True Wesleyan (NY), August 14, 1830],_1847.html


VIOLENT ATTEMPT TO RE-CAPTURE A SLAVE. -- Two persons from Covington, Kentucky, one of whom claims to be the agent for the owner of a colored man, named Christopher Webb, who has for some time served as waiter at the Gothic Hall Saloon, told poor Webb that he must return to his master, and when he protested that he was free, one of them seized him and drawing a "six shooter" threatened to kill the first person who should interfere. He however, contrived to escape, and it having been found out that he had been arrested illegally, a warrant was obtained against the agents for the man who thought "he had a right to do as he liked with his own." It was then their turn to escape, which they attempted without delay, hotly pursued by the Deputy Sheriff and people of various hues. The runaways had the start. The affair created much excitement, particularly among our colored citizens and the abolitionists; but the Kentuckians successfully eluded all pursuit. [Commercial Advertiser (Buffalo, NY), October 1, 1847]

An Excitement -- A Slave Case -- A man from Kentucky in quest of his human property, arrived in our city, and finding one of his chattels personal enjoying the largest liberty, seized upon him yesterday afternoon with a view of conveying him back to the land of slavery. He was brought before Justice Dickie, but contrived to escape and it being ascertained that he had been arrested without process, the tables were turned, and a warrant obtained against the master for false imprisonment. It was not the masters turn to escape, which he lost no time in doing-- hotly pursued by a motley group. They flew down Swan street, the pursuers and the pursued-- the master having about half a mile the lead. -- The affair created much excitement for a while, especially among our colored citizens and abolitionists. [Daily Courier (Buffalo, NY), October 1, 1847],_1847.html



1848a. Though freed, by birth, Charles Reed (neé Washington in 1827) comes with his brother Webster from Hagerstown, MD, via Canada, both fearing a murderous overseer. Together with his Mohawk wife, Mary Pickett, Charles Reed and first two children first appear in the 1950 Trumansburg NY census. This is the earliest record I have of African Americans living in the Ithaca area. [Kammen, 47]

1848b. Frederick Douglass meets Julia Griffith who became influential in the North Star.


1849a. Martin Delany leaves Douglass and North Star in order to pursue medical studies at Havard.

1849b. Annie Douglass, Frederick's last child, was born - she died in 1859, and her death had the effect of curtailing Douglass' European speaking tours. For more on Douglass, also see Douglass and family.

1849c. William and Harriet Jacobs, a brother and sister, are active in the anti-slavery movement. William maintains the Anti-Slavery Office and lectures. Harriet wrote the slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, whose descriptions of the perils of female slaves was an important early feminist document.


1850a. The Fugitive Slave Act (click for details). stipulated that it was illegal for any citizen to assist an escaped slave and demanded that if an escaped slave was sighted, he or she should be apprehended and turned in to the authorities for deportation back to the "rightful" owner down south. Any United States Marshall who refused to return a runaway slave would pay a hefty penalty of $1,000..

1850b. The Underground Railroad (click for details). For the 240 years from the first African slave until 1860, Slaves ran and some escaped to freedom. The transport worked much like a railroad and so it was called The Underground Railroad.

The entire area of western New York was filled with stops or stations of This Underground Railroad. With the help of Harriet Tubman, Rochester became a main station. In 1868, Frederick Douglass said he knew of major stations in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and in Canada, St. Catherines, Ontario. In Buffalo, Broderick Park (at the foot of Ferry Street and the Black Rock Canal) was a site for a crossing the Niagara river into Canada. Howevery, there were many minor but, key, stops such as the one run by Dr. James Pettitt near Fredonia NY and his son Eber Pettitt at Versailles Cattaraugus County, NY. For more see Harriet Tubman timeline.

1850c. Geneva's African American population stood at 317 persons in 1850 and made up nearly eight percent of the village's population. Not until 1950 would there again be more than 310 African-Americans in the village.

1850d. MASS MEETING OF COLORED CITIZENS, OCTOBER 3, 1850 in Buffalo: Pursuant to Public Notice, a large and enthusiastic meeting of the colored citizens of the city was held at Clinton Hall, on Thursday evening, October 3, 1850. The hour having arrived, the meeting was called to order by Mr. Henry K. Thomas, and the Throne of Grace, addressed by the Rev. S.P. Campbell. After which on motion, Mr. John Simpson, was appointed President; and Messrs. D.H. Hawkins, Peyton Harris, Richard Jones, Henry Moxley, and Eli Holden, appointed Vice-Presidents, and Messrs. George Weir, Jr. and B.F. Young, Secretaries.

The objects of this meeting, having been stated by the chairman. On motion a committee of thirteen was appointed to prepare business for the meeting, consisting of Messrs. James M. Whitfield, J.H. Elebeck, H.K. Thomas, Uriah Lett, George Dover, N.H. Dunlap, John Dandridge, Henry Fields, R.S. Brown, John McLeane, Edward Cooke, D. Moten, and A. Parker. On motion Resolved, That the Fugitive Slave Bill, as recently passed by Congress, be read. After the reading of which Mr. A.H. Francis, was called for who came forward and addressed the meeting at some length. Reviewing the conduct of the present Administration, in reference to the cause of freedom, &c. The Rev. Mr. Campbell, was next called for who entertained the audience by an examination of the various features as contained in the "Fugitive Bill, and clearly proving its unconstitutionality" in every respect. The addresses of the speakers were received with unbounded applause. The Business Committee, then reported the following resolutions, which were read and adopted in full.


1st. Resolved, That the law recently passed by Congress and commonly known as the fugitive slave bill (which might be more properly be styled a bill to extend Slavery over the free States and encourage the kidnapping of freemen) form its palpable violation of the most sacred guarantees of the Federal Constitution, its wanton disregard of every principle of common law or natural justice, the shameful manner in which it outrages every sentiment of Christian morality and very acknowledged principle of human or divine law and the bribe which it offers to the Commissioners, in the shape of double fees, to induce them to decide in favor of slavery and against freedom, is the most corrupt, tyrannical and unjust law which ever disgraced the code of any nation, civilized or savage, christian or heathen, as such should be repudiated and disregarded by every American freeman.

2nd. Resolved, That this act violates every acknowledged principle or rule of law. 1st, by allowing any man to be seized as property by the claimant without any process, when in the case of any other property a warrant served by an officer is necessary. 2nd, by allowing an affidavit taken hundreds of miles off and giving a general and vague description, to be taken as conclusive evidence, when in every other case identification of the property in open court is necessary, 3rd, by allowing the testimony of the claimant to be taken as sufficient evidence, when in every other case the property must be proven by disinterested witnesses. 4th, by making petty Commissioners appointed for this purpose and probably without learning or experience in matters of law, the judges whose irrevocable decisions are to be without appeal, and no means left of obtaining redress if they should every proved fallible and err in judgement, which is rendered more likely by the tempting bribe of double fees held out as an inducement for them to decide in favor of slavery while in all other cases the claim is tried before a regular Court, and impartial jury with the usual means of redress where an erroneous decision is given. 5th, by requiring the proceedings to be summary and refusing the testimony of the alleged fugitive while that of the claimant is admitted, thus in violation of every maxim of law and every principle of justice, throwing the burden of proof upon the latter and at the same time depriving him of the opportunity of procuring necessary witnesses or adequate council, while in all other cases the burden of proof rests upon the claimant and time is granted for procuring counsel or obtaining necessary witnesses.

3. Resolved, That even admitting all that the most ultra slaveholders claim, that the Constitution recognizes property in slaves the same as any other property, all that can be reasonably claimed is that the same facilities shall be granted that are given in the recovery of other lost property, including trial by jury in the district where it is found, and identification and proof of the property by disinterested witnesses.

4. Resolved, That we recognize in the Federal Constitution "a higher law" than any legislative enactment, and as this act conflicts with that "higher law" -- first, by entirely destroying the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which the Constitution declares, "shall never be suspended, unless in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it:" 2nd, by allowing any person to be arrested without any warrant at all, when the Constitution provides that "the right of the people to be secured in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated-- and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized," 3rd, by allowing any person to be deprived of liberty, and reduced to perpetual slavery, without any of the usual forms or proceedings of law, when the Constitution provides that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." 4th, by denying the right of jury trial, which the Constitution declares shall be preserved inviolate in all criminal cases, and in all civil cases where the value shall exceed twenty dollars, and is in its details destroys all the safeguards which the Constitution throws around the rights of the freeman, and leaves no alternatives to the free citizen, who may be wrongfully claimed under its provisions, but slavery in submission-- or, death in resistance.

5. Resolved, That we unhesitatingly accept the issue thus forced upon us, and of the two evils presented choose the lease, preferring to die in resisting the execution of so monstrous a law, rather than submit to its infamous requirements.

6. Resolved, That we have in every instance shown ourselves law-abiding and order-loving citizens, disposed to submit to gross injustice rather than violate the sanctity of the law or disturb the public peace, but when every safeguard of personal freedom is stricken down and every individual is liable at any moment to be falsely enslaved without the possibility of redress, forbearance ceases to be a virtue and resistance becomes a duty, and in the discharge of this duty we solemnly pledge ourselves to resist the execution of this law at all hazards and to the last extremity.

7. Resolved, That we utter these resolutions under no excitement, in no spirit of bravado nor with the expectation that we can cope with the power of the Government, for we know that on the side of the oppressor there is power, but as a calm deliberate expression of our fixed determination to exercise the last remaining right of freemen and which no tyranny can ever wrest from us, that of dying in defence of what little liberty we possess.

8. Resolved, That we are fully determined to resist as far as lies in our power every attempt to enforce any act by which an American citizen is liable to be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law, without a trial by a jury of his peers, or without the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

9. Resolved, That we will use all the means within our power to test the constitutionality of this law before the United States Supreme Court.

Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published, in all the city papers, and in the North Star, and Impartial Citizen.
A collection was then taken up in behalf of the Chaplin fund.
After which the meeting adjourned.
D.H. HAWKINS, Vice-President

[Buffalo Daily Republic (Buffalo, NY), October 4, 1850],_1850.html


Pursuant to public notice, a mass meeting of the colored citizens of Buffalo was held at Clinton Hall on Thursday evening, 17th inst., for the purpose of considering in relation to the Fugitive Bill. At an early hour the house was crowded with out citizens, both white and colored. The hour having arrived, on motion, Mr. Nathaniel Dunlap was appointed President, and Messrs. James L. Thomas, William Qualls, and John McLean, Vice Presidents, and George Weir, Secretary. The meeting being duly organized, on call the Chairman arose and stated the object for which the meeting had convened, earnestly inviting the hearty, and united co-operation of all present, assuring them that the meeting had not convened for the purpose of adopting measures for "Physical Resistance" in preference for the "better way," but to adopt such measures as would at "all hazards" and under "all circumstances" prevent the recapture of one of our brethren, with a view of reducing them to slavery. At the close of the President's remarks, on motion a committee of five was appointed by the Chair, consisting of Messrs. A.H. Francis, James M. Whitfield, J.P. Campbell, R.S. Brown, and Henry R. Thomas, to prepare business for the meeting. During the absence of the committee, "the Rev. Leonard Whiting of Canandaigua, Agent of the Chaplin fund" was called for, who came forward amid loud and enthusiastic cheering, and spoke at some length, in behalf of that great, and good man, Gen'l Wm. L. Chaplin, now confined in a Maryland Prison. The Committee then reported the following Resolutions.

Whereas, the fugitive slave bill, recently passed by Congress, is a southern measure, intended not only for the more effectual security of that species of property, under the laws thereof, but back of this a measure to bring the general government an acknowledged party to their right, to hold man as property, Therefore

1. Resolved, that the fugitive slave bill, passed by Congress, not only violates the sacred guarantees of the Constitution, but is
Anti-Republican, Anti-Christian, and unworthy of the support of the enlightened freemen.

2. Resolved, That we do not consider ourselves bound under no law that violates the Constitutional obligations by which we are governed, therefore we consider the fugitive slave law, no law to govern our actions, but will be resisted by us at all times, at all places, and under all circumstances.

3. Resolved, That we will give our support to no religious or political party whatever, which will not most faithfully repudiate this law, and seek its immediate repeal, with that of every other slavery enactment in the land.

4. Resolved, that we deeply sympathize with Gen'l Wm. L. Chapin of this state, now a prisoner in Maryland, formerly a prisoner in the city of Washington, D.C., for doing what God, and humanity approves. Attempting to deliver the oppressed from the lands of the spoiler, that we well raise what funds we can for the Agent now present (Rev. Leonard Whitney of Canandaigua) to assist in obtaining his freedom.

5. Resolved, That we prepare and circulate a petition for signatures, to be presented to the next Congress, for a repeal of this odious law, the fugitive slave bill.

6. Resolved, That we hold a political meeting Monday evening next at the Vine street Church, to settle the question in relation to our future political action.

The report of the Committee having been read, was accepted. On motion, Resolved, that the Resolutions be taken up separately for
adoption, which were severally read, and all, with the exception of the fifty, unanimously adopted. On the fifth, a few dissenting voices were heard, but it passed by a large majority.

Pending the adoption of the Resolutions, they were warmly and ably discussed by the Hon. S.H. Addington, Payton Harris, Rev. J.P. Campbell, Horace C. Taylor, Esq. of Ohio, Hon. Seth C. Hawley, Mr. Myers, of Massachusetts, Rev. Leonard Whitney, and others.

The proceedings of a large and spirited meeting held in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was next read by the Secretary.

A collection having been taken up in Behalf of the Chaplin fund, the meeting adjourned.

N.H. Dunlap, President
James L. Thomas,
William Qualls,
John McLane, V. Presidents.
George Weir, Secretary.

[North Star (Rochester, NY), October 24, 1850],_1850.html

At a meeting in relation to the fugitive slave bill, held at Union Meeting House, Collins Centre, Erie Co., N.Y., the 17th of 12 mo., 1850, William Henry, of Gowanda, was called to the Chair, and Joseph Griffin was appointed Secretary.

The meeting was feeling addressed by Joseph Parkins in a discourse of considerable length, showing the nature of the bill passed as a law by Congress, but which he did not acknowledge as a law, as it contravenes some of our most important moral obligations. After a free discussion of the following preamble and resolution, they were unanimously adopted;

If in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, (see amendment to the Constitution, Art. 6,) if in suits of common law when the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, (Art. 7,) if the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion of the public safety shall require it, (Con. Art. 1, Sec. 9,) and if we consider the national constitution as the basis upon which all legislative enactments that are repugnant thereto, are null and void, and especially shall as contravene these provisions of the Constitution designed as guaranties of personal liberty.

Resolved, That as the fugitive slave bill denies the right of trial by jury in cases involving the right of trial by jury in cases involving personal liberty when the person is not even claimed as a criminal, and when the value in controversy incalculably exceeds twenty dollars; and that it refuses the writ of habeas corpus; that a commissioner appointed for the purpose, having supreme jurisdiction in the cases is required to deliver up to the tender mercies of slavery any person on the affidavit of any other person in a distant slave state, who may claim him as a slave, thereby giving little or no opportunity for such a claim being contested, or evidence being furnished of his being legally entitled to freedom, it is a gross violation of the Constitution, of our country, in the spirit and letter of it, therefore not legally binding upon us.

Resolved, That as an instances have not been wanting in times past, of individuals of obscure parentage, or of a dark skin, but of partly European origin, being claimed by Southern kidnappers, and carried of, or attempted to be carried off as slaves, this bill, by preventing evidence, offers great facilities for such miscreants to prey upon the liberties of the whites, we, if we had nothing further in view than the protection of our white brethren, object to it, as an insult offered to all classes of freemen in the Northern States.

Resolved, That in respect to personal liberty, we know no distinction as regards color; we regret it, as in its principles it contravenes our highest obligations of duty to on and another or that higher law than the Constitution, that impels us to relieve suffering humanity without respect to color.

Resolved, That the pay of a Commissioner according to the bill, is in effect nothing more than bribery, five dollars if he fails to make out the claim sufficient, and ten dollars if he succeeds in it.

Resolved, That in the view of the unconstitutionality of the fugitive slave bill, of the mischiefs and miseries it is working to the colored population of the Northern States and Canada, in compelling us to become slave catchers for the slave claimants of the South and of its being utterly repugnant to the best feelings of our nature, that impel us to acts of humanity toward those in bound as bound with them, we do all in our power, morally, socially and politically, to procure the immediate and unconditional repeal of said bill.

William Henry, Chrn.
Joseph Griffin, Sec'y.

[North Star (Rochester, NY), January 23, 1851],_Collins_Center,_NY,_1850.html

1850g. The whole Township of Lockport contained a total population of 12,323, of which 213 or 1.73% were listed as of African American heritage. Not surprisingly, most of the black population lived in Lockport village. The African American population was equally divided between males and females. Forty-five percent of the African American population of the Town of Lockport were under eighteen years of age.There were thirty-eight identifiable African American households headed by an adult man and woman or a widow/widower with children.

47% of the Town of Lockport's black males twenty years of age and older were born in New York State. 26% had been born in the South, including the states of Maryland and Kentucky. 14% had been born in some other northern state; 8% were born in Canada, 4% had been born some other place, predominately in the Carribean. Females in the same age range tended to be born in NYS (33%) or some other northern state (35%) with only 15% being born in the South or one of the border states of Maryland or Kentucky. However, 17% had been born in Canada.

The occupations of the Town of Lockport's African Americans of the mid 19'th century were quite varied. In 1850, most were laborers but there were also five barbers, four boatmen, two shoemakers, two gunsmiths, a butcher, a miller, a cabinetmaker, a mason, a cooper, a carpenter, two hostlers, a porter and a farmer.

The 1855 census listed occupations but also listed the category "owner". Nineteen heads of households were listed as "owners" in 1855. The population, although constantly changing as we would expect of any population, nevertheless also showed stability. Fourteen heads of house- holds appearing in the 1850 census can be traced throughout all the census data to 1865. Most of them came to Lockport in the late 1830's or early 1840's. [Dickinson]



1851a. Daniel Webster came to Syracuse in May of 1851 and threatened enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law during the next anti-slavery convention in Syracuse. Dring a convention in October 1, William "Jerry" Henry was arrested. Jerry's escape is reknown. Both the famous Sam Ward and Jermain Loguen were involved and had to escape to Canada for a while..

1851b. Thomas Leonard leaves Syracuse for Canada. More about the Leonards.

1851c. Buffalo has two fugitive slave cases of its own: Daniel Davis, who is released, and Harrison Williams (captured in Chautauqua County) who is sent back to slavery (he escapes again, but not until 1863). MORE [UBarchivist 5/16/00


Mr. Editor -- Sir: -- I was somewhat astonished to find in your paper of the 13th inst., an article copied from the New York Evening Post, in relation to the effects of the Fugitive Slave Bill in Buffalo, stating that one hundred and thirty communicants from the colored Baptist Church had left, for fear of arrest on the charge of being fugitive slaves, and also that the Methodist Church has lost a considerable number from the same cause. From whatever source this information emanated, allow me to inform you that it is incorrect and instead of the large number spoken of, not three have left from either church, and I know that not three have left from the whole city; therefore the report is entirely incorrect and without the least shadow of foundation. The Buffalonians are made up of different stuff. We are not so easily frightened as to leave our homes in consequence of any such machinations of the Devil; and I imagine that it would require more force than any of the Fillmore clique could summon in Buffalo to drive us from the homes of our adoption, at least in such numbers as spoken of. We have long since considered the matter, and have come to the conclusion that we have a right to live here, and also that we have a right to use the same means to maintain our rights that our revolutionary fathers taught us on a "certain occasion." No attempts have been made here as yet to arrest any one. Our city has enjoyed a quietude and repose which is devoutly be hoped may continue. But when it shall be broken,
Buffalo will be heard from.

Yours, &c.
George Weir, Jr.

[North Star (Rochester, NY), March 20, 1851],_1850.html

1851e. "Slavery," according to the constitution of the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, "is an evil that ought not to exist, and is a violation of the inalienable rights of man." In the summer of 1851, notices were distributed throughout Rochester, N.Y., to gather together any women interested in becoming active in the antislavery cause. Six women responded, and on August 20, 1851, formally organized themselves into the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Sewing Society (the "Sewing" was dropped by 1855), electing Susan Farley Porter as president, Julia Griffiths, secretary, and Maria G. Porter, treasurer. As noted in their first annual report, the Society remained steadfast in refusing any partisan political alignment, hoping to broaden their appeal across partisan lines in recognition of "the utter coldness, in the community on the slavery subject." Although Rochester was widely known as the home of Frederick Douglass' Paper, at the time, Douglass' was "the only anti-slavery instrumentality in the community." The bulk of the money raised by the Society was used in the important task of keeping Frederick Douglass' Paper solvent.

1851f. January 12 or 13th, 1851, a slave known as "Harrison" about 19 years old escaped from a Dr. Nathaniel D. Parren (or Parron) of Hardy County, possibly with a group of other slaves. Harrison (or Harrison Williams) was living in Busti, Chautauqua County, New York, September 1851, when apparently Dr. Parren learned where he was.

Parren went to the County Court of Hardy County, and on 22nd Sept. 1851, obtained papers showing Harrison was a fugitive. He, accompanied by a neighbor, George S. Neff, went to Buffalo, New York, and obtained a warrant for the capture of Harrison and (apparently) four other fugitive slaves. With law enforcement officials from Buffalo and Chautauqua County, Parren and Neff went to Busti (about 70 miles south west) and captured Harrison at the home of a free black family. This was on or about Sept. 30, However, local abolitionists were alerted and the other fugitives excaped and later went to Canada. They were pursued part way back to Buffalo by armed local residents on Busti who intended to recapture Harrison, but gave up. Harrison was taken to Buffalo and after a hearing to determine his status, was returned to Hardy County under the terms of the 1851 fugitive slave law on or about October 3.


1853a. With Frederick Douglass as a draw, the National Negro Convention (also known as the Colored National Convention) meets in Rochester.

1853b. In March Mary Ann Shadd, a radical with connections to John Brown began publishing a newspaper, the Provincial Freeman, in Canadian regions near Buffalo. It became the main voice for Canada's Black communities and a forum for debate over abolitionist strategies. In 1856, Mary Shadd married a Toronto barber, Thomas F. Cary, also involved with the paper, and became known as Mary Ann Shadd Cary until her death in 1893.


1855a. Fannie Williams (nee: Barrier) born in Brockport New York. She was part of the movement to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to freed slaves in the 1870's. From the 1890's she was a civil rights activist in the Chicago area and in 1894 she was the first Black women nominated to the elite Chicago Women's club. She returned to Brockport in 1924 where she lived until her death 20 years later.

1855b. William Douglas, an escaped slave born in Tennessee 1796, arrived in Buffalo in the early 1830's. In 1855 he is a business man in the (Erie) Canal District (later called the Union Block after the civil War), the owner of a saloon known as Douglas Dive or (Dugs' Dive). The business lasted until cleaned out by a police raid in 1875.

1855c. By this year, the seven hundred-odd black people living in Buffalo have two churches and a separate, segregated public school for their children. And while many black men worked as common laborers and most black women as domestics, there is a considerable large number of skilled workmen in the city's East Side black community. Indeed, the job descriptions of many of them that are noted in the censuses of the mid-nineteenth century read like a handbook of trades. There are barbers, carpenters, hack drivers, masons, chefs, hotel keepers, and musicians. Two of the barbers - one named D. Paul Brown, the other named James Whitfield - achieve considerable local success as authors. Brown's play about slavery is performed in the Eagle Street Theatre in 1845 (black audiences sat upstairs), and James Whitfield's antislavery poems, with such rhetorical titles as "How long O Gracious God, how long shall power lord it over Right?" are privately published.

1855c. 16% of Black males in Buffalo are barbers, 8% are sailers, 6% are in the building trades, crafts and professons are 5%, the rest are domestic servants, porters, and waiters. Blacks were often used as strikebreakers, and virtually every one of the fairly regular work stoppages of Irish dock workers was broken by black strikebreakers.



1856. Ottilie Assing was a German journalist for the prestigious German newspaper Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser, who traveled to Rochester, New York, in 1856 to interview Douglass. She became a lover of Douglass for 24 years. Also see Douglass and family.


1857a. The Rochester public schools desegregate after years of Frederick Douglasses protestations. For more on Douglass, also see Douglass and family.

1857b. Austin Steward's classic book (Twenty Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman; ... EMBRACING A CORRESPONDENCE OF SEVERAL YEARS, WILBERFORCE COLONY, LONDON, CANADA WEST) is published in Rochester. For more details on Steward see Austin Steward timeline.

1857c. BETRAYAL OF A FUGITIVE, BUFFALO, NEW YORK, 1857 he following document is a newspaper account of a meeting held at the Vine Street African Methodist Episcopal Church in March 1847, to discipline a local man who had betrayed his wife into slavery. The people who organized the meeting represented the three African-American churches in Buffalo at this time: Deaton Donnell was Pastor of the Vine Street AME Church, and William Burton was a trustee; Peyton Harris and William Qualls were trustees of the Michigan Street Baptist Church; James M. Whitefield, the poet and author (also see James Whitfield), was closely associated with the East Presbyterian Church (Colored) on Elm Street.

Frank H. Severance in Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1903), pp. 197-8, gives an account, told to him by Samuel Murray, an African-American who was an underground railroad agent in Buffalo in the 1850s, of the whipping in Buffalo of a man who "made a business of informing Southerners of the whereabouts of their slaves." I have not located any contemporary account of this incident, which presumably occurred after Murray came to Buffalo in 1852.


At a large and enthusiastic meeting of the colored citizens of Buffalo, held pursuant to previous notice at the Vine Street Methodist Church, on Tuesday evening, March 3rd, Peyton Harris was appointed Chairman, and J.M. Whitfield, Secretary. On motion, a Committee of three was appointed by the Chair, consisting of Rev. Deaton Dorrell, Rev. D.W. Anderson, and A.S. Brokenborough, to prepare a resolution of the expressive of the sentiments of the meeting.-- The committee reported the following resolutions, which were received, and after a general discussion adopted by acclamation, only three persons dissenting (The names of those three persons are Eliza Dover, Mary Ann Field and N.D. Thompson).

Whereas, William Cooper, a resident of this city, himself a fugitive slave, has endeavored to betray into slavery his wife, who has for more than twenty years been legally free, therefore,

Resolved, That we pledge ourselves individually that we will not associate with William Cooper, nor permit him to enter our houses; and that we will discountenance any colored person who shall hereafter associate with him, or permit him on their premises.

Whereas, true repentance produces its own fruits.

Resolved, That if William Cooper will pledge himself to a Committee, and bind himself in writing to devoted all the real estate he has, to be sold for money, to be used in the purchase of his wife out of slavery, providing his great sin should be the means of her return into slavery, this indignant public will forgive him, otherwise, we will not.

On motion, a committee of three was appointed by the Chair, consisting of Wm. Qualls, Moses Burton and B.C. Taylor, with instructions to have the proceedings of the meeting published in all the city papers, and in Frederick Douglass' Paper, of Rochester, and the Provincial Freeman, of Chatam, C.W.

Adjourned. PEYTON HARRIS, Ch'mn.
J.W. Whitfield, Sec'y.

1857d. In the road between Syracuse and Rochester, were a number of sympathetic Quakers and other abolitionists settled at Auburn, New York. Here also was the home of US Senator and former New York State Governor William H. Seward. Sometime in the mid-1850s, Tubman met Seward and his wife Frances. Mrs. Seward provided a home for Tubman's favorite niece, Margaret, after Tubman helped her to escape from Maryland. In 1857, the Sewards provided a home for Tubman, to which she relocated her parents from St. Catherines, Ontario. This home was later sold to her for a small sum, and became her base of operations when she was not on the road aiding fugitives from slavery, and speaking in support of the cause. [Tubman, after escaping slavery, lead, on 19 trips to the South, over 300 Blacks to freedom, via The Underground Railroad, in the North and Canada.] For more on Tubman see the Harriet Tubman timeline.


1858a. November 19 - The Lockport Daily Journal and Courier: "Killed by the Cars - The Express train from the east on Tuesday evening struck and instantly killed a negro who was walking on the tracks, about two miles east of Port Byron." {A reference to a Lockport newspaper believed to be the Democrat and Courier is more explicit. It refers to the victim as a fugitive slave who, to make sure of his way to Canada and freedom, walked the railroad tracks leading west to Niagara Falls and beyond.} [Dickinson]

1858b. John Brown stays at the home of Mary Shadd's brother and Douglass home in Rochester while developing his ideas for undermining the Southern slave system with a string of guerilla camps in the Allegheny mountains. While Douglass supported the general concept, he opposed the raid on Harpers Ferry. Nevertheless, he raised funds for Brown and introduced him to a local Black, Shields Green, who was one of three Rochester Blacks to join Brown in the attack. [Douglass institute]



November 17 - The Lockport Journal and Courier stated: "U.G.R.R. -- Fugitive slaves are continually finding their way through to the land of refuge, by means of the underground R.R. Two of them passed through here day before yesterday and are now safe in Canada." [Dickinson]



September 11 ­ The Niagara County Intelligencer: "Fred Douglas will speak in the Christian Church at Orangeport Sunday next (15'th instant) at 10:30 o'clock A.M. He will speak in Lockport at 2 P.M. on the same day, at the Union Hall." [Dickinson]



Benjamin C. Taylor (1816-1900) becomes Buffalo's first African American doctor.


1863a. Congress authorized black enlistment in the Union army. The Massachusetts 54th Regimate was the first black unit to be formed, and the governor of the state asked Frederick Douglass to help in the recruitment. Douglass agreed and wrote an editorial that was published in the local newspapers. "Men of Color, to Arms," he urged blacks to "end in a day the bondage of centuries" and to earn their equality and show their patriotism by fighting in the Union cause. His sons Lewis and Charles were among the first Rochester African Americans to enlist. There had been three Black New York State regiments, but only one Rochesterian, Stephen F Hamet, served in the New York regiments.

For more on Douglass, also see Douglass and family.

1863b. Buffalo Draft Riots of 1963: In late July and early August 1863, Long conflict and Tension between Black and Italian workers came because the Italians controlled the Buffalo dock work and Blacks were only allowed to work as strike breakers. After the Emancipation Proclamation, the Italians were told they would be drafted to fight the Civil War to free slaves. For several hours the Italians rampaged in Buffalo's east side Black Community smashing businesses and homes and killing one man. After several hours of uncertainty, the rioters are dispersed by the Sixty-Fifth and Seventy Fourth militia regiments, just returned from riot duty in New York City, together with local police and a citizen posse of several thousand.


Frederick Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks. Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice. For more on Douglass, also see Douglass and family.







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