The Christiana Riot, the first open resistance to fugitive slave law

Date: 
Thu, 1851-09-11

On this date in 1851, the Christiana Resistance occurred, a race riot that was the first recorded open resistance to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

A group of Blacks routed a band of slave catchers attempting to re-enslave escaped slaves in Christiana, PA. This incident happened at the home of William Parker an escaped slave. One white was killed and one wounded. Afterwards, there was a great public outcry from both the North and South.

Frederick Douglass viewed the violence at Christiana as having a special moral and political significance because the event was evidence of Black strength. Violent resistance and African-American courage and determination were exhibited on a national stage through this event. Southern editors expressed anger and shock.

Both positions the intense opinion about slavery in American in the years prior to the Civil War.

Reference:
Beyond Confederation:
Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity.
Richard Beeman, Stephen Boorstein,
and Edward C. Carter, II, eds.
Chapel Hill, NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Reclamation of Fugitives from Service:
An Argument for the Defendant,
Salmon Portland Chase,
Submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, at the December Term, 1846, in the case of Wharton Hones vs. John Vanzandt 1847.
Freeport, NY:
Books for Libraries Press, 1971.