More people in the north started questioning the whole ideal of slavery and in 1787 slavery had been declared illegal in the Northwest Territories. This sounded like an open invitation for slaves to move up to those territories until the fugitive slave law went into act in 1793, stating that all slaves who had crossed state lines to escape had to be returned. Luckily for the escapees, this law was loosely enforced. The Northern states also passed some personal liberty laws that would allow the runaway slaves a trial. This was all happening right around the time of the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slave laws were something people were finding easy to ignore, and mostly did in the north, until the Compromise of 1850. This law stated that all citizens were, “commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of the law.” Anyone who was caught assisting slaves faced heavy fines.
Quite a few very important steps were taken between the early to mid-1800s. In 1808 congress had finally banned the importation of slaves from Africa. In 1820 The Missouri Compromise banned slavery in every state north of the southern Missouri border. A man, William Lloyd Garrison, starts publishing the Liberator in 1821. This weekly paper advocated the abolition of slavery and really helped fuel the flames behind the abolitionist movement. Then, in 1849, Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery to become one of the most recognizable and celebrated leaders of the Underground Railroad.
Although with so many ups there are always bound to be downs. As said, the Compromise of 1850 made escaping even harder for slaves. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise. This was followed by the Dred Scott case in 1857 which decided that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery in states, and decided that slaves are not citizens.
With such tension between the North and the South, a breaking point was reached. In 1861 the Confederacy is founded as the South secedes and begins the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In this order he stated that all slaves in Confederate states shall be set free. 1865 is the year that the end was finally in sight; the Civil War ends, slavery is abolished, and the Thirteenth Amendment is ratified, prohibiting slavery.
Freedom does not come as easy as hoped, but throughout the rest of the 1800s more strides are taken. Following the end of the war the Confederacy is carved down by a series of Reconstruction acts. When 1868 came around we see the Fourteenth Amendment being ratified, defining citizenship and nullifying the Dred Scott case. By 1870 blacks are given the right to vote thanks to the ratification of the Fifteenth amendment, as well as Hiram Revels being elected the first African-American senator.
Around the 1880s we see African Americans start setting their goals towards education. Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles open Spelman College in 1881, the first black women’s college in America. In the same year Booker T. Washington opens the Tuskegee…