Black Abolitionists: Self-Emancipated Women Eliza Smalls and Polly Ann Bates

0 Posted by - March 18, 2018 - BLACK ABOLITIONIST, LATEST POSTS

By Lesley Gist, The Gist of Freedom

“Before the ship’s owner could arrest them under the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law, a group of 6 black women from the Boston Anti-Slavery Society rushed into the state Supreme Court. While the attorney for Morris was addressing the judge, Someone in the spectator’s section shouted, “Go, go.” Whereupon A colored woman “of great size,” who scrubbed floors for a living, threw her arms around the neck of one officer, Immobilizing him while the other colored people rushed to the bench and bore Eliza and Polly Ann down the courthouse steps and shoved them into a waiting carriage.

Boston Female Eliza and Polly Ann were never recaptured, and their abettors went scot-free, although the Sheriff C.P. Sumner, father of Charles Sumner (movie Lincoln starring Tommie Lee Jones) was criticized for permitting such a breach of the peace.

In resisting the fugitive slave law, Free Blacks were galvanized into militant, unapologetic activism. Of course, before 1850, Free Blacks, both self-emancipated and free born, had proven their strength in the face of the pro-slavery legislation, showing to the country and the world that they would not sit idly by and watch their fragile liberty be ripped apart at the seams.

In 1836, two self-emancipated women Eliza Smalls and Polly Ann Bates were seized by slave catchers while hiding aboard a ship anchored in Boston Harbor. The ship captain confined the fugitives in the ship the bounty hunter Matthew Turner, with a power of attorney to hold them went on board he then requested Captain Eldridge to detain them, until he could obtain a warrant for their arrest. At that line, there was a large collection of colored people upon the wharf, all very much excited. During Mr. Turner’s absence, the females were rescued from the custody of the captain, by a writ of habeas corpus, in the hand of a colored man named S. H. Adams.

With agitation from local Black leaders and White abolitionists, Supreme Court Judge Lemuel Shaw ruled that the ship captain had no right to convert the ship into a prison because Massachusetts was a free state. The women were released from captivity, while the attorney for the slaver was addressing the judge seeking the right to arrest them under the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law, someone in the spectator’s section shouted, “Go, go.” A group of six black women from the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society rushed into the state Supreme Court.Whereupon A colored woman “of great size,” who scrubbed floors for a living, threw her arms around the neck of one officer, Immobilizing him while the other colored people rushed to the bench and bore Eliza and Polly Ann down the courthouse steps and shoved them into a waiting carriage.

Eliza and Polly Ann were never recaptured, and their abettors were scot-free, although the Sheriff C.P. Sumner, father of Charles Sumner (movie Lincoln starring Tommie Lee Jones) was criticized for permitting such a breach of the peace.
Source: http://www.dirksencenter.org/print_emd_earlyadvocateCR.htm

2 Comments

  • Jessie Batrez May 13, 2019 - 2:48 pm Reply

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