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Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Before his apprenticeship as a ship's caulker in Baltimore, Maryland, Frederick Douglass (then Frederick Bailey) was imprisoned for a week in Easton, Maryland, when his 1835 plan to escape the slavery of the colonel Edward Lloyd's plantation at Saint Michaels was discovered. Along with four conspirators, Douglass was shackled and pulled by horses, stumbling and at times simply dragged over the fifteen miles from the plantation to the jail in Easton.

As the seat of Talbot County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Easton was a haven for traders who made a living buying slaves from jails and selling them into the more concentrated plantation labor of the Deep South. Hounded by traders while imprisoned in Easton, Douglass never forgot them. On 5 July 1852 Douglass denounced Austin Woolfolk a Maryland slave trader at whose slave mart on Pratt Street in Baltimore the fates of countless African Americans were ...


Richard S. Newman and Paul Finkelman

Kidnapping, or “man-stealing,” occurred when masters or slave dealers attempted to abduct free persons of color and send them into bondage. In some cases masters dispatched ruffians to recapture fugitive slaves but were not particular about the “recaptured” person's identity; in other cases masters kidnapped former slaves and sold them back into bondage. In any event, preventing the kidnapping of free black citizens and alleged fugitive slaves became a critical part of early abolitionist activism.

Although kidnapping may properly be said to have begun with the transatlantic slave trade it became a domestic problem receiving intense abolitionist scrutiny during the Revolutionary era and the early national period Slaves liberated both before and during the War of Independence found themselves recaptured by devious masters and slave traders In Virginia early abolitionist groups encountered dozens of cases involving kidnapped black men and women who wished to claim their freedom One striking incident ...