Black History Month 2023

1856 1857-1861 1862

14 Franklin Pierce | 15 James Buchanan | 16 Abraham Lincoln

African Slavery Cotton Slavery Black Codes

Chattel Slavery

British Virginia - The first enslaved Africans arrived in the British Colony of VIrigina in 1619.


March 6, 1857
Dred Scott Case Decided

Washington, D. C. - Dred Scott v. Sandford was decided, by the United States Supreme Court. Sandford was a clerical error on the case. The real name was Sanford.

Dred Scott was born in 1799, in Virginia, enslaved. Scott's enslaver was Peter Blow. In 1818, Blow moved to Huntsville, Alabama. He took Scott and five (5) other enslaved people with him. Blow farmed, with Scott, until 1830.

In 1830, Blow moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Blow sold Scott to U.S. Army surgeon, Dr. John Emerson. Emerson sent Scott to Fort Armstrong, in Illinois. At the time, Illinois was a 'free' state.

Illinois had no law for slavery, in its state constitution. Yet, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made slave catching legal in 'free' states. This gave whites the power to enslave 'free' Black Americans and send them to slave states. 'Free' states never punished slave owners in its borders.

In 1836, Emerson moved. He took Scott, to Fort Snelling in the Wisconsin territory (now Minnesota). It was a 'free' territory. There, Scott married Harriet Robinson. She was enslaved, to a different white man.

On February, 1838, Emerson was sent to Fort Jesup in Louisiana. There, Emerson married Eliza Irene Sanford. Scott and Robinson stayed in the Wisconsin territory. Emerson hired out their services while he was away.

In Louisiana, Emerson sent for Scott and Robinson. On the way, Robinson gave birth to Eliza. Eliza was born on the Mississippi River, in 'free' territory. It is unclear how Emerson enslaved Robinson.

In late 1838, Emerson returned to Fort Snelling. In 1840, Sanford took Scott and Robinson to St. Louis, Missouri.

By 1843, Emerson had left the army. He died in Iowa territory. Sanford, his wife, inherited his entire estate. This included Scott and Robinson.

In 1846, Scott tried to buy his family's freedom from Sanford, but she refused. Scott went to court. Since Scott's family had been in 'free' areas, he said they should be free.

The United States Supreme Court ruled against Scott. They ruled only whites were United States citizens. Black Americans, free or not, were subjects of white rule. Enslaved Black Americans were merchandise. No Black American, mulatto, nor Indian was a citizen.

The court hoped to settle the slave question. Instead, it set the stage for the American Slavery War (1861-1865).


March 2-3, 1859
Largest Slave Auction in Georgia History

Darien, Georgia - To satisfy debts, Pierce M. Butler sold 436 men, women, and children. It separated Black Americans from families and homes. It was known as 'The Weeping Time.'


October 16-18, 1859
John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) - On Sunday night, John Brown, and his party, seized the Federal armory, in Harper's Ferry. It had a substantial arms supply. At least 20 men took part in the raid. Most were white men.

Sundary, October 16th, 11 p.m., Brown began his raid. It started well. They freed a number of slaves and cut the telegraph lines into the town. The group ran into Heyward Shepherd, a 'free' Black American man. He was a baggage handler for the railroad.

Heyward was told to stop. Instead, he headed back to the station. Brown's men shot him in the back. Pro-slavers regarded Heyward as a hero.

A white doctor heard the gunshot. He came to see what happened. Brown saw the doctor and let him leave. After the doctor left, he raised an alarm. Church bells were rung in the town. Later, he went to another town to tell of the raid.

Brown sent men to get help from nearby plantations. He wanted Black American men. Only a handful joined. With his group, Brown took at least 60 hostages, in town. The 10 most important were kept in the engine house, of the railroad.

Monday, October 17th, 1:15 a.m., the evening train was stopped. It was held for five (5) hours. Brown went on the train. He talked with passengers for an hour. The passengers were allowed into town to stay at a hotel.

At 7 a.m., the train got to the first telegraph. At 10:30 a.m., the military was sent word of Brown's raid.

Between 11 a.m. and evening, local militia units formed. Several companies of men arrived in Harper's Ferry. Most were drunk and disorderly. There was enough control to surround Brown's men.

The militia killed Dangerfield Newby. He was an ex-slave in Brown's group. Newby's corpse was mutilated, by the militia. His testicles and ears were cut off. The militia kept them as souvenirs.

By the time the military arrived, most of the hostages were freed. Brown only held about 10. They were held in the engine house, of the railroad.

On Tuesday, October 18th, the raid ended. Colonel Robert E. Lee and the military captured Brown.

On December 2nd, 1859, John Brown was hanged. Shields Green, who escaped slavery, and the 'free' man, John Copeland, were hanged. John Brown's wife was allowed to take his body back to New York. The bodies of the two Black American men were sold to white medical students.