In celebration of Black History Month, the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission is sponsoring a free, public lecture by Dr. Karolyn Smardz Frost, author of “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land” – an account of the experiences of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, two Kentucky slaves who made a daring escape, only to be recaptured in Michigan. Just before the Blackburns were to be returned to Kentucky, the local black community in southeastern Michigan rallied to their cause. The Blackburn Riots of 1833 were the first racial uprising in Detroit history.
Dr. Frost will speak about her book, particularly bout the Blackburns’ experience of freedom and re-capture in Michigan. She will explain the legal debate in Canada that resulted in a refusal to extradite the Blackburns to all but certain re-enslavement. The Blackburn case was the first serious legal dispute between Canada and the United States regarding the Underground Railroad. The impassioned defense of the Blackburns by Canada’s lieutenant governor set precedents for all future fugitive-slave cases.
Mark Harvey and the Archives staff have assembled a collection of legal documents from the Blackburn case that will be on display on the first floor of the Michigan Historical Museum all weekend, Feb. 7-8. These items include copies of affidavits sworn in Louisville by those seeking to regain custody of the couple; copies of warrants issued in Wayne County for the arrest of the Blackburns under the federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793; and documents sent to Territorial Governor Porter explaining why they were refusing Michigan’s request for extradition. This case helped to establish Canada as the ultimate haven for men, women and children who escaped slavery in the American South.
Copies of “I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land” will be on sale in the Museum Store and Dr. Frost will be available to sign copies of her book following the presentation.
The Lansing City Pulse has a feature interview article with Dr. Frost in the Feb. 4, 2009 edition.