Running Toward Abolition: Fugitive Slaves, Legal Rights, and the Coming of the Civil War
“Running toward Abolition” will examine how marginalized African Americans—free and enslaved—built a fight for legal protections that threatened slaveholders, a dominant class in early American politics. In this movement, African American activists and their allies in and out of politics claimed that Northern states’ ability to grant and protect the legal rights of free Black people within their borders was fundamental to their sovereignty in the federal system. Slaveholders, on the other hand, claimed that any recognition of Black legal rights in the United States threatened the comprehensive property right that they believed was necessary to their system of bondage. The irreconcilability of these two legal positions contributed in major, understudied ways to the coming of the Civil War.