Jan. 27, 1847
More than 100 citizens of Marshall, Michigan, helped Adam Crosswhite, his wife, Sarah, and their children, who had escaped slavery, to flee to Canada rather than be captured by bounty hunters.
Three years earlier, Crosswhite and his family had fled a Kentucky plantation after learning one of his four children was going to be sold. They traveled on the Underground Railroad through Indiana and Illinois before winding up in Michigan.
At 4 a.m., bounty hunters broke into the home of Crosswhite and his family, telling them they were being taken back to Kentucky. Before that could happen, hordes of citizens intervened. When the bounty hunters offered to take the children only, the couple refused. The sheriff’s office then arrived and arrested the bounty hunters for trespassing, enabling the Crosswhite family to escape to Canada.
Later, the slaveholder sued seven Black and white Marshall citizens who intervened and won $1,926, which with court costs totalled nearly $6,000 (more than $211,000 today).
Citizens of the town rallied, raised the money and adopted a resolution that said, “We will never voluntarily separate ourselves from the slave population in the country, for they are our fathers and mothers, and sisters and our brothers, their interest is our interest, their wrongs and their sufferings are ours, the injuries inflicted on them are alike inflicted on us; therefore it is our duty to aid and assist them in their attempts to regain their liberty.”
An abolitionist journal at the time, The Signal of Liberty, wrote, “If the slaveholder has the right to seize a fugitive from slavery in a free State, let him appeal to the proper tribunals to maintain that right, instead of midnight seizure, backed by a display of bowie knives and seven shooters.”
After the Civil War ended, Crosswhite and his family returned to Marshall. A monument now marks the place where they made their courageous stand.
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