1855 : Michigan Pushes Back Against Fugitive Slave Law

February 13, 2024 all-day

On Feb. 13, 1855, the Michigan Legislature moved to protect escaped slaves. To counter the harsh provisions of the 1850 federal Fugitive Slave Law, which forced the return of African Americans who had escaped the horrors of slavery, the Legislature prohibited the use of county jails for the detention of escaped slaves. The measure also directed county prosecuting attorneys to defend the recaptured slaves — a provision that had been denied the slaves in the 1850 law.


An abolitionist cartoon takes to task Northern states that complied with the Fugitive Slave Law.

For more information about Detroit and the Underground Railroad during this period, see the Detroit Historical Museum’s Doorway to Freedom – Detroit and the Underground Railroad exhibit.

Sources :

Michigan Historical Calendar, courtesy of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

Detroit Historical Society Facebook Page

Abolitionist cartoon reposted from Michigan House Democrats Official Blog, February 13, 2017.