Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery

Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin (2013) A Walker Book for Young People
This tells the story between one town, Oberlin, Ohio and the Fugitive Slave Act and slave hunters.  John Price had run away from Kentucky with his cousin Dinah and a friend Frank.  They followed the underground railroad North to the town of Oberlin, which boasted Oberlin College, numerous former slaves, as well as a population against slavery, feeling there was a higher law of what was “right” than the law of the land.  John and his friend stayed in Oberlin for some time.  His cousin went a separate way to avoid recapture.  John was captured by slave hunters.  As he was being driven off, he said to a college student that he was being kidnapped.  As soon as he was out of sight of the slave hunters, he ran to Oberlin to say what was happening.  John Price was being held in the Wadsworth Hotel in Wellington, Ohio.  Anderson Jennings had been promised $500 for the slave in Kentucky.  He planned to take the railroad.  Numerous citizens from Oberlin surrounded the hotel, demanding Price’s release.  The train showed up at 5:13, but Jennings did not try to make the train.  Reportedly there were federal Marshalls due to arrive on the 8 p.m. train.  They decided to storm the room.  They did so without anyone getting hurt, and rescued John Price.  It is assumed we fled to Canada.  President Buchanan decided to make an example of the citizens of Oberlin.  37 men were charged and convicted  of violating the Fugitive Slave Act.  They were sentenced to three months in jail.  Upon their release there was a big celebration.  The town pledged, “No fugitive slave shall ever be taken from Oberlin either with or without warrant, if we have power to prevent it.”  This was one of the things that fostered poor relations between the North and the South which eventually lead to the Civil War.

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