The 1850s were a turbulent time in American history. For African-Americans—freed and enslaved— the decade was marked by great achievements as well as setbacks. For instance, several states established personal liberty laws to counter the negative impact of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. However, to counter these personal liberty laws, southern states such as Virginia established slave codes that hindered the movement of enslaved African-Americans in urban environments.
1850: The Fugitive Slave Law is established and enforced by the United States federal government. The law honors the rights of slave owners, placing fear in both fugitives and freed African-Americans throughout the United States. As a result, many states begin passing personal liberty laws.
Virginia passes a law forcing freed slaves to leave the state within one year of their emancipation.
Shadrack Minkins and Anthony Burns, both fugitive slaves, are captured through the Fugitive Slave Law. However, through the work of attorney Robert Morris Sr and several abolition organizations, both men were freed from enslavement.
1851: Sojourner Truth delivers Aint I A Woman at the Womens Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
1852: Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes her novel, Uncle Toms Cabin.
1853: William Wells Brown becomes the first African-American to publish a novel. The book, titled CLOTEL is published in London.
1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act establishes the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This act allows the status (free or slave) of each state to be decided by popular vote. In addition, the act abolishes the anti-slavery clause found in the Missouri Compromise.
1854-1855: States such as Connecticut, Maine and Mississippi establish personal liberty laws.
States such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island renew their laws.
1855: States such as Georgia and Tennessee remove binding laws on interstate slave trade.
John Mercer Langston becomes the first African-American elected to serve in United States government following his election in