The main portion of the law stated:
No person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such labor or service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.
One of the most-insidious pieces of language in the law stated that children born to slaves were bound for life to their owners and that kept them under risk for recapture no matter where they escaped to.
Northerners, angered by the law, were instrumental in passing countering legal actions that barred authorities in their respective states to assist in the capture of an escaped slave.
But even with the protection of judges and authority figures in the North, many slaves continued to be seized as rounding up escapees became a lucrative business.
Southern states bristled at the North’s boldness and defiance of the law, thus sparking a stricter law known as the “Compromise Of 1850.” The law was severe as slaves were barred from representing themselves at trial, but in a counter to the compromise, the “Underground Railroad” was born and thrived thus giving way for escaped slaves to head to the North and further to Canada. Former slaves like Harriet Tubman bonded with abolitionists and Quakers who deemed the practice of slavery inhumane.
Although slavery persisted until the enacting of the Thirteenth
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, racist practices of the ruling elite still occurred.
As evidenced by the dawn of the 19th century and beyond, African Americans withstood the brutal assault on their humanity, but the pain and memory of America’s shameful past has stood the test of time as well.