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September 18, 2020 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm UTC-5

The US Constitution protected slavery in many ways.  One clause, known, as the Fugitive Slave Clause, allowed slaveowners to recover freedom seekers who escaped to other states. At the Constitutional Convention no one knew how this clause would operate, and no one would have predicted that it would be one of the most divisive parts of the Constitution. The clause led to two federal statutes (1793 and 1850), which made it a crime to assist people who escaped bondage. The laws were designed to both help slaveowners recover their “property” and also to prevent people in the North from aiding them. In the end the laws, especially the 1850 law, probably strengthened the Underground Railroad, by making northerners more aware of the way slavery threatened liberty everywhere in the United States. The laws led to numerous conflicts between ordinary people and the federal government, and also between northern state leaders and the national government. This discussion will examine these issues.

Dr. Paul Finkelman is a noted constitutional scholar and the author of numerous books and slavery and the constitutions. The US Supreme Court has cited him in 5 decisions on civil rights civil liberties. A Ph.D. historian, he is currently the president of Gratz College in greater Philadelphia. 

Advance registration is required. Click here to register.

This event is sponsored by Gratz College and the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.