Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
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Events of the Underground Railroad focused on Maryland

Use the links below to quick jump to a particular century:
1600 | 1700 | 1800


1600s
1634 Mathias de Sousa arrives in Maryland along with its first settlers. He was a person of African descent. De Sousa came to the colony as an indentured servant. He completed his term of service and then set out on his own became free. He set out on his own. As a free man, he captained a boat and traded goods with others. He, like other free men, participated in person at the Maryland Assembly.

1642 Thirteen Africans arrive at St. Mary's City. They have been brought to Maryland to help build the colony. It is not known if they were considered indentured servants who would become free after working for some years or if they were slaves for life.

1663 Maryland colony enacts laws that recognize slavery for life.

1671 Maryland adopts a law that says that slaves must remain slaves-even if they become Christians. Before this, if slaves in Maryland converted to Christianity, they would have been considered free.

1688 Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania sign an antislavery resolution. This is the first document of this kind that was created in the colonies.

1690 Numbers of African slaves brought to Maryland begin to increase rapidly. Numbers of European indentured servants decrease.

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1700s
1739 Jack Ransom, a slave from the Poplar Neck plantation in Prince George's County, is brought to trial for trying to organize a slave revolt. He is convicted and hanged.

1776 First Maryland state constitution permits male property owners, including free black men, to vote. Blacks gradually lost that right, with none voting after 1810.

1789 An abolitionist society is formed in Baltimore. It is called the Maryland Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Poor Negroes and Others Unlawfully Held in Bondage.

1793 Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Law. This law says that owners can cross state lines to recapture their slaves that have run away.

1796 Maryland passes a law that forbids people from importing slaves. It also allows people to voluntarily set their slaves free.

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1800s
1802 Sharp Street United Methodist Church is established by African Americans in Baltimore.

1831 The Maryland State Colonization Society is founded. It later sets up a colony in Liberia for free black settlers from Maryland. Not many people took advantage of this. They thought it was an attempt to get rid of free black people, in part so they could not help slaves to revolt.

1824 Quaker Benjamin Lundy moved to Baltimore. He published The Genius of Universal Emancipation, the first exclusively abolitionist newspaper in the nation.

1827 Jim Pembroke, a slave in Maryland, escapes. In freedom, he chooses a new name, James W.C. Pennington. Pembroke/Pennington goes on to be a leader fighting to put an end to slavery.

1831 A Virginia slave, Nat Turner leads a revolt against slave owners. During two days of fighting, 60 people were killed. This uprising makes people in other states afraid that the same thing will happen in their communities. Strong laws are passed to prevent this. Maryland passes laws that further restrict the activities and rights of free black people. They could not buy liquor, own guns, sell food without a license to do so, or attend religious meeting without a white person being present. Other laws state that slave owners could not set their slaves free unless they sent them out of the state.

1841 Maryland passes a law stating that, if a free black person was found with any materials related to abolition, he can be placed in jail for 10-20 years.

1847 The North Star, Frederick Douglass’ newspaper supporting the abolishment of slavery, begins publication in Rochester, New York.

1849 Harriet Tubman escapes to freedom in the north from a farm in Dorchester County, Maryland. She would return south 19 more times to help others along the path to freedom.

1850 Congress passes the Compromise of 1850. This law makes the Fugitive Slave Law passed in 1793 even stronger. It encourages slave catchers by offering rewards for the return of runaways. It specifies that slavery should not be abolished in the District of Columbia unless its residents and those in Maryland agreed.

1852 The book Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published. Its author Harriet Beecher Stowe based parts of her book on Josiah Henson’s account of his years as a slave in Maryland.

1857 The U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in the Dred Scott case. Scott was a slave whose masters had brought into free territory. Scott had sued for his freedom, based on this. The Supreme Court said that Scott had no right to sue because he was a slave. The decision also says that that black Americans – whether they were free people or slaves – were not citizens and had no legal rights.

1857 Samuel Green is sentenced to ten years in prison for having a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Green was a free black person who lived in Dorchester County, Maryland.

1859 Moving out from Maryland, John Brown began his attack of the Harper’s Ferry Federal Arsenal. He wanted slaves to rise up against their masters and form their own colony in Maryland. The raid failed when local slaves failed to join Brown in the fighting.

1861 Civil War begins when many southern states secede from the Union. Maryland was not a part of this group.

1862 Slavery is abolished in Washington, D. C., through a law passed by Congress.

1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves who lived states that had seceded from the Union. This did not apply in Maryland.

1864 Maryland slaves are set free by a new State Constitution.

1865 The Civil War ends when the Confederate troops surrender.

1865 Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlaws slavery throughout the nation.

1868 Congress passes the Fourteenth Amendment. It makes all black people citizens of the United States.

1870 Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment, which specifically gives black men the right to vote.

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