In the summer of 1850, an African-American woman was abducted and brought to Red Hook Point - just below the Atlantic Dock - to be taken by schooner to the South. Suspicious workers in the area were told by the captors that the woman was a runaway slave – this the woman vehemently denied. Two of the workmen ran to get the police, and when they returned the slavers were gone leaving the woman free.
This story, originally in The Evening Post, was published in August 30, 1850, just weeks before the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of September 18,1850. The Fugitive Slave acts mandated the capture of escaped slaves, even if they currently resided in states that banned slavery and considered them free. The original law was passed in 1793, and the 1850 law strengthened it, requiring that free states cooperate in returning people to slavery
Despite the efforts by free states, like New York, to circumvent the Fugitive Slave act, escapees and legally free African-Americans both faced the real fear of being kidnapped and enslaved in a southern state. Furthermore, New York has strong financial ties to the slave economy, and profited from its continuation.
It is likely that the newspapers that printed this story of the woman on the eve of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act were trying to illustrate for its readers its awfulness; it is also likely that many similar occurrences went unreported.
Text of article:
Case of a Kidnapping – A most outrageous attempt was made yesterday be several men to carry off a free colored woman residing in this city and put her on board a schooner which was to ready at an appointed time at Red Hook Point, just below the Atlantic Dock. The carriage in which the poor woman was conveyed being delayed some time, waiting for the arrival of the vessel at this place, excited the suspicions of some workmen employed in the vicinity who proceeded to the spot, and, on inquiring into the matter, were told by the men that the woman was a runaway slave, and that they were taking her on board of a schooner for the purpose of conveying her back to the owner.
The woman denied that she was a slave, and earnestly entreated the workmen to liberate her, or take her life sooner than permit her to carried into slavery. On hearing this, two of the workmen went in search of a policeman, but when they returned, the carriage and its frightened occupants had departed, leaving the woman behind, who made the best of her way back to this city