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Northeast / Massachusetts

Nathaniel Booth 1844-1860 Lowell, Massachusetts In 1844, Nathaniel Booth, an escaped slave, settles in Lowell, Massachusetts and opens a barbershop. Booth lives and works in Lowell and is listed in the US Census and City Directories. When the 1850 Federal Fugitive Slave Law is passed by Congress, “one or two slave catches” are seen in Lowell and Booth flees to Canada. Immediately and publicly the local Free Soilers Party pleads with Booth to return to Lowell, offering him full protection. One member expressing "a willingness to suffer death rather than let a fugitive slave be caught when it was within his power to prevent it." Shortly after this announcement, Booth returns to Lowell and moves in with the Walker Lewis Family, a family of free African Americans living and working in Lowell and active in the Massachusetts anti-slavery movement and the local Underground Railroad. One year later in 1851, slave catchers are again in Lowell and discover Booth, demanding that he be returned to his southern plantation owner. In response, Linus Child, an Agent in charge of one of Lowell's large cotton textile mills steps foward and negotiates the price of Booth’s freedom from $2,000 to $900. Child then raises ths money from the local community to complete the purchase of Nathaniel Booth's freedom. Now a free man, Booth continues to live in Lowell. In 1855, the Massachusetts Legislature passes a comprehensive Personal Liberty Law, which practically nullifies the 1850 Federal Fugitive Slave Law. The South views this action as defying the Federal Constitution and the tensions between the South and the North grow.


Submitted By:

Martha Mayo, Massachusetts,
martha_mayo@uml.edu