The most dramatic fugitive slave case in California involved an eighteen-year old enslaved African American from Mississippi named Archy Lee.
Brought to Sacramento in 1857 by his owner John Stovall, Lee was hired out to earn a wage for his master. Encouraged by others to escape bondage, Lee fled and hid in a Sacramento boardinghouse owned by free African Americans. Located there by Stovall, Lee was arrested and the journey through the California courtrooms began.
A number of abolitionists came forward to prevent Lee’s return to bondage. Funds were raised among the local African-American community to pay court costs, and notable Republican attorney Edward D. Baker was among those who defended the freedom seeker in court.
In 1858, a U.S. Commissioner in San Francisco declared Archy Lee a free man. Within weeks Lee joined several hundred African Americans migrating to British Columbia to seek economic, social and political opportunities denied to African Americans in the United States.
For more information regarding African American history in California, click on the link below.