Lesson Plan

An American Story – The Jerry Rescue of 1851

Lithograph entitled “Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law”, published in 1850.
Lithograph entitled “Effects of the Fugitive Slave Law”, published in 1850.

Library of Congress

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Fifth Grade
African American History and Culture, Constitutional Law, History, Slavery
Allow your class two hours to complete this lesson plan.
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
Slavery, Underground Railroad, Abolition, Fugitive Slave Law.


In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which said that all runaway slaves had to be returned to their masters, even if they had gained their freedom by escaping to a “free state”. On October 1st, 1851, an Abolitionist political party was holding an Anti-Slavery Convention in Syracuse, NY. That same day, a runaway slave named William “Jerry” Henry was arrested and jailed under the Fugitive Slave Law by federal marshals.  If you were there, what would you do? What actually did happen?


Refresh your understanding of the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Underground Railroad.


These are two different sources that describe, in detail, the Jerry Rescue.



Have your class answer the questions, and review their answers.

Park Connections

The leaders in the Seneca Falls Convention came from the antislavery movement. Jermaine Loguen who participated in the Jerry Rescue stayed overnight at the M'Clintock House in Waterloo on his way to Canada to escape capture by federal marshals for being a runaway slave. This was the same house in which the Seneca Falls Convention was planned three years earlier.

Additional Resources

Three links to articles about the Jerry Rescue.



Slavery, Antislavery, Runaway Slave, Fugitive Slave Act, Convention.

Last updated: February 26, 2015