The federal marshals seemed to appear out of nowhere. They grabbed Henry forcefully. Originally accused of stealing, now that they had captured him it was revealed that he was actually under arrest because of the Fugitive Slave Law! Would he be sent back into enslavement?
They dragged him to the Townsend Block to be arraigned. His freedom slipping away, Henry attempted a final escape – but was caught and jailed overnight. In his dark cell, Henry prayed for help – and because of community, his prayers were answered.
2,500 abolitionists protested Henry’s arrest; simultaneously, the Syracuse Vigilance Committee, led by Black abolitionists, organized a jailbreak. Once inside the jail, police shot at the committee – but were overpowered and thrown from the windows!
Henry was rescued and escaped to Canada. But the fight wasn’t over.
Known as the “Jerry Rescue,” abolitionists used Henry’s escape to expose the injustices of the Fugitive Slave Law – it even inspired John Brown, whose famous raid on Harper’s Ferry directly led to the Civil War. Though it was eventually struck down, the legacy of the Fugitive Slave Law unfortunately lives on in mass incarceration and overpolicing.
We must always seek our freedom, even against all odds. And like the Black leaders who organized Henry’s rescue, we must stand up for our people, even if it means pushing back against unfair laws!