African American Abolitionist
In the early 19thC. America, any person who aided an enslaved person to escape from bondage was breaking the law--the laws of slave states and the laws of the United States. This fact was true from the first Fugitive Slave law passed by Congress in 1793. Federal law mandated a $500 penalty for anyone violating this law.
Thomas Garrett, a white Quaker from Wilmington who broke this law constantly during his 39 years as a stationmaster, was once arrested for this "crime." Brought to trial in May, 1848, he was found guilty and was fined $5400 (though he apparently paid less, for various reasons).
His friend Samuel Burris, a Black Delawarean, was also arrested for this offense around the same time--1847. Unlike Garrett, Burris had to remain in prison until his trial. Found guilty, he was sentenced to these punishments:
• a heavy fine; • six additional months in jail;
• sale as a servant/slave for seven years; • return to jail for six months;
• sale again as a servant/slave for another seven years.
No one threatened Garrett with enslavement. Burris was so sentenced--because he was Black.
Happily, a friend of Garrett, pretending to be a slaveholder, "bought" Burris for $500 and brought him out of Delaware as a free man. Soon after he moved with his family to San Francisco and died in 1863.