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Runaway Slave Laws in Border States, 1794-1846

Every southern state passed laws, sometimes called slave codes, to restrict the activities of African Americans and to prevent slave rebellions. White lawmakers in slave-holding border states, such as Maryland and Kentucky, were particularly concerned about runaway slaves who “stole themselves” by attempting escape to a northern free state. Southern slave owners’ complaints about their lost “property” eventually led to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, a federal law which greatly increased the penalties for any person in the South or North who assisted a runaway slave.

1794, Kentucky 1796, Maryland 1798, Kentucky 1819, Maryland 1823, Kentucky 1833, Maryland 1838, Maryland 1840, Kentucky 1846, Kentucky
Source | Maryland State Archives, “History of Runaways,” Legacy of Slavery in Maryland,; Marion B. Lucas, A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891 (2003).
Item Type | Laws/Court Cases
Cite This document | “Runaway Slave Laws in Border States, 1794-1846,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed June 13, 2021,

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