Anthony Burns


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Antebellum Stafford


Anthony Burns

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act mandated that runaway slaves must be recaptured and returned to their master.  A nationally-known test case of this law involved Stafford slave Anthony Burns.   Born on a north Stafford estate owned by the Suttles, “Tony” Burns defied local laws by learning to read and write assisted by local white children. He worked throughout Stafford; north near the Robertson Quarry; in Hartwood at a sawmill; and in Falmouth as a Baptist “slave preacher” at the Union Church.

Doing an errand in Richmond for his master, Charles Francis Suttle, Burns escaped from Virginia by stowing away on a north-bound ship.  In February of 1853, he arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, a state where slavery had been abolished.  He worked there for a year, but was arrested on May 24, 1854. The Fugitive Slave Act faced its first challenge when Boston police captured Burns. It touched off riots and protests by abolitionists and citizens of Boston.       (Image:  Library of Congress)