Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave from Virginia, 1855

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This record was last updated on 10 Jun 2016

Image Reference

Published in Boston (1855); see Comments (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62- 90750)

Anthony Burns was born a slave in Virginia in 1824. In 1854 he escaped to Boston where he was arrested soon after his arrival under terms of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Although abolitionists tried to liberate him he was returned to his master in Virginia. His freedom was purchased by members of a Boston church in 1855. He returned to Boston, ultimately attended Oberlin college and became a clergyman. He died in 1862. This engraved portrait of Burns shows him surrounded by scenes depicting different phases of his life, including (from lower left), the purchase of the young Burns at auction, a whipping post with bales of cotton, his arrest in Boston in 1854, his escape from Richmond on board a ship, his removal from Boston, his address to the court, and Burns in prison. A different portrait of Burns also appears on the title page of a pamphlet, "The Boston Slave Riot, and Trial of Anthony Burns" (Boston, 1854 [see LC-USZ62-90720]). See also Virginia Hamilton, Anthony Burns: the defeat and triumph of a fugitive slave (New York, 1997).