In the years leading up to the Civil War, fugitives from slavery put their lives on the line to improve their own status and that of their families in their quest for freedom. Fugitives from slavery, or “freedom seekers,” engaged in civil disobedience, resisting laws that they believed to be unjust and inhumane. In the North, free black people and their white allies supported the freedom seekers by engaging in civil disobedience of their own. The transgressive actions of freedom seekers sparked constitutional controversy during the antebellum era over issues of interstate comity, federalism, citizenship rights, and fundamental human rights. Their actions were central to the antislavery struggle, and their sacrifices sent a profound moral message which inspired other activists and strengthened their cause. Eventually, the Reconstruction Congress enshrined their claims into constitutional law. Until now, fugitives from slavery have largely been absent from virtually all of the legal scholarship about the antebellum and Reconstruction Era. This Article seeks to remedy that oversight.



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