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Thursday, April 3, 2008

'Fugitive Slaves' is Washburn Lecture Series Topic April 15

SALISBURY, MD---The Wilcomb Washburn Distinguished Lecture series returns to Salisbury University 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, with Dr. Richard J.M. Blackett, abolitionist historian and Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.

Blackett speaks on “Taking Leave: Fugitive Slaves and the Politics of Slavery: 1850-1860” in the Wicomico Room of the Guerrieri University Center. 

He has authored several books on the abolitionist movement in the United States, including Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War (2001), Thomas Morris Chester: Black Civil War Correspondent (1989), Beating Against the Barriers: Biographical Essays in Nineteenth-Century Afro-American History (1986) and Building an Anti Slavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement 1830-1860 (1983).

He also edited Running A Thousand Miles for Freedom: The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (1999). Blackett has been the associate editor of the Journal of American History and editor of the Indiana Magazine of History. He is a past president of the Association of Caribbean Historians.

Currently, Blackett is working on a study of “the ways communities … organized to support or resist enforcement of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the ways slaves escaped influenced the politics of slavery.”

“I have long been interested in the history of anti-slavery and how African-Americans worked to destroy the system,” he said.

His lecture focuses on the methods used by slaves and abolitionists to “challenge the system” as well as the way slaveholders resisted the efforts for emancipation. He also shows the extent of the measures slaves used to escape the grip of slavery in the South and Border States, and, by escaping, affected the debates for and against slavery in the United States.

The Washburn Distinguished Lecture Series began with a grant from the Donner Foundation of New York, where acclaimed historian Wilcomb Washburn served as a board member. Washburn was known for his personal generosity on the Eastern Shore, especially in Somerset County. Washburn died in February 1997, but his legacy is continued annually with a lecture series on certain events and issues in American history.

The Washburn Lecture series is devoted to bringing nationally recognized guest speakers to the Eastern Shore to conduct lectures on American History.

Sponsored by the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at SU, admission is free and the public is invited. For more information call 410-543-6312 or visit the Nabb Research Center Web site at

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