From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Woodson (former slave)

The first slave case to be tried in Pittsburgh, PA, under the Fugitive Slave Law was that of an escaped slave named Woodson. The trial took place on March 13, 1851.

Woodson, previously owned by a Mrs. Byers in Kentucky, had been living as a free man for two years in Beaver, PA, where he was a mechanic and a preacher. In the escaped slave case, the courts decided in favor of Mrs. Byers, and Woodson was returned to Kentucky.

Citizens of Pittsburgh and Beaver raised subscriptions (money) and purchased Woodson, who returned to Pennsylvania. On August 1, 1851, Woodson was guest speaker at the West Indies Emancipation Day Celebration in Oakland, PA; it was the 17th anniversary in recognition of the end of slavery in the British Empire, including the British West Indies.

For more see I. E. Williams, "The Operation of the Fugitive Slave Law in Western Pennsylvania, from 1850-1860," The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 4, issue 3 (July 1921), pp. 150-160 [available full-text at Google Books].

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NKAA Source: The Western Pennsylvania historical magazine (periodical)

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“Woodson (former slave),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed March 5, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-11-02 18:24:34