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

Blackburn, Thornton and Ruth (or Lucie)

The Blackburns were escaped slaves from Louisville, KY. They had been settled in Detroit, Michigan, for two years when, in 1833, Kentucky slave hunters captured and arrested the couple. The Blackburns were jailed but allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Ruth to exchange her clothes - and her incarceration - with Mrs. George French; Ruth escaped to Canada. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, the African American community rose up in protest. While the commotion was going on, Sleepy Polly and Daddy Walker helped Thornton to escape to Canada. The commotion turned into a two day riot and the sheriff was killed. It was the first race riot in Detroit, and afterward the first Riot Commission was formed in the U.S. Once in Canada, Thornton designed, built, and operated Toronto's first horse-drawn carriage hackney cab and cab company. He was born in Maysville, KY in 1812. Ruth died in Canada in 1895. For more see The Detroit Riot of 1863; racial violence and internal division in Northern society during the Civil War, by A. S. Quinn; I'v Got a Home in Glory Land by K. S. Frost; and Thornton and Lucie Blackburn House.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Detroit riot of 1863 : racial violence and internal division in Northern society during the Civil War (thesis)
NKAA Source: I've got a home in glory land : a lost tale of the underground railroad

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Blackburn, Thornton and Ruth (or Lucie),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 30, 2021,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:21