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

Lewis (slave)

In 1850, a slave named Lewis escaped from Alexander Marshall's ownership in Fleming County, KY. Lewis went to Columbus, OH, where he hid for three years. Marshall Dryden captured Lewis in 1853 and attempted to take him back to Kentucky, but instead, Dryden was arrested in Cincinnati for kidnapping. John Jollife and Rutherford B. Hayes defended 19 year old Lewis when the case went before Commissioner Samuel S. Carpenter. Carpenter insisted that in Ohio, "a black person was free until proven a slave." At the trial there was a large crowd of blacks and whites, which made Carpenter nervous, so he spoke in a whisper. So many people filled the courtroom that while the proceedings were taking place, Lewis eased through the crowd. Someone placed a hat on his head, and he slipped out the door before anyone opposed to his leaving was able to take notice. Lewis got help from members of the Underground Railroad: dressing as a woman, he escaped to Canada. After the trial, Carpenter confessed that he would not have forced Lewis to return to Kentucky; Carpenter resigned from his post the following year. For more on Lewis and other Kentucky African American fugitives who were not quite so lucky, see S. Middleton, "The Fugitive Slave Crisis in Cincinnati, 1850-1860: Resistance, Enforcement, and Black Refugees," The Journal of Negro History, vol. 72, issues 1/2 (Winter - Spring, 1987), pp. 20-32.

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NKAA Source: The Journal of Negro history (periodical)

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“Lewis (slave),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 12, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:21