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

Strader v. Graham

Three African American slaves, George, Henry, and Reuben, were often allowed to travel with a man named Williams; the three men were musicians in Williams' band and they received musical training from Williams. The men belonged to Christopher Graham, from Harrodsburg, KY. In 1837, the band left Kentucky aboard the steamboat Pike (owned by Jacob Strader, James Gorman, and John Armstrong) and traveled into Ohio and Indiana. In 1841, George, Henry, and Reuben escaped to Canada. Graham sued Strader, Gorman, and Armstrong for the loss of his slaves. The prominent legal question became whether the three slaves had become free men by virtue of their travel into a free state. In 1851, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the status of slaves depended on the laws of the state; thus, the three men were still considered slaves according to Kentucky Law. The case would be used to argue the fate of other African Americans in prominent cases such as Dred Scott v. Sanford and Rachel v. Walker. For more see Jacob Strader, James Gorman, and John Armstrong, Plaintiffs in Error, v. Christopher Graham. Supreme Court of the United States, December Term 1850. 51 U.S. 82, 10 How. 82, 1850 WL 6936, 13 L.Ed. 337 [available full text at].

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Strader v. Graham,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 15, 2021,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:21