A Kidnapping and Its Aftermath

On April 4, 1837, a free black named William Dixon, who made a living by working as a carpenter and painter in New York City, and whose home was in a neighborhood that today lies “between Chinatown and Little Italy,” was “arrested just as he crossed the threshold of his home.” Dixon was claimed by a southern plantation owner who called him a “runaway.” Dixon probably came to the notice of several plantation owners because, although he had never slaved on a plantation, he was six-foot-seven and powerful.

Dixon was manacled, thrown into prison, and given a swift trial, at which he broke into tears and declared repeatedly that he was a freeman. At the end of the first day of his trial, a crowd of black men and women “had gathered by the hundreds in City Hall Park”, and a melee broke out between the protesters and the police.

The Justice in charge of the trial, Justice Bloodgood, immediately rushed out to join the police.

One African American slammed a police officer with a whitewash brush and nearly tore his ear in two. Boudinot (a policeman) pulled out his pistol, held it squarely in the protester’s face, and fired, though the gun failed to go off. A “stout” black woman seized Bloodgood around the neck in a crushing bear hug while another protester grabbed him by the heels and wrestled him to the ground. As Bloodgood lay on all fours, a number of protesters kicked him in the rear end.

The Kidnapper’s Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War, by Jonathan Daniel Wells, p. 129

This is indeed a very, very good book.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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