Archy Lee Slavery in California

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Bradis McGriff
Iris M Jerke
CAlifornia History

Everyone knew that slavery took place in the southern United States, but to this day few people know that slavery existed in the state of California. As far as African Americans as well as the rest of the country were concerned California was supposed to be a free state under state law because back in 1857 slavery had not been outlawed in the United States. In this piece of literature you will find out about African Americans in the state of California who were slaves, but most importantly you will find out about one man in particular who goes by the name of Archy Lee. Archy Lee was born in 1840 in Mississippi. For the first seventeen years of his life, Archy and his family lived on his master's plantation in Mississippi. Archy Lee was 17 years old when Charles A. Stovall, his slave master, separated Archy from his mother, his sister and brothers and took him to Sacramento, California in 1857. Charles A. Stovall was hired as a teacher, and hired out his slave to do labor work for anyone in the community who needed a worker. Charles A. His master Mr. Stovall took the money that Archy Lee had worked all day long for away from him. Archy Lee was fed up with his slave master and he knew that in the state of California he was a free man, or so he thought. Stovall was outraged when he noticed that Archy Lee was missing. His slave was worth a lot of money, and he wanted Archy back because Archy was smart and was Mr. Stovall main income. Charles A. Stovall immediately called the local police and so the manhunt began for Archy Lee. Although there was slavery in the South, California was a supposed to be a free state when it was admitted to the Union in 1850. While state law did not protect slavery, neither did it free the slave. Negroes who wished to gain their freedom in California had to hope for a favorable interpretation of the law. Judges in the state who ruled unfavorably for the Negro cited the National Fugitive Slave Law and in some cases used language that anticipated the Dred Scott Decision. California, in fact, passed its own fugitive slave law in 1852. This was done to counteract the interpretation of some judges that the federal Fugitive Slave Law did not apply to masters who tried to force the return of their slaves to the South. The federal law was designed to catch runaway slaves, and it was obviously extremely unlikely that the Underground Railroad was transporting runaway Negroes to California in the 1850 's. The fugitive slave issue kept the Negro community who lived in the state of California in a constant state of uncertainty due to the fact that they never knew rather or not they would be returned to slavery. Archy had discovered that he was in a free state, and he did not ever want to be anyone's slave again. Archy then ran into the hills and the forest and hid successfully for weeks surviving off of the water from the river, and off whatever food he could find. Eventually the day came when he was captured by the police and thrown in jail. Before the case went to court, the news of Archy's escape reached people throughout California and they couldn't believe the news so the African American citizens of the state of California did everything in their power to help Archy get his freedom. The Colored State Convention, composed of an active committee that worked for the rights of Black residents, hired a lawyer to represent Archy. The news also reached San Francisco about his escape and his day in court. The following notice was posted on the Athenaeum, a Black library on Washington Street in San Francisco: "There will be a public meeting of the colored citizens, Friday Evening, 8:00 PM on March 5th, at the AME Zion Church" (Evening Bulletin News, 3/6/58). The purpose was to raise funds to hire the best lawyers, and it was a successful campaign. There were several trials, and finally Archy was released. All In all Archy was sent to...
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