Best known as the inspiration for Toni Morrison’s award winning novel, Beloved, The Margaret Garner Incident of 1856 contains one of the most ground breaking fugitive slave trials of the pre-Civil War era. Margaret Garner was born into slavery on June 4, 1834 on Maplewood plantation in Boone County, Kentucky. Working as a house slave for much of her life, Garner often traveled with her masters and even accompanied them on shopping trips to free territories in Cincinnati.
After marrying Robert Garner in 1849, Margaret bore four children by 1856. The 1850s were also a period in which the Underground Railroad was at its height in and around Cincinnati, transporting numerous slaves to freedom in Canada. The Garners decided to take advantage of such an opportunity to escape enslavement. On Sunday January 27, 1856, they set out for their first stop on their route to freedom, Joseph Kite’s house in Cincinnati. The Garners made it safely to Kite’s home on Monday morning, where they awaited their next guide. Within hours, the Garners master, A.K. Gaines, and federal marshals stormed Kite’s home with warrants for the Garners. Determined not to return to slavery, Margaret decided to take the lives of herself and her children. When the marshals found Margaret in a back room, she had slit her two year old daughter’s throat with a butcher knife, killing her. The other children lay on the floor wounded but still alive.
More here. (Note: At leas t one daily post throughout February will be devoted to African American History Month)