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Examining the heightening of tensions in the 1850s in the lead up to the Civil War. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act with the Compromise of 1850 saw African American liberty reach an all-time low. Not only were all African Americans now vulnerable to slave catchers, but protecting them from kidnapping was deemed illegal. The Dred Scot v. Sandford Supreme Court decision in 1857 further reduced African American rights, as all slaves were deemed to be property, not people.
Institutions such as the Committee of Thirteen, a group set up to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act; state conventions; and public meetings that sought to defend the rights of black New Yorkers to ride the streetcars.
In a series of cases foreshadowing the Montgomery Bus Boycotts of the 20th century, Elizabeth Jennings, Sarah Adams, and Reverend J. W. C. Pennington refused to get down from segregated streetcars, eventually forcing the desegregation of the streetcars through a New York State Supreme Court case in 1858. However, the difficulties of this decade forced a return to the argument for a back-to-Africa approach, and coinciding with the independence of Liberia in 1847, many were willing to give emigration a second chance. Thus the ‘African heritage’ side of the debate finally re-emerged in the political sphere as the Liberian Agriculture and Emigration Society was founded, Henry Highland Garnet endorsed Liberian emigration, and a national movement by Martin Delany to immigrate to Africa was established.
Tensions between Garnet and the anti-emigrationists James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and George Downing dominated the debates of the late 1850s. Here again, in response to continued and persistent oppression in America,
‘what emerged from these conflicts was the Black community’s determination to stay in the United States and agitate for its rights’ http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/770
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