Image 'Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law', 1850

TLF ID M008743

This is a black-and-white print showing four African Americans attacked in an ambush by six armed white men. One of the white men is firing as two others reload their guns, and two of the African Americans have been hit. The print is a denunciation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, its effect reinforced by two quotations at the bottom: one from the Bible, the other from the Declaration of Independence. The drawing was probably done by German-born artist and anti-slavery campaigner Theodor Kaufmann and published by Hoff and Bloede in New York.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This print is a useful source for the study of slavery in the USA in the years before the American Civil War (1861-65). It is relevant to the modern history curriculum in the senior secondary years and to the year 9 history depth study elective, Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which involves a study of the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade.
  • As is clear from the image and text, the Fugitive Slave Law was hated by abolitionists in the USA. After its passage through Congress in September 1850, they immediately produced posters and prints such as this one warning free African Americans in northern states that they could be seized by slave catchers as fugitive slaves. Once a person had been claimed as a fugitive slave, their testimony could not be admitted in evidence in any legal proceedings under the Act.
  • Slavery was the economic underpinning of plantation industries in the American South and West. From 1793 to 1865, an estimated 1 million people were enslaved by transatlantic or domestic slave traders to work in the cotton industry alone. Even though the number of slaves who escaped to freedom was relatively few compared to this number, slave owners were keen to recover and punish them as an example to the others.
Topics Slavery Escapees
Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Theodor Kaufmann
  • Description: author
  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Person: Theodor Kaufmann
  • Description: author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.