This Day in History: 1852-04-15

California enacts a harsh fugitive slave law that condemns dozens of African American migrants to deportation and lifelong slavery. Nearly all African Americans who came to California as slaves arrived during the pre-statehood torrent of goldseekers in 1849-50 and were susceptible to deportation. Even free African Americans easily fell victim to kidnapping and fraud because California’s black codes prohibited them from testifying against whites in state courts. Newspapers reported stories of nearly two dozen slaves arrested and sent back to the South between 1852 and 1855. Even after the lapse of the fugitive slave law in 1855, masters informally held slaves in California until 1864. Learn more.