This Day in History

Oct. 1, 1851: The Jerry Rescue

Time Periods: 1850
Themes: Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Slavery and Resistance

Jerry Rescue Monument in Syracuse, New York.

In the “Jerry Rescue,” abolitionists in Syracuse, New York broke into the city’s police station and freed William “Jerry” Henry. Henry had escaped from slavery and had been working as a barrel-maker. This occurred on Oct. 1, 1851.

The federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required “good citizens” to assist in the return of those who had fled “ownership” by another. These abolitionists refused to obey an inhumane law.

A group of Black and white men created a chaotic diversion and managed to free Henry but he was later re-arrested.  

At his second hearing, a group of men overpowered the guards with clubs and axes, and freed Henry a second time. Henry was then secretly taken over the border to Canada. Read more at New York History Net. Find related teaching resources below.