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Margaret Garner
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Slave
    (circa 1833-1858)
    Born in Boone County, Kentucky
    With her husband and four children and other slaves, escaped across the frozen Ohio River to Cincinnati (January 28, 1856)
    Captured by slave catchers and federal marshals the next day
    Returned with her husband and children to their owner after a two week trial (a typical fugitive slave hearing at the time lasted less than a day)
    Died of typhoid fever on a plantation in Mississippi
    When the marshals surrounded the cabin she was barricaded in, she stabbed her children, killing her two year old daughter.
    Her case triggered a legal battle over whether she should be tried as a person in state court for murder or as property in federal court under the Fugitive Slave Act.
    Although apologists for the Confederacy claim it was founded to uphold states' rights, not slavery, it was the pro-Southern side demanding that the federal Fugitive Slave Act trump state laws.
    He attorney planned to have her convicted in state court, then secretly pardoned by Ohio's pro-abolition governor and spirited off to Canada.
    When her owner had the Garner family shipped to his brother's plantation in Arkansas, she threw herself and her infant daughter off the ship, drowning the child.
    She had a scar on her forehead and cheek where her owner struck her.
    Three of her four kids were probably fathered by her owner.
    During the trial, abolitionist Lucy Stone testified about the relation between Garner and her owner and said, 'Rather than give her daughter to that life, she killed it. If in her deep maternal love she felt the impulse to send her child back to God, to save it from coming woe, who shall say she had no right not to do so?'
    When the state of Ohio filed a warrant for her extradition, her owner kept moving her between different locations in Kentucky, then sent her to the deep South.
    Her husband said that before her death she told him to 'never marry again in slavery, but to live in hope of freedom.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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