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Petition of Absalom Jones, and others, people of color, and freemen against the slave trade to the Coast of Guinea, January 2, 1800

In this petition, Absalom Jones, a former slave and other freemen of Philadelphia decried the slave trade, describing the kidnapping and enslavement of African Americans. They did not demand immediate emancipation of all slaves, but implored Congress to ameliorate the cruel effects of the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act.

In the Constitution, and the Fugitive bill, no mention is made of Black people or Slaves––therefore if the Bill of Rights, or the declaration of Congress are of any validity, we beseech that as we are men, we may be admitted to partake of the Liberties and unalienable Rights therein held forth––firmly believing that the extending of Justice and equity to all Classes, would be a means of drawing down the blessings of Heaven upon this Land…

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Petition of Absalom Jones, and others, people of color, and freemen against the slave trade to the Coast of Guinea, January 2, 1800 In the Constitution, and the Fugitive bill, no mention is made of Black people or Slaves––therefore if the Bill of Rights, or the declaration of Congress are of any validity, we beseech that as we are men, we may be admitted to partake of the Liberties and unalienable Rights therein held forth––firmly believing that the extending of Justice and equity to all Classes, would be a means of drawing down the blessings of Heaven upon this Land…

The Right to Liberty

Since the nation’s founding, anti-slavery advocates—including many free African Americans—worked tirelessly to abolish slavery. When the 1793 Fugitive Slave Law resulted in the kidnapping and enslavement of African Americans in the North, freemen of Philadelphia petitioned Congress in protest. Congress banned the importation of slaves in 1808, but slavery itself did not end until after the Civil War with the adoption of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.