History 390 Final Project Content Packet

Historical Marker for Anthony Burns

Evidence Used in Research of the Topic 

Primary Source- Stevens, Charles Emery, et al. “Anthony Burns A History: Electronic Edition.” Edited by Chris Hill, Charles Emery Stevens, 1815-1893. Anthony Burns: A History, 1999, docsouth.unc.edu/neh/stevens/stevens.html. 

Secondary Sources- Wikipedia. “Anthony Burns.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Nov. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Burns. Melton, Carol. “.” Great American Trials. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Nov. 2021 .” Encyclopedia.com, Encyclopedia.com, 4 Dec. 2021, www.encyclopedia.com/law/law-magazines/rendition-hearing-anthony-burns-1854.

Who is the Audience for this?

I would say that the primary audience that this work is directed towards is the people who made the road marker. It is important to know the whole story about Anthony Burns and not just bits and pieces of the story. It is important that everyone knows all that happened so that there is a better understanding of what happened and what went on during the time. I’m sure the people that worked on this to make the road marker did do their research but it is important to outline more than just basic information. For example, It doesn’t say that Burns was smarter than most of the slaves he worked with and how burns escaped, which is important as well. There also is a lack of a backstory which I think there should be a bit more of a backstory to the written work. As for who is the secondary audience of this work, I would say that local historians, as well as people with a background in history and or people that want to know more about Anthony Burns, would be the secondary audience. I guess other people that would also classify as a secondary audience would just be people in general. It is important to know about this event. For example, the outcome of the Anthony Burns trial led to Boston passing the most progressive liberty law the nation had seen until 1854. “The law stated that slave claimants were not allowed to be on state property, fugitive slaves were required to have a trial by jury, and slave claimants had to produce two credible and unbiased witnesses to prove the evidence in their case” (Wikipedia) The passing of the law created a major change in the country in terms of slave-hunters and freed slaves. 

Timeline of Burns’ capture/trial


1,000 word revised text

Birth (May 31st, 1834)

On this date, Anthony Burns was born into a family enslaved by John Suttle. No one could have known how much of an impact burns’ life was about to make on slavery and freed slaves. Burns was born in Stafford County, Virginia, to a mother with 12 other children, with Burns being the youngest. Suttle died shortly after Burns’ birth and his wife had to sell a few of Burns’ siblings and his mother also had to be sold. Anthony didn’t get to see his mother for a few years because of this. When Anthony was 6, Mrs. Suttle died and her properties, including Burns, was inherited to her oldest son, Charles F. Suttle.

Early Childhood to Adulthood (1834-1854)

In Burns’ early life, he moved around a lot. In his first few years, he lived with the Suttle Family.  At age 7 he was hired out to three single women to grab their weekly supply of cornmeal and run other small errands, and he was paid $15 a year. It was during his time with the three single women, that he was exposed to religion. At age 8, Burns was hired out for $25 a year, but it isn’t entirely specific on what he was hired to do. In his $25 a year job, Burns was taught grammar and spelling in exchange for performing antics for the other children’s entertainment. He left this job at age 10 after poor treatment. Burns was next bought by the husband, William Brent, of a rich young woman, and at this job, Burns was taught about the northern states and how black people were not enslaved in these states, as well as whatever work he had to do. It isn’t clear what Burns’ job was but it can be said that learning about the freedom that black people had in the north is what ignited the flame inside of Burns to want to be a free slave. Burns was coming to the end of his second year of tenure with Brent and Brent knew that Burns didn’t want to work for him anymore, so Burns, with the help of Brent, was sold to a man named Foote, who had Burns work in a saw mill for $75 a year. Burns’ time with Foote was maybe the worst time Burns had with a new owner. Burns, who was 12-13 at the time, continued his education with Foote’s daughter, but Foote and his wife were very abusive towards their slaves. In either his second or third month of service with Foote, it is said that Burns’ hand was mangled and injured by Foote, who had started a saw mill that Burns’ hand was near, without knowing that Burns’ hand was near it. This event earned Burns a discharge and he was sent back to live with Suttle. In his recovery period, Burns was said to have had a religious awakening. Burns wanted to be baptized but Suttle did not allow it, and Burns was sent back to Foote when he had healed. During his second employment at Foote’s, Burns was given permission, by Suttle, to be baptized. A few years after his baptism, Burns was invited to become a preacher at a secret church, mostly used by slaves. Burns finished up his time at Foote’s and was sent to a new employer in Falmouth, Virginia. This employer loaned Burns out to a different employer for 1/2 of the year. This employer was a very horrible employer and at the end of his time with this owner, Burns refused to work with this employer again. After that year of work, Burns moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia and worked as a tavern-keeper. He earned $100 a year, for his master, at this job. Burns then went to work for an apothecary after his year of service at the Tavern. Burns later met a fortune teller who told him that he would find freedom soon. A short time later, Suttle hired William Brent to manage the hiring of Suttle’s slaves for a fee each year. Brent had Burns moved to Richmond, Virginia and a few months later, Burns was hired out to Brent’s brother-in- law, with whom Burns also did not get along with. Burns also set up a makeshift school during his time with Brent’s brother-in-law and helped educate slaves of all ages about reading and writing, and this was also kept secret from their masters. After his time with the brother-in-law, Burns was employed by a new man, by the name of Millspaugh, who quickly realized that he didn’t have enough work to earn a profit on Burns, so he sent Burns to the city to work small jobs and make money for Millspaugh. 

Escape (Early February, 1854)

On a cold February morning, Burns escaped Richmond, Virginia and set sail on his way to Norfolk, Virgina, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, where he would be a free black man. To make his escape. Burns had to hide in a compartment of the ship he was on, which was so small that Burns had to stay in the exact same position, for the entire 3-4 week trip. It is said that he suffered from many ailments in that time, mainly dehydration, starvation, and sea sickness. It was also said that Burns had a friend on the ship that would bring him food once every few days, and the food was said to be just enough for him to survive the trip.

Arrival in Boston (Late February to Early March, 1854)

There isn’t an exact date that clearly states when Burns arrived in Boston, but it is estimated that it was around the end of February 1854 and the Beginning of March 1854. Upon arrival, Burns started seeking employment. He had a job as a chef on a ship, but was fired because he could not make his bread rise. After this job, Burns had a job on Brattle street, in a clothing store. Unfortunately, Burns’ freedom didn’t last much longer after this.

Capture (May 24th, 1854)

Upon arrival in Boston, Burns sent a letter to one of his siblings about his new home and his freedom. Burns’ sibling received the letter, but the sibling’s owner also found the letter and read it and conveyed this information to Suttle, who in turn went to a courthouse in Alexandria County, Virginia, and presented it to a judge, who authorized a warrant for Burns’ arrest. A famous slavehunter by the name of Asa O. Butman was hired to track down burns. On May 24th, 1854, Burns was leaving the clothing store and was walking home when Butman had found Burns and arrested him under the guise that Burns had robbed a jewel store, which Burns knew he had not done, but he did not resist arrest. Burns was then surrounded by six or seven more men and was escorted, well more so carried, to the Court House, where he was to be held for trial. 

Trial (Late May 1854/ Early June 1854

Burns’ Trial started around this time. The trial lasted a long while and there were a few attempts to free Burns from the courthouse, but the riots and attempts ultimately failed. In the end, the judge acknowledged that he did not like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, the grounds for which Suttle and Butman wanted to arrest Burns on, but his job was to uphold the law, so the judge ruled in favor of Butman and Suttle. 

Burns’ departure from Boston and life after

On June 2nd, 1854, Burns was taken from the courthouse and brought to Richmond, Virginia, where he spent four months in jail, basically in isolation, because he was prohibited from talking to other inmates. Burns was then taken to Rocky Mount, North Carolina after being sold to a man named David McDaniel. Burns had a relatively good life at Mcdaniel’s plantation, where he had a smaller workload than most of the slaves on the plantation as well as Burns had an office in McDaniel’s house and he ate his meals with McDaniel. On a day when Burns brought his Mistress to a Neighbor’s house, someone recognized Burns from the trial in Boston and told a few people who in turn told a few more people and eventually, the famous abolitionist Leonard Grimes heard about it. Grimes started a campaign to raise money to buy Burns’ freedom from McDaniel. Eventually, Grimes did buy Burns’ freedom from McDaniel, In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Burns then went back to Boston. A few months later, Burns enrolled in Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio and then went to a seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Burns then went on to preach in Indianapolis, Indiana, and then from there he went to St. Catherine’s. Ontario, Canada to work in a zionist church in 1860. Burns later died in 1862 from Tuberculosis.

Statement of Significance 

Why work on this?; Why write about this?; Why is this important?; Why do people need to know about this?; these may be a few questions asked about this topic. Allow me to answer those questions. This topic is a very important topic. There are so many things that this topic covers that are all important things to have knowledge about. This topic is so important. Why? Because this topic led to many changes of laws for northern states. The result of Burns’ trial alone created one of the most progressive liberty laws of the time. By passing the law, it pretty much guaranteed that the northern states were a safe haven for escaped slaves. This law made it illegal for slave claimants (someone looking for one of their slaves that had escaped to the north) were not allowed on state property in Massachusetts,  fugitive slaves were required to have a trial by jury, which means that it fugitive slaves actually had a chance at freedom if their former masters ever came looking for them because the public would have to weigh in on the issue, rather than just having a trial by the slave hunters with no second opinion, and it also said that slave claimants had to have two credible and unbiased witnesses to prove their evidence in their case. This meant that the slave hunters could not just come up with phony claims and phony evidence to try and claim that an escaped slave was their own and that they couldn’t use other slave hunters to try and justify their pursuit of the escaped slaves. This law alone made it much easier for escaped and former slaves to be able to live safely in Massachusetts, and later the majority of northern states, and that once they were in the north that they didn’t have to return to their former owners and plantations. This is an important thing for people to know about because it is important to know about the history of slavery and the societal impacts and effects it left on the country. It is important to know this information so that we don’t repeat these mistakes again. It is important to know about the history of slavery so that we know that everyone is created equal and that we all deserve the same rights. Why right about this? I chose to right about this because it is an important topic in the history of slavery and I could even go as far as to say that this is a landmark case in the history of slavery and that it helped to start the end of slavery in the United States.

Draft of Revised Marker

Anthony Burns (1834-1862)

Anthony Burns was a Slave who was born in Stafford County, Virginia. Burns had a difficult childhood and teenage years due to slavery. When Burns was 19, He escaped to his freedom in Boston Massachusetts. One night, Burns was captured by a slavehunter and was brought to trial. The trial sparked outrage among Bostonian people and they attempted to free Burns, but they did not succeed. Burns’ trial resulted in him having to return back to his master. During his time at his master’s, Burns was recognized by local people because of his trial and people started a campaign to purchase Burns’ freedom. His freedom was bought by Leonard Grimes, a famous abolitionist, and Burns went on to live a happy life in which he became a preacher. Burns died in 1862, in St.Catharine’s, Ontario, Canada, due to Tuberculosis.

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