Southeast Indiana Historical Marker - Hannah Toliver
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Markers & Museums
South East Edition
Corner of Pearl Street and Riverside Drive, Jeffersonville (Clark County, Indiana)
2008 Indiana Historical Bureau, City of Jeffersonville and Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology, IDNR
Marker ID #:
Emancipation Proclamation (1863) did not free slaves in Kentucky. In April 1864, Hannah Toliver, a free black woman living in Jeffersonville, was arrested for aiding a fugitive slave from Kentucky. In May, she was convicted and sentenced to seven years in the Kentucky Penitentiary; She was pardoned January 5, 1865 and returned to Jeffersonville.
Toliver and other blacks risked their freedom aiding fugitives. Slavery in U.S. abolished December 1865. The Underground Railroad refers to a widespread network of diverse people in the nineteenth century who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S.
Hanna Toliver was part of a vast network of people that worked to help slaves escape bondage in the south. President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This proclamation did not help slaves in states that did not secede. Kentucky had not seceded, but had declared its neutrality in the conflict.
Underground Railroad in Indiana
The Underground Railroad was a vast network of people in the North and South who aided fugitive slaves in their flight from slavery. In Indiana, the route stretched from communities on the Ohio River to the Michigan border. From Michigan, the fugitives fled to Canada and freedom. Hanna Toliver was part of the network of free blacks and whites that risked their lives and freedom by helping the fugitive slaves escape bondage. Forefronts in this movement were groups like the American Colonization Society and the Quakers. Many of these groups used agents to go south of the Ohio River to aid slaves wishing to flee. Hanna was performing this service in Kentucky when arrested for "enticing a slave."
Kentucky at the beginning of the Civil War was in a tenuous situation. It was a slave state with strong southern ties. It was also a Unionist state that believed strongly in the Constitution. Its leaders realized that, as it was geographically in an important strategic location, much of the fighting would occur there. Both sides would need to send armies through Kentucky to get to their opponent. Kentucky officials tried to minimize the damage to their state by not taking sides. Early in 1861, they declared neutrality. They would contribute neither troops nor aid to either side. It was a policy doomed to fail. Much of the early fighting did take place there, killing many Kentuckians and destroying much property.
President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation was limited in what it did. It only freed slaves in states deemed in rebellion. In addition, it only freed slaves still in Confederate territory. It did not free slaves in areas under control of the Union Army, nor did it free slaves in neutral states like Kentucky. Lincoln did not believe he was constitutionally entitled to free all the slaves. He believed that only Congress could to that through legislation or amending the Constitution. Thus, slaves remained slaves in the neutral states until the Thirteenth Amendment banned it.
Hanna Toliver was a free black that lived in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Kentucky officials arrested Hanna Toliver in April 1864 as she was helping a slave held by William Murphy escape. Since it was against Kentucky law to assist escaping slaves, they tried and convicted her. She was sentenced to seven years in jail. Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette pardoned her on January 5, 1865 after Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865. She returned to Jeffersonville.
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