On this day in 1851, two undercover officers at a Massachusetts coffeehouse arrested a waiter, Shadrach Minkins, who had just escaped from slavery in Virginia. After being taken to court for a hearing, Minkins' lawyers filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus (protects against unlawful imprisonment).
Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw refused to acknowledge the petition, which gave way to a crowd of abolitionists flooding the courthouse. They carried Minkins out with them, hid him in an attic in Boston, and he eventually escaped Massachusetts to Canada by way of the Underground Railroad.
Source: Massachusetts History
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