Thornton Blackburn

Male, Deceased Person

1812 – 1890

52

Who was Thornton Blackburn?

Thornton Blackburn and his wife Lucie were escaped slaves from Louisville, Kentucky. They had been settled in Detroit, Michigan, for two years when, in 1833, Kentucky slave hunters located, re-captured, and arrested the couple. The Blackburns were jailed but allowed visitors, which provided the opportunity for Lucie to exchange her clothes—and her incarceration—with a Mrs. George French. Lucie was then spirited across the Detroit River to safety in Amherstburg, in Essex County, Upper Canada.

Thornton’s escape was more difficult as he was heavily guarded, bound and shackled. The day before Thornton was to be returned to Kentucky, Detroit's African American community rose up in protest. A crowd of some 400 men stormed the jail to free him. During the commotion that ensued, two individuals called Sleepy Polly and Daddy Walker helped Thornton escape and eventually find safety in Essex County, U.C. The commotion turned into a two-day riot during which the local sheriff was shot and fatally wounded. It was the first race riot in Detroit, resulting in the first ever Riot Commission formed in the U.S.

Thornton, meanwhile, was in the throes of a dramatic journey.

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Born
1812
Maysville
Ethnicity
  • African American
Nationality
  • Canada
  • United States of America
Lived in
  • Toronto
Died
1890

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

Citation

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