Underground Railroad KET Links KET Home Page
Underground Railroad Home Page Running Man
Teacher Resources Community Research Special Thanks
History of Slavery Time Line Behind the Scenes
Video/Audio Segments

Underground Home
U.S. Timeline
Abolitionist Thought



1751 Christopher Gist and Dr. Thomas Walker accompanied by an African servant, begin the first exploration beyond the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia's. This newly explored territory will come to be known as Kentucky.

1760 An enslaved man guides Daniel Boone across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

1775 Daniel Boone leads a group of settlers, including African laborers, into Kentucky. Presbyterians establish their first church at McAfee Station in what is now Mercer County.

1776 Fincastle County is officially formed as the Western frontier of Virginia. Fincastle County will later become the State of Kentucky.

1781 The "Travelling Church" departs for the Kentucky frontier
Baptists establish their first permanent church at the Severns Valley settlement (now Elizabethtown).

1782 An enslaved man named Monk Estill helps prevent the destruction by Native Americans of Estill's Station near Irvine, KY. Captain James Estill, owner of the station and of Monk,is on a hunting trip but Monk attempts to find him and warn him of an attack. He finds him near present day Mt. Sterling but arrives just as an ambush begins. Captain Estill is killed and Monk brings his body back to the Station. For his bravery, the oldest son of Captain Estill frees Monk through a process of "manumission." Monk moves to Fort Boonesboro and becomes a skilled maker of gunpowder and is the father of the first African American child born in Kentucky.

1786 Town of Old Washington established in, what was then, Bourbon County.

1790 Methodists organize in Kentucky. The first federal census counts 11,830 slaves on the Kentucky frontier. Fayette, Woodford and surrounding counties have the largest African American population in Kentucky.

1792 June 4
Kentucky officially enters the Union as the fifteenth state at a ceremonial meeting held in Lexington, Kentucky. It enters as a pro-slavery state. Free blacks are allowed to vote.
Anti-slavery resolution presented to the State Legislature by Rev. David Rice and evangelical religious leaders.

1799 Second Kentucky Constitution adopted. Free blacks lose their right to vote.

1801 August, Great Revival held at Cane Ridge, Bourbon County, Kentucky.

1808 Founding of the Kentucky Abolition Society and publication of the anti-slavery Abolition Intelligencer and Missionary Magazine. Kentucky becomes major exporter of slaves to the South.

1820 Kentucky's slave population increases at a rapid rate with African Americans making up over 40% of the population in Lexington.

1825 Free blacks allowed to legally marry each other, but not allowed to marry slaves.

1829 Kentucky Colonization Society formed. One of its key supporters is Henry Clay.

1830 Kentucky slave, Tice Davids, successfully flees slavery and escapes to Ripley, Ohio. Based on his escape and disappearance, the term "underground railroad" is said to have been adopted. Kentucky's enslaved population peaks at 24.7% with 165,213 slaves and 4,917 free African Americans. Josiah Henson makes a successful escape with his family from Owensboro, KY to Canada.

1833 Kentucky legislature passes law prohibiting importation of African slaves into the state for resale south.

1835 James G. Birney, a slaveholder in Danville, frees his slaves, denounces colonialization and organizes the Kentucky Anti-Slavery Society.

1839 November
      Liberty Party formed. The entry of the antislavery forces into politics was signaled by the establishment of the Liberty party, which held its founding convention at Warsaw, NY in 1839 and nomi-nated James G. Birney, a native of Kentucky and a former slaveholder, for president, and Thomas Earle (Pa.) for vice president. These nominations were confirmed at the party's first national convention at Albany (1 April 1840).
      Liberty party conventions were subsequently held in Ohio and other states in the Northwest. The party was composed of moderate abolitionists who did not share William Lloyd Garrison's opposition to political action. Unlike Garrison, they professed loyalty to the Constitution and did not advocate secession or dissolution of the Union. By virtue of holding the balance of power, the party played an important part in the presidential election of 1844, and was considered responsible for the defeat of Henry Clay.
     In 1848 it combined with the Free Soil party and helped to defeat the Democratic candidate, Lewis Cass. The party's chief political issue was its stand against the annexation of Texas. Among its leaders were Gerrit Smith (NY) and Salmon P. Chase (OH).

1845 First African Baptist Church established in Lexington, Kentucky.
Cassius Clay publishes the anti-slavery newspaper True American.

1849 Kentucky repeals the Non-Importation Act.
Bourbon County's enslaved population reaches 50% of the total in the county.

1852 March
      Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published in book form. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a work originally serialized in the antislavery newspaper, the National Era (in Washington, DC. A sentimental novel directed against the brutality and injustice of slavery, it was said to be inspired by passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. By mid-1853 some 1,200,000 copies of the work had been published. As a stage play it was first presented August 24, 1852.
      Mrs. Stowe wrote Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853) in an attempt to show that she had relied on factual evidence to support the story of Uncle Tom's Cabin. As a tribute to her brief stay in Kentucky, the Harriett Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum has been established at Old Washington, Mason County Kentucky in the former Marshall Key home.
      Kentucky legend states Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin while visiting Marshall Key's daughter, her classmate, in Old Washington. While visiting the Keys family, Stowe is said to have witnessed a slave auction in Old Washington which inspired her to write, Uncle Tom's Cabin based on the life of Kentucky slave Josiah Henson.

1853 Margaret and Robert Garner are recaptured in Cincinnati, Ohio. Margaret kills one of her daughters rather than have her return to slavery. The case receives enormous publicity and becomes a test of the newly strengthened Fugitive Slave Law. The story is later fictionalized in Toni Morrison's novel Beloved.

1858 Pleasant Green Baptist Church officially recognized as an established church established in Lexington, Kentucky.
Elisha W. Green establishes a Baptist church in Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky.

1859 John Gregg Fee establishes Berea College founded to provide interracial education.

Lincoln's plan of compensated emancipation was embraced abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, but no such compensation was provided.

General David Hunter proclaimed the emancipation of slaves in his Department (including Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina), but Lincoln disavowed this action.

Slavery was abolished in United States territories. Lincoln continued to appeal to the loyal states to enact gradual and compensated emancipation. Aware of the public shift toward the radical position on slavery Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

1863 1 January
      President Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states that seceded from the Union. Kentucky never seceded, therefore its slaves were not freed under the Proclamation. Lincoln had submitted the first draft of the proclamation to his cabinet on 22 July, 1862, but was persuaded to withhold it because of military reverses.
      On 1 December the president appealed to Congress for passage of a constitutional amendment providing for compensated emancipation, but the border states opposed the plan. To retain the loyalty of the border states Lincoln had resisted demands of the radical Republicans for abolition.
     Military action on the part of Lincoln's generals caused President Lincoln to rethink this strategy which led to issuance of the proclamation. With a need to influence European opinion, Lincoln followed his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (22 September 1862) with his final Proclamation (1 January 1863) declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were "then, thenceforward, and forever free."
      The Proclamation actually freed no slaves; in fact, it went no further than Congress had already gone in legislation on the subject, for it applied only to areas over which the federal government exercised no control, specifically exempting all regions under federal military occupation.

1865 The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery and frees slaves in border states of Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland.

Underground Railroad Main Links
  |   Underground Home  |   Teacher Resources  |   History of Slavery  |   Community Research  |  

  |   Time Line  |   Special Thanks  |   Behind the Scenes  |  

  |   Tape Order Info  |   Search this site  |  

Last Updated: Tuesday, 09-May-2006 10:39:21 Eastern Daylight Time