Michael Pierce, an associate professor of history at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, will discuss a research project related to an enslaved man—Nelson Hackett—who fled Fayetteville, made it to Canada, and then became the only fugitive that Canada returned to bondage. The Hackett episode prompted the mobilization of abolitionists who lobbied British officials to prevent another such occurrence and thus safeguard Canada’s status as a refuge for fugitives.
The Nelson Hackett Project: An Introduction
Sometime in the middle of July 1841, Nelson Hackett fled both Arkansas and slavery, setting off an international dispute that would ensure that Canada remained a safe refuge for those escaping bondage in the United States.
There are conflicting accounts of Hackett’s departure. Alfred Wallace, who claimed to own him, accused Hackett of leaving Fayetteville while Wallace was away and of stealing a racehorse, saddle, coat, gold watch, and 100£ of silver and gold coin on the way out of town. Abolitionists later disputed Wallace’s version of Hackett’s escape. What is not in dispute, though, is that Hackett’s flight took him across the state of Missouri; through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan; across the Detroit River; and into Canada West (now the Province of Ontario), where the last remnants of slavery had been abolished in 1834.
Read more about Hackett on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas here: https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/nelson-hackett-4910/