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Historical marker will commemorate slavery case

January 1, 2007
Anyone wanting a taste of how Indiana Supreme Court justices decided on slavery issues in the late 19th century can travel to northern Indiana next week.

On Aug. 25, a state historical marker is being dedicated in recognition of Graves et al v. Indiana, which stemmed from the 1847 capture of a fugitive slave in Bristol and a later justice of the peace ruling that freed the slave. An Elkhart Circuit judge convicted the three men the following year for causing a riot, but in 1849 the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the trial court based on a previous Supreme Court of the United States ruling - Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539 (1842), which held that federal law trumps state law.

"This incident is an example of local judicial officers countering a pro-slavery federal decision," according to an Indiana Historical Bureau news release. This event is meant to commemorate both the court case and the Underground Railroad, the widespread network of people who aided slaves escaping to freedom. About 500 of these markers are scattered across the state.

The 11 a.m. public dedication ceremony will be at Memorial Park, located at the corner of State Roads 15 and 120.
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