Poster Warning Blacks in Boston: Kidnappers

This poster, which was created and disseminated by abolitionist Theodore Parker, warns black people in Boston to beware of watchmen and police officers, who were legally allowed to act as kidnappers due to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concepts 5 and 6.

Caution!! Colored People, Kidnappers
This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47db-bbee-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    According to the poster, who was responsible for giving the watchmen and police officers the power to act as kidnappers?
    The power was given to watchmen and police offers by the mayor and the alderman.
  2. Question
    What words does Parker use to describe both African Americans and policemen?
    African Americans were "colored people," "fugitives" and "slaves," and policemen were "watchmen," "kidnappers," "slave catchers," "hounds."
  3. Question
    Analyze the language used in the poster. Why do you think he chooses the language that he does? What purpose does this language serve?
    Parker makes use of words like “cautioned” and “shun” and phrases like “respectfully cautioned and advised” to establish a sense of danger in the presence of African Americans.
  4. Question
    Consider the current state of relations between the black community and the law enforcement community. What parallels can you draw between this poster and our current reality? (Consider such things as the Black Lives Matter movement, police racial profiling and violence, police shootings, etc.)
    Answers will vary and may include negative media depictions of African Americans, distrust of police from communities of color and acquittal of crimes in cases of police shooting African-American men.
Reveal Answers
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