The Compromise of 1850 admits California to the Union as a free state, allows the slave states of New Mexico and Utah to be decided by popular sovereignty, and bans slave trade in D.C.
A second fugitive slave law, enforced by the federal government, strengthens the rights of slave owners and threatens the rights of free blacks. Many states pass personal liberty laws in response.
Maryland removes restraints on interstate slave trade.
Virginia demands that emancipated slaves leave the state within a year and forbids the legislature from freeing any slave.
Sojourner Truth gives her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential abolitionist novel UNCLE TOM'S CABIN is published.
William Wells Brown's CLOTEL is published in London. It is the first published novel by an African-American.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act creates the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and allows popular sovereignty to decide the slave status of each. It also repeals the anti-slavery clause of the Missouri Compromise.
Connecticut, Maine, and Mississippi pass personal liberty laws. Massachusetts and Rhode Island renew personal liberty laws first enacted in the 1840s.
Georgia and Tennessee remove restraints on interstate slave trade.
John Mercer Langston is elected to political office in Ohio, making him the first black to serve in the U.S. government.
The Republican Party is formed out of the Free Soil Party.
Proslavery groups in Kansas attack the free soil town of Lawrence. Radical abolitionist John Brown and his followers strike in retaliation, initiating a wave of violence and destruction, known as "Bleeding Kansas."