As the Historical Marker tour continues, I found myself at the lovely Cathedral Square in downtown Milwaukee. To my delight it was Bastille Days, a French festival on the grounds of the square. It is one of the largest French-themed festivals in North America and commemorates the rebel’s storm of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution. It celebrates the underdog, which is a perfect theme for today’s historical marker. They also both involve beating down a jail door.

Historical Marker Stop #2: The Rescue of Joshua Glover

Our Second Historical Marker on our journey. Photo Credit: Meggy Demeter

Our Second Historical Marker on our journey. Photo Credit: Meggy Demeter

Where is this historical marker?

This marker is located on the Cathedral Square grounds, at the corner of Kilbourn and Jackson.

What does this historical marker say?

Joshua Glover was a runaway slave who sought freedom in Racine in 1852. In 1854, his Missouri owner used the Fugitive Slave Act to apprehend him. This 1850 law permitted slave catchers to cross state lines to capture escaped slaves. Glover was taken to Milwaukee and imprisoned. Word spread about Glover’s incarceration and a great crowd gathered around the jail, demanding his release. They beat down the jail door and released Joshua Glover. He was eventually escorted to Canada and safety. The Glover incident helped galvanize abolitionist sentiment in Wisconsin. The case eventually led the state supreme court to defy the federal government by the declaring The Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional. ” State Historical Society, 2001

Why was this site commemorated with a historical marker?

The marker states it well: the event sparked the abolitionist movement in Wisconsin. Prior to this, the abolitionist movement was mostly predominant in larger cities, such as New York City, or D.C. It also commemorates an amazing Supreme Court decision by our state’s government, and celebrates our state’s cultural history.

What was going on in the 1850s that influenced this event?

In the 1850s, the nation was divided, mostly economically. While the Northern states were producing goods and services through industry, the south created goods and services on the backs of slaves. People in the North, especially Wisconsin, were ignited by the Fugitive Slave Act to fight for the freedom of slaves. Events like the rescue of Joshua Glover lead to Wisconsin playing a role in the Underground Railroad, which helped thousands of slaves to the safety of Canada.

Talk about a perfect parallel between The Rescue of Joshua Glover and Bastille Days! It was so ironic-basically like rain on your wedding day.