From Ohio History Central
George Brown was a free African-American man who was accused of being a runaway slave in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Little is known of Brown's life, other than he was a free African American in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned his living as a barber, one of the best paying occupations for African Americans in the early nineteenth century. In September 1850, a slave catcher detained Brown, accusing the barber of being a runaway slave. Judge Spooner held a hearing to determine Brown's status. He ruled that the slave catcher lacked sufficient evidence to detain Brown. Brown immediately filed suit against the slave catcher. He sought ten thousand dollars in damages. In the end, Brown lost the case.
Brown's story illustrates the difficulties that African Americans faced in the United States of America in the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Even free African Americans risked being remanded to slavery by greedy slaveowners and slave catchers.