From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Slave Riot Scare (Harlan County, KY)

(start date: 1842) 

In September 1842, David Todd and William S. Westervelt, both white students from Oberlin College, were on trial in Harlan County, KY, charged with attempting to incite a slave revolt. David Todd was the son of Captain James Todd, who was against slavery and was known for successfully leading the 2nd Regiment's 1st Brigade of the Pennsylvania Militia during the War of 1812.

The charges against David and William stemmed from the observations that they were white men in Kentucky without a good enough reason for being there; they were seen talking to slaves in a friendly manner; and they had come from Ohio and were students at Oberlin College, where a large number of abolitionists resided.

The circumstantial evidence was supposedly the sign that led to the discovery of a planned slave insurrection that alarmed the county. Todd and Westervelt were set free, and they returned to Oberlin College. Todd would later become a teacher for the Freedmen's Bureau in Arkansas.

For more see John Todd and the Underground Railroad, by James Patrick Morgans.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Harlan County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: John Todd and the Underground Railroad: biography of an Iowa abolitionist

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Slave Riot Scare (Harlan County, KY),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-05-27 18:11:56