Anthony Burns (1834–1862) is one of the most famous slaves to have been sold through Richmond's slave trade. Though born enslaved, Burns had escaped and was living in Boston. Under the authority granted by 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, his owner had him arrested. For nine days an extended courtroom drama paralyzed Boston, prompting riots and an attempted rescue from jail. Anti-slavery activists raised money to purchase Burns’s freedom, but his owner refused. After the court decision returning him to his owner, it took more than 1,500 troops to conduct him safely from the courthouse to the ship that was to carry him back to Virginia.
After the trial, Burns was sent to Richmond to await auction. He was held in Lumpkin’s Jail for four months in horrific conditions, chained by the hands and feet in an attic room. Sold to a North Carolina slave trader for $910, he lived briefly in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, before a group of African Americans, acting through their Boston Baptist minister, Leonard Grimes (a free black man from Virginia), bought his freedom for $1,300. Burns later studied theology at Oberlin College and served as a Baptist minister in Indianapolis, Indiana, and in Saint Catherines, Ontario. He died there, having never regained his health from his ordeal in Lumpkin’s Jail.