Anthony Burns was an enslaved African American born in Stafford around 1834 and was one of 13 children. Anthony, his father, and brothers worked in the Robertson Stone Quarry which is the site of the present day Austin Ridge subdivision. (Interesting fact: Stone from this quarry went toward the construction of the U.S. Capitol.) Anthony and his family were enslaved by the Suttle family. After Mr. Suttle’s death, Mrs. Suttle sold some of Anthony's siblings. After Mrs. Suttle’s death, her son, Charles Suttle, owned Anthony. Charles rented Tony to a Stafford sawmill and various other places in the county.
When Tony was about twenty years old, he escaped to Richmond and stowed away on a ship which traveled to Massachusetts. He thought he was escaping to freedom since Massachusetts was a free state. However, the Fugitive Slave Act mandated enslave African Americans who had runaway, to be recaptured and returned to their owner’s state. This law faced its first challenge when police captured Burns. The famous Richard Henry Dana Jr., was Anthony’s attorney. The nationally-known case put the spotlight upon this Staffordian. As a result, over 50,000 Bostonians favoring abolition rallied in the streets. The trial decided that Burns be returned to Virginia. Later on, Burns was sold to a North Carolina slave dealer; however, a group of Bostonians raised enough money to buy Burns’ freedom.
Anthony attended Oberlin College in Ohio and later became a minister in Canada. It is thought that Anthony Burns was the first African American from Stafford to get a college education.
Following Anthony Burn’s model of persistence, hard work and determination, the fifth grade class of 2019 developed the following motto for our school.
For more information check out: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2915.html