Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children were brought from Missouri to Oregon by their owner over the Oregon Trail in 1844, expecting to soon be freed in a region closed to slavery. But their owner, an influential Oregon legislator, ignores the law and keeps them in bondage. Holmes and his wife gain their freedom in 1850, but the slave owner, Nathaniel Ford, refuses to give up their three children. Despite being illiterate and with the odds stacked against him, Holmes took his former master to court in 1852 in an attempt to get his children back in what is the only slavery trial in Oregon history.
Hear their story from R. Gregory Nokes, author of Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, published by Oregon State University Press. Breaking Chains was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Award for non-fiction and was Number 6 that year in The Oregonian's ranking of the top ten new books in the Pacific Northwest.