Mr Jonathan Walker, aka “The Man with the Branded Hand”, was an American reformer who became a national hero for his attempts to help runaway slaves on their journey to freedom.
Jonathan was tried and sentenced as a slave stealer in 1844, after he attempted to aid seven fleeing slaves. He was given a huge fine, put on the pillory, and The United States Government branded his hand with an SS for “Slave Stealer”.
As a railroad contractor in Florida, Walker became concerned by the terrible conditions faced by slaves. He helped several try to escape to the British West Indies by boat, but fell ill en-route, and was rescued by a wrecking sloop. He was then transferred to Key West, from where he was taken to prison. He was horrified by the brutality shown towards slaves there, and himself endured awful food and light deprivation, bound to the floor in chains.
Walker spent nearly a year more in prison after his branding sentence was carried out, until his fine was eventually paid by northern abolitionists. Following his release he toured north and west America, lecturing about slavery. He is remembered in John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, The Man with the Branded Hand.