Stories from PA History
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The Struggle Against Slavery: The Abolition Movement and Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania
From the first protest against slavery in 1688 until the end of slavery in 1865, Pennsylvania's abolitionists and Underground Railroad conductors played a key role in the heroic struggle for freedom.

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Bring this subject into focus through the following chapters. These stories take exploration of the main story further by providing more detail for you to learn and explore.

Overview: William Still and the Underground Railroad
Chapter One: The Fight Against Slavery
Chapter Two: Organizing Escape Networks
Chapter Three: Helping Runaways
Chapter Four: Coming of War

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon First Protest Against Slavery (Philadelphia) marker icon African Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church (Philadelphia)
marker icon Daniel Kaufman (Cumberland) marker icon Frederick Douglass and John Brown (Franklin)
marker icon Free African Society [American Revolution] (Philadelphia) marker icon Freedom Road (Mercer)
marker icon Freedom Road Cemetery (Lycoming) marker icon James Forten (Philadelphia)
marker icon Jane Grey Swisshelm (Allegheny) marker icon Jane Johnson (Philadelphia)
marker icon John Brown (Franklin) marker icon John Brown Raid (Franklin)
marker icon John Brown's Tannery (Crawford) marker icon LeMoyne House (Washington)
marker icon Lucretia C. Mott (Montgomery) marker icon Martin R. Delany (Allegheny)
marker icon Mason-Dixon Line (York) marker icon Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church (Philadelphia)
marker icon Pennsylvania Abolition Society (Philadelphia) marker icon Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia)
marker icon Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (Philadelphia) marker icon Richard Henderson (Crawford)
marker icon Robert Purvis (Philadelphia) marker icon Stephen Smith (Philadelphia)
marker icon The Christiana Riot (Lancaster) marker icon The Johnson House (Philadelphia)
marker icon Thomas Garrett (Delaware) marker icon Underground Railroad (Dauphin County) (Dauphin)
marker icon Underground Railroad (Union County) (Union) marker icon William C. Goodridge (York)
marker icon William Still (Philadelphia) marker icon William Whipper (Philadelphia)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text First Protest Against Slavery, Germantown, PA, 1688.
icon full text Preamble (1778) and Articles of the Free African Society, 1787.
icon full text An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, March 1, 1780.
icon full text Memorial of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society to the First Federal Congress, 1790.
icon full text Robert Purvis, "Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disenfranchisement, to the People of Pennsylvania," The Colored American, 1838.
icon full text Angelina Grimké Weld's speech at Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, PA, May, 1838.
icon full text Excerpt from the Records of the Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia, 1839.
icon full text Lucretia Mott, The Law of Progress, Speech delivered at the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, New York, May 9, 1848.
icon full text Jane Grey Swisshelm, "Woman's Rights and the Color Question," 1850.
icon full text William Still, “Kidnapping of Rachel and Elizabeth Parker—Murder of Joseph C. Miller in 1851 and 1852," 1872.
icon full text Martin Delany, Letter to William Lloyd Garrison, May 14, 1852.
icon full text Thomas Garrett letter to to J. Miller McKim about Harriet Tubman, December, 1854.
icon full text Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "Bury Me in a Free Land," 1864.
icon full text William Still, from his Preface to The Underground Railroad, 1872.
icon full text William Still, "Henry Box Brown Arrived by Adam's Express," 1872.
icon full text William Still, "Rescue of Jane Johnson and her Children," 1883.

1688 North America's first antislavery protest at Germantown, Pennsylvania
1780 Pennsylvania adopts the nation's first gradual abolition law
1787 Pennsylvania Abolition Society reorganizes again, electing Benjamin Franklin as its president
1787 Free African Society is founded by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones
1794 Richard Allen establishes "Mother" Bethel A.M.E. Church, the first congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal faith
1833 Lucretia Mott helps create the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society
1837 Philadelphia Vigilance Committee begins its Underground Railroad operations, meeting initially at the African Zoar Methodist Church
1838 Pennsylvania Hall, a meeting place for abolitionists, is burned to the ground
1839 Robert Purvis becomes head of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee
1840 Dr. Francis J. LeMoyne, an abolitionist from Washington, Pennsylvania, is nominated as the Liberty Party candidate for Vice President
1842 James Forten, one of America's richest and most powerful African-Americans, dies in Philadelphia
1850 U.S. adopts tougher federal fugitive slave law as part of the Compromise of 1850
1851 Maryland slaveholder Edward Gorsuch dies while attempting to recapture his runaway slaves in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Treason trials for the accused end without any convictions
1852 Philadelphia Vigilance Committee elects new leadership and creates a new Acting Committee headed by William Still to promote more aggressive Underground Railroad activities
1857 Lucretia and James Mott move to their new home, "Roadside," in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
1858 John Brown plans his raid on Harpers Ferry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He tries but fails to convince Frederick Douglass to join the campaign. The raid ends in Brown's capture and execution, but succeeds in publicizing his beliefs
1860 Republican Party victory in the presidential election leads to southern secession, Civil War, and eventually the destruction of American slavery
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