William Still & the Pennsylvania Vigilance Committee

Wednesday October 22, 2014

5:30pm – Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust St

williamstillWilliam Still & the Pennsylvania Vigilance Committee

The youngest of eighteen children, Still was a son of former slaves who started working as a clerk in the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society during the 1840s and became the principal organizer of the state’s Underground Railroad network during the years before the Civil War. Still’s passion for aiding fugitives really blossomed after he had the extraordinary experience of being reunited with his own brother who had arrived at the Anti-Slavery offices as one of many former slaves looking for assistance, unaware at first that the clerk he was addressing was actually his youngest brother. Energized by this dramatic and tearful reunion, Still soon took command of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, an organization which acted as a Clearinghouse for runaway slaves who arrived in Pennsylvania looking for help relocating either within one of the Northern Free States or Canada. Along with other members of the committee, Still interviewed the runaways and kept an invaluable journal documenting their frequently terrifying escapes and experiences in bondage. He also corresponded with various participants in the underground network who regularly assisted those runaways and carefully warned him whenever “boxes” or “packages” were due to arrive in Philadelphia.

Presenters include: Melvin Garrison, formerly American history specialist in the office of curriculum of the School District of Philadelphia; Phillip Lapsansky, spent 40 years at the Library Company working on their African American holdings; Christopher Densmore, Curator, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore,  and a Still family member

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Posted in Underground Railroad In Philadelphia