Underground Railroad in Philadelphia


The Underground Railroad in Philadelphia is one of the high points in Philadelphia’s rich history as a center in the struggle for freedom and equality. From the formation of the Female Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830’s through the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 Philadelphians played a major role in the struggle against slavery. Here are some of the stories, as a reminder of our history, that “We the People” can change the world and as an inspiration that we can still fix what is broken.

History is the story of real people, how they live and how they survive. It is the story of success and failure, of the struggle to make the world better for our children. When we know our history we can take pride in our heritage and control of our lives. We are inspired by our ancestors and empowered to take action to better our lives and confront transgression. The Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights Movement are stories of our relatives and neighbors taking action, risking themselves to do what is right. These are important stories to be remembered and retold.

harrietWhile most people have heard of Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass, many do not know of the important roles played by Philadelphians such as Robert Purvis, William Still, Frances E. W. Harper, Lucretia Mott, William Whipper, Thaddeus Stevens, J. Miller McKim, Charlotte Forten, Passimore Williamson, Isaac Hopper, Octavius Catto and others. 

This series will explore the period from 1830 to 1870 in Philadelphia with programs on the Underground Railroad and some of the many people who were active in the struggle against slavery. These will include lectures on individuals, panels on the movement, films and discussions and a tour of Underground Railroad sites, resources and historic markers that honor some of the period’s activists.

We begin the series with an Introduction to the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia by Charles L. Blockson at the Blockson Collection at Temple University and end with a program on the African American churches history in the struggle for freedom at Mother Bethel AME Church. Between those two dates we will present programs at educational, cultural and religious institutions as well as neighborhood organizations, schools and libraries. We have pre festival events at area libraries showing the film The William Still Story and stimulating discussion on our themes. The festival looks at various aspects of the struggle and the growth of a grass roots mass movement. The presentations include:

  • Introduction to the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia
  • Robert Purvis and the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee
  • William Still and the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee
  • Women In Revolt: The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society
  • Stories from the Underground Railroad
  • Philadelphia, A City of Contradictions: The Struggle for Civil Rights and Reactionary Response
  • The Underground Railroad in Words and Music
  • Mother Bethel, The African American Church and the Underground Railroad
  • Quakers, The Unitarian Universalists and Abolition
  • The Underground Railroad, The Civil Rights Movement and Today
  • A tour of sites in Germantown and Center City Philadelphia

We were featured on WHYY’s event guide.

This is the ninth program in Moonstone’s Hidden History Project which looks at the life and work of activists who struggled in the streets to make the United States live up to its promise of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for everyone regardless of race, class, gender or anything else. Details follow in the schedule of events. Not all programs are confirmed and the titles and participants may change. Please contact us for more information.

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Underground Railroad in Philadelphia Schedule of Events

Short Biographies of the Principles Whose Stories We Will Tell

Invited Presenters

Germantown Tour of Underground Railroad Sites-Saturday, October 11, 2014

Center City Philadelphia  Tour of Underground Railroad Sites- Saturday, October 25, 2014

Underground Railroad in Philadelphia Resource List

Film & Discussion Program: The Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Underground Railroad Film Festival

Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle Film Festival

5 Comments » for Underground Railroad in Philadelphia
  1. Lyann says:

    While listening to W U R D 900 radio I wad pleased to learn of your arts center.
    Please ADD me to your EVENTS Calendar email list .
    Please reply with confirmation regarding emailing list.

    Thank you.

  2. Cheryl Renee Gooch says:

    I am still elated to have taken the Germantown Underground Railroad Sites tour. Each site evokes memory of either forgotten or unknown aspects of abolitionist efforts in Germantown. Prior to taking the tour, I did not know that the Society of Friends in Germantown issued the first protest against slavery in the United States in 1688. Also, the visit to the still active Plymouth Meeting and the surrounding village where some descendants still live in original homes is insightful and inspiring. Larry Robins has done a stellar job in organizing this tour and related Underground Railroad programs. And as always, Charles Blockson who oversaw the Johnson House and Plymouth Meeting legs of the tour, is invaluable, living history. The Germantown Underground Railroad Sites tour provokes further study of our shared history and is time well spent.

  3. Kat Eyerly says:

    Thank you so much for joining us!

  4. Jewel Hill says:

    Am so glad to be able to stay in touch with 900AM WURD as I’ve been having trouble getting a clear reception on my car radios and at home!

    Thanks for all that you do to uplift and inform our community!

  5. M. Sherice says:


    This would be a great opportunity to bring our youth group to. Where are the movies being shown?

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