Note: This post continues this one.
Wednesday was a day of visiting Underground Railroad sites around Pennsylvania. There was a wide range of sites representing the Underground Railroad network in Pennsylvania – a courthouse, a wheat field, and a cistern – that when pieced together provided a new definition of the Underground Railroad.
We began with a trip to the Carlisle Courthouse, the site of an 1847 struggle to stop the seizure of fugitive slaves which resulted in a Maryland slave owner’s death. By the end of the day, we were left understanding that courthouses – at least as much as basement burrows – are true UGRR sites. Introducing Carlisle – Audio
Next, we were off to Christiana, where a dramatic 1851 standoff over runaways filled the newspapers (with wildly different responses – compare Freedom’s Trial at Christiana and The Fugitive Slave Riot.) The conflict led to a federal treason trial – the result of which likely led John Brown to face different charges years later. A letter from the slave catcher to the slaveholder reveals a great deal about the limitations of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. This is a story calling out for a John Sayles movie.