Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the end of the Civil War. In honor of this period in American history, I want to share with you a few stories of abolitionist history from Philadelphia.
The earliest record of anti-slavery support in this country was a petition written by four German immigrants in 1688, founders of the city of Germantown in the northwest section of Philadelphia. It took 160 years before our country considered their words and fought to end slavery in America.
While Philadelphia may be the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, not everyone in the north was a true abolitionist. Not all northerners treated African American’s with respect and dignity. Even though Pennsylvania had societies dedicated to fighting slavery, not all freed slaves were welcomed with open arms in the city founded on the beliefs of freedom.
In this episode we’ll talk about prominent abolitionist William Still, a free black man born in New Jersey in the early 1820s who moved to Philadelphia and played a prominent role in changing the lives of free and enslaved black men and women not only here but all over the country. You’ll learn more about the Johnson House in Gemantown, the only stop on Philadelphia’s underground railroad that’s still accessible today.
Join me for this special trip back in time where you’ll learn about the good, the bad and the twisted side of Philadelphia history in the fight to end slavery.
Research sources for this episode include:
- Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
- The National Park Service
- The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First Hand Accounts by William Still (1872; Edited with an introduction by Ian Frederick Finseth)
- Still Family Library (Temple University)
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
- Wyoming & Republican Herald, PA, 1834
- Philadelphia Inquirer Archives
- US History.org hosted by the Independence Hall Association
- Mother Bethel AME Church (motherbethel.org)
- Philadelphia Encyclopedia
- National Juneteenth Observation Foundation
Thank you to Emmy Cerra forthe music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly. You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes.
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