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Central Pennsylvania's journey from enslavement to freedom


Study Areas



Free Persons of Color

Underground Railroad

The Violent Decade

US Colored Troops

Civil War

Year of Jubilee (1863)

20th Century

Slavery in Pennsylvania iconEnslavement in



Site News

Events of Interest

On This Day

Letters on Various Topics


Anti-Slavery iconAnti-Slavery, Abolition
& Agitation

Free Persons of Color iconFree Persons
of Color:
19th Century

Underground Railroad iconUnderground

The Violent Decade iconThe Violent

United States Colored Troops iconUnited States
Colored Troops

Harrisburg's Civil War iconHarrisburg's
Civil War

The Year of Jubilee: 1863 iconYear of Jubilee
Info | Begin Reading

Twentieth Century history section iconCentury
of Change:
20th Century

Site News

Just uploaded--"Port of Philadelphia Slave Manifests." Including fascinating stories about the Ganges Families, an enslaved woman who sucessfully sued a Texas slaveholder for her and her two sons' freedom, and scandal, suicides and ghost stories. Check it all out here: Philadelphia Slave Manifests.

New Section--"Former Slaves." News items about formerly enslaved African American residents. Check it out here:
News headline of death of formerly enslaved person.

Newly restored: Photos and video from Harrisburg's 2010 "Grand Review of Colored Troops." Check it out here:
African American Civil War re-enactors parade on Front Street.  USCT Re-enactor at the Harris-Cameron mansion.

Featured Links

  • Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds The mission of the Pennsylvania Hallowed Grounds (PAHG) is to honor, interpret, and preserve African American cemeteries and the burial sites of Civil War African American Sailors and United States Colored Troops in Pennsylvania.

In the News

  • Penn Live Article on the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the Y  Read Joe McClure's column on the history of Harrisburg's Phyllis Wheatley branch of the YWCA, established to serve Harrisburg's African American women and girls. Includes profiles of Maude Coleman, Ella Frazier and Sara-Alyce Wright.


On This Date

September events important to local African American history (see the whole year)

September 1, 1780: The first Harrisburg area slave holder to register slaves according the 1780 Gradual Abolition Act is Elizabeth Carson, who registered her “Negro Male,” Pompey, aged fourteen years, as a “slave for life.”
The listing of Pompey by Elizabeth Carson is here.

September 1, 1835: A follow-up meeting of Harrisburg anti-abolition supporters is held in a market shed on the square, after being barred from meeting in the county courthouse. Impassioned speeches are delivered by J. J. Clendenin, publisher Henry K. Strong, and attorney Charles C. Rawn.

September 2, 1914: Artist Romare Bearden is born in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Visit the Romare Bearden Foundation at

September 3, 1838: With the help of local free Black woman Anna Murray, Frederick Douglass, an enslaved man in Maryland, escapes from slavery in Fells Point, Baltimore. Douglass would become a tireless lifelong campaigner for African American social, political, and legal rights.
The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site may be visited here.

September 4, 1838: American Anti-slavery Society agent Daniel Alexander Payne visits with William C. Goodridge in York, as part of his lecturing circuit of Pennsylvania. During his trip, he met with anti-slavery leaders in each location and distributed literature.
See the listing for William Goodridge in the Underground Railroad Whos Who.
Read more about Daniel Payne's travels and anti-slavery agitation here.

September 11, 1851: Slaveholder Edward Gorsuch is killed while attempting to recover runaways who had taken shelter with William Parker in Christiana, Pennsylvania. The “Christiana Resistance” marks the first organized armed resistance by free African Americans against slave catchers in defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law.
A detailed account of the Christiana Resistance may be found here.

September 15, 1830: Annual Negro Conventions begin in Philadelphia. Meeting in Bethel Church, delegates began the annual events that would coordinate African American resistance to slavery and anti-Black legislation.

September 18, 1850: President Millard Fillmore signs the Fugitive Slave Act into law.
Read about the chilling effect the new Fugitive Slave Law had on Harrisburg's Underground Railroad network.

September 18, 1895: Booker T. Washington delivers his Atlanta Compromise speech at the Cotton States and International Exhibition in that city (“Cast Down Your Buckets Where You Are.”)
A transcript of Washington's landmark speech and an audio clip of his voice are accessible online from the Library of Congress.
September 21, 2002: A new tombstone, with corrected date of birth, is dedicated at Lincoln Cemetery in Harrisburg, for Thomas Morris Chester. (photos of event here)

September 22, 1862: President Lincoln declares that all slaves in states in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be free.

September 24, 1862: Fourteen governors of Northern states meet in Altoona, Pennsylvania and approve the emancipation measures of President Lincoln.
A scholarly article detailing the War Governor's Conference at Altoona may be accessed here.

September 25, 1838: AAS agent Daniel Alexander Payne arrives in Carlisle, where he stays with William Webb and visits barber and anti-slavery activist John Peck.
Read about John Peck in the Underground Railroad Who's Who

September 25, 1851: Harrisburg is panicked as four African American strangers passing through town are rumored to be murderous rioters from Christiana. With the help of local men from Matamoras, the four are arrested and taken back to Harrisburg. There, District Judge John J. Pearson dismisses charges for lack of evidence against the four men accused of having participated in the Christiana Rebellion. To Judge Pearson's dismay, Federal Fugitive Slave Commissioner Richard McAllister immediately seizes the men in the courtroom and remands them south as fugitive slaves, after a short hearing.
Read more about this incident.

September 28, 1785: David Walker is born in Wilmington, North Carolina. His “Appeal in Four Articles, together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World,” published in September 1829, outraged slaveholders because it called for violent resistance to their captivity by slaves.
The complete text of Walker's Appeal plus an image of the original title page is here.

September 30, 1850: Harrisburg lawyer Richard McAllister is appointed by United States Chief Justice Roger B. Taney to the post of U.S. Commissioner to hear cases under the new Fugitive Slave Act. With distinct pro-slaveholder sympathies, McAllister employs several Harrisburg constables as deputies to actively and energetically pursue fugitive slaves throughout central Pennsylvania.
A fairly comprehensive account of McAllister's activities as Slave Commissioner is here.


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