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tv   Slavery and the Underground Railroad in South Central Pennsylvania  CSPAN  January 22, 2017 11:03am-11:22am EST

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these political machines. nevertheless camera cameron built the most successful political machine in our history. cameron political machine controlled pennsylvania into the 1930s so he controlled pennsylvania. his political machine controlled pennsylvania for nearly 50 years after his death and one of the reasons i wrote the book was to remind people there's more to cameron than just that famous caddies see the stevens story. this was a human being with nuance and ideas. he wasn't this mustache your villain but he was a person and his career has a lot to teach us about the way in which politics worked in the 1820s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. >> book tvs exploration of harrisburg literary life continues. up next, cooper wingert talks about his book"slavery and the underground railroad in
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south central pennsylvania" . >> i have always been interested in the local history and particularly with the involvement of slavery in this area of pennsylvania. we often think of slavery as a southern institution. in my research i found this area of pennsylvania i called south-central pennsylvania which is cumberland, franklin, york and adams counties was the slaveholding capital of pennsylvania from the 1770s on until almost the 1820s and 1830s and even though slavery was abolished in a gradual abolition act by the state in 1780, it still lingered in this local area which was very close to maryland, closer to southern markets and more southern ties and it made this area very distinct from the rest of the state what we tend to
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think of is east of here in the philadelphia area. i thought that was interesting and as time went on this area transition from a slaveholding capital to one of the greatest and most frequent places on the underground railroad because of the geography and the people who lived here. as the american revolution approached, slavery was on the wane and almost extinct in the philadelphia area. this area which is west of the susquehanna river was settled more recently so slavery had taken root here. it was beginning to take root in the 1770s and therefore a lot of the slave owners did not feel that they, it was in their best interest to make us change to other forms of labor so they can can you then persisted in keeping slaves, selling slaves. in 1780 pennsylvania was the first state to pass a
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legislative abolition of slavery, called the gradual abolition and it was passed by the legislature in philadelphia. that said, all slaves worn prior to the act were slaves for life. the only people who would be free are the children born after the passage of the. it would not be free until their 28th birthday. that the average life of a person in the laboring class who was maybe 40 years old if you are fortunate so to think of that, you would be a slave for life until 28 or a slave until you are 28 years old was the best years of your life taken away from you so it was an abolitionist but slow moving in for the people here, even though this was the practice 1780, the first slaves would not be free until 1808. so this was a very slow-moving loss and here in south-central pennsylvania,
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slave owners like to pretend it didn't exist. now we are at what is now known as fort hunter part which is a county park that is open to the public. for hunter was begun as an operating plantation in the 1780s by archibald mcallister. there are a lot of archibald mcallister's, he was the elder one so archibald is born around 1756, by 1780 profitable plantation at fort hunter where about two miles north of harrisburg proper. and archibald mcallister has 300 acres, he is very for his day in the 1787 to 90 scientific farmer, he has all sorts of different orchards about the property. he has a couple staple crops, he also is a great friend to black snakes because he knows as a scientific farmer that they kill rodents and other pets that would harm crops. however, he is not a friend to the black slaves on his property, he was a very cool
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slave owner and rightly somewhat heartless. archibald mcallister owned various throughout time but he owned roughly can do a dozen slaves at different points in time that worked here on his plantation and 1813 on this very property he was born his grandson also named archibald mcallister. we know little about him because he really left no writing or no writings or sentiments about his feelings on slavery. however, being born on a plantation, with a father and grandfather who were slave owners unapologetically. we can only guess what he thought. archibald mcallister grandson is in 1862 elected to congress. he represents the district that includes a wide swath of south-central pennsylvania including leesburg. mcallister defeats a
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gettysburg native named edward mcpherson, mcpherson was a staunch abolitionist. mcpherson was friends with that is stevens, the famous congressman so mcpherson becomes the clerk of the house of representatives area when the 13th amendment to abolish slavery is brought to the house, edward mcpherson, former congressman to gettysburg is reporting both area archibald mcallister stands up and initially is the same but changes his boat to a yes and is one of the deciding vote of the 13th amendment. it was passed in large part to a congressman who was born here north of harrisburg who represented gettysburg and it was recorded by a former congressman from gettysburg. this is the walking stick of archibald mcallister's grandson who whether his feelings on slavery will ever be discovered was one of the crucial, one of the key men in order to abolish the institution of slavery in the united states.thaddeus stevens is the major player
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in pennsylvania, arrived in gettysburg which is about 40 miles south of harrisburg in 1817, a young lawyer from vermont and he sets up a law practice. he is quickly elected to the state house , representing gettysburg. however he has disagreements and is kind of rejected by the mainstream elite of gettysburg but he continued to serve as the state representative. he has a staunch abolitionist and does a number of things very back candidly to ensure that gettysburg becomes in 1820s and 1830s a center on the underground railroad cause it's located in a very private position. being that it can aid from the baltimore eastern maryland area,virginia, even as far south as north carolina . it's all converge because of the river on the east and mountains on the west converge toward gettysburg. that is stevens was on the board, the only back.
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he had it written to all the mortgages of the farmers, their mortgages could be called on-demand. if you saw underground railroad activityin florida , the mortgage on your farm could be called in by thaddeus stevens. he also sat on the board of pennsylvania college which he helped charter. and thaddeus stevens had it arranged so the black editor by the name of jack hopkins who worked for the school was not a janitor, he was actually a conductor on the underground railroad and he would help lead runaways using the facilities of the pennsylvania college. thaddeus stevens alsoowned and iron works at the western edge of adams county called caledonia . they had caledonia state park. from there he would lead, he had a little village out there for runaway slaves called little africa. there he proposed as legislator to get enacted a railroad cut from caledonia
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to that is still visible as this the ã in the ground which was made famous by the battle of gettysburg. however, thaddeus stevens had that put there and the track was not laid because funds were short so it became a great pathway from thaddeus stevens settlement of caledonia to the heart of gettysburg. it became the only actual underground railroad in the nation. and from there they were funneled into gettysburg, there was a house called the widow thompson house, frequently noticed we had ordered. at the time of and many years before, thaddeus stevens on that house so he had a very elaborate network of political and frankly property ownership that allowed the underground railroad to operate. through large part unhindered because either it was a direct shareholder or on the board of directors of the organization or he simply own
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the property. but what thaddeus stevens managed to do that through both personal and political influence. even after he left gettysburg in 1830s and moved to lancaster, this arrangement persisted and he had received all those properties and continue to serve on the board of these different institutions and it allowed the underground railroad to thrive in gettysburg for 30 years. william wright is one of the most prolific conductors on the underground railroad in the country. william wright lived right on the border of adams county and cumberland county so about 20 miles south of southeastern harrisburg. and the rights according to some accounts helped over 1000 fugitive slaves to safety. he began in 1819 and actually in 1840 moved and built a specific house that was specifically tailored to the underground railroad. it had more doors and windows than the typical house. it had a door leading directly from the second
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story and a staircase outside for easy estates at any moment that was necessary. so william wright was one of the employees, and his wife phoebe wright were both quakers, some of the most influential underground railroad conductors. so in the 1850s, william and phoebe wright have a couple slaves that escape from maryland on their property. they asked them to do work on the field so they were waiting to pass it on further toward harrisburg and in the meantime, slaves arrived and caught them openly working in the fields, it seems like all was lost. william wright however set out to your heart, will you let them go outside. >> the slaveholders consent to this and in the meantime phoebe wright his wife appeared on the porch with a minor and she lectured these two men from maryland for over 30 minutes area
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eyewitnesses said their teeth were chattering by the end of it. at the end of the bible lecture, they realized the slaves were nowhere to be seen. they were serious, they accused the right of tricking them and william intervened and said i have done nothing of the sort, you are listening to a bible for my wife, you are free to leave at any time. they searched the premises and could not find the slaves which was a common routine by william wright and at the time phoebe wright had distracted and they had hidden in the field and could not be found by the slave catchers. this is how risky the underground railroad was. it depended on ingenuity of both the slaves and slave catchers. another instance was james pennington who went on to be the first black graduate of yale. he was caught and he told his captors he had just been through a gang of slaves that have smallpox which left them less interested in him as a
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piece of human property and he managed to make hisescape that way. it was a story of a lot of personal ingenuity . so we are looking at the local african-american history, these artifacts pertain to the families themselves. the first item here is a neck collar. this was warm by slaves in kentucky. he fled from kentucky all the way to gettysburg. when he arrived in gettysburg, he worked one of the ancestors of j howard work. when you see a black man wearing one of these running into your town, it was for the suspect so he was put in the local jail. at that time, gettysburg justice of the peace was very much an abolitionist at heart
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so he posted in the gettysburg paper award saying even with the neck of the master saying the master from kentucky has desired to come and retrieve set slave for he will be free in four weeks. no slaveholder in kentucky was going to read a gettysburg newspaper so that was effectively a way of using the law to set a slave free. conversely in another town like york where the jailer was supposed to be free, if you are a free black man he could pick you up off the street and nobody claimed you in four weeks he would sell you at auction. so really there was no way for a runaway slave but really as a runaway slave you had to rush to gettysburg or the misfortune of going to york. the second artifact here pertains to lydia hamilton smith. this is lidia hamilton smith, she was a tri-racial woman. her mother was part indian, part black. and part white and those attributes to lydia hamilton smith had a white father. she was hired by thaddeus stevens in the late 1840s as a personal secretary and she was an influential force in
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his life and in the life of the nation because of her role personally and professionally as his household servants, as his personal secretary managing his business affairs in caledonia and helping him write documents for his congressional work on the 13th amendment. he was in washington dc at the time and the passage of it. she was in pennsylvania right after the battle of gettysburg and she loaded at her own expense as she was a very wealthy one and consequent of her employment with thaddeus stevens she loaded aladdin full of provisions and clothes and water for the wounded men at gettysburg and distributed them without edginess to union and confederate soldiers. she was known as the colored heroine of gettysburg. this is this issmith . the format of the photograph which is presented and her age do not corroborate. this is a wholly verified
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photograph of lidia hamilton smith, published in the book that we are discussing. here we have artifacts from some of the lesser, lesser influential families in the sense that they were not influenced by thaddeus stevens but still mightily influential and inconsequential in the underground railroad, the biggs and matthews who lived in and around gettysburg in quaker valley. among them lived near yellow hill north of gettysburg . this is the portrait of a black woman holding a guitar. here's an envelope with the name miss hannah bates, a patriotic envelope in 1852 and here's a first, a little satchel, call it what you might that belong to the women in one of these families. this gives you an insight into what daily life look like for these men and women. >> these artifacts, i now try to lay that out chronologically. they take the underground
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railroad to people who were living and thriving in south-central pennsylvania. it gives you the whole stove of what it was like to be an african-american in the 19th century in south-central pennsylvania and the faith and devotion that was kind of necessary in the case of lidia hamilton smith. looking back today on what happened to slavery in south-central pennsylvania we have to acknowledge as the fact that slavery was not just an institution that existed in all 13 colonies and i think laces like this remind us that slavery existed long beyond the act of legal and data slavery. free blacks were still forced by economic traditions to live and work on many of the same plantations that they had in their mothers and fathers and grandfathers had enslaved on so it's a legacy of the past and i think that you have to take that into account. to kind of understand what makes our community sick
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today. >> city tours in harrisburg pennsylvania to learn about its history and literary scene. right now we are on city island which is located on the susquehanna river across from downtown harrisburg. we will take you to midtown seller bookstore, a place owned and operated by the city's mayor and his wife. >> we are in midtown harrisburg pennsylvania where in the midtown market district so i'm standing in front of the midtown seller bookstore where a great independent bookstores and around thecorner of third , we are one of the nation's largest stores of academic used books is our online specialty and in this store we have our urban books, retail shop and we have that hundred 60,000 books in all fields so we have


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