History

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Underground Railroad: The Williams Still Story is the story of a humble Philadelphia clerk who risked his life shepherding runaway slaves to freedom in the tumultuous years leading up to America’s Civil War. William Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario.

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

55m 16s

Underground Railroad: The Williams Still Story is the story of a humble Philadelphia clerk who risked his life shepherding runaway slaves to freedom in the tumultuous years leading up to America’s Civil War. William Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario.

Episodes

  • Underground Railroad: The William Still Story: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

    55m 16s

    Underground Railroad: The Williams Still Story is the story of a humble Philadelphia clerk who risked his life shepherding runaway slaves to freedom in the tumultuous years leading up to America’s Civil War. William Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario.

Extras + Features

  • Epilogue: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Epilogue

    4m 28s

    Program segment for PBS Learning Media

  • Punishment: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Punishment

    1m 46s

    Slaves who ran away from their masters and were re-captured suffered terrible punishments. A severe beating was the most common form of discipline, usually administered with a bull whip or a wooden paddle. The offender would be hung by the hands or staked to the ground and every slave on the plantation would be forced to watch the whipping to deter them from running away.

  • Origin of the name Underground Railroad: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Origin of the name Underground Railroad

    1m 19s

    Historians haven't been able to pin down how the Underground Railroad got its name. Many believe it was a slave-catcher who coined the term, when the runaway he was chasing seemed to just disappear as though he'd escaped on a mysterious underground rail line. But one thing is certain: the "railroad" that helped runaway slaves flee to the free states had nothing to do with steel rails.

  • Coded Spirituals: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Coded Spirituals

    2m 27s

    Many of the well-known Negro Spirituals popular in the United States during the mid-1800s are much more complex than they first appear. Historians of the Underground Railroad refer to them as "Coded Spirituals". What that means is that the words actually have two meanings; one that is immediately apparent and one that's hidden just below the surface.

  • Slavery and Freedom: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Slavery and Freedom

    3m 16s

    As incredible as it sounds today, in the 1850s many Americans believed that slaves were incapable of thinking for themselves and could not survive on their own. They believed that the black man was created by God to serve a white master and found passages in the Bible to prove it. Some slave holders even argued that they were doing their slaves a favor by providing them with food and shelter.

  • William Still's Place in History: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    William Still's Place in History

    2m 18s

    Drawing from the diaries he'd secretly kept during his years as the Philadelphia stationmaster, William Still published his definitive book on the Underground Railroad and the freedom seekers who used it. His passion for the cause of freedom was so great that when he died in 1902, The New York Times called him "The Father of the Underground Railroad".

  • Fugitive Slave Act: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Fugitive Slave Act

    2m 15s

    The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was the last attempt by the government in Washington to appease the southern slave states and shut down the Underground Railroad. It required every state and territory in the United States to assist in the return of fugitive slaves and gave slave owners the right to seek them out even in states that had abolished slavery.

  • Underground Railroad: The William Still Story Trailer No Air: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Underground Railroad: The William Still Story Trailer No Air

    1m 30s

    Underground Railroad: The William Still Story is the story of a humble Philadelphia clerk who risked his life shepherding runaway slaves to freedom in the tumultuous years leading up to America's Civil War. William Still was the director of a complex network of abolitionists, sympathizers and safe houses that stretched from Philadelphia to what is now Southern Ontario.

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