On Black Wide-Awake’s 8th anniversary.

Eight years. 5,162 posts.

Yesterday, I received an email from Harold Finigan.

“I am the historian at the Darby PA Friends (Quaker) Meeting (est. 1682).  For the past several years, I have been researching our Meeting members’ roles in the abolitionist movement, especially the UGRR [Underground Railroad].  To date, I have confirmed 43 members that participated in this activity.

“In uncovering the members’ involvement, one can sometimes uncover the stories of the lives of the freedom seekers themselves. For obvious reasons, many of these stories were not published at the time, and most have been lost to history.

“As fugitive slave warrants may have been issued in their enslaved name, many [freedom seekers] changed identities without leaving any incriminating evidence.  Occasionally, some bits remain.

“Last week we were notified by the National Park Service that our NETWORK TO FREEDOM application had been approved.  This is an official designation that recognizes a particular person or place’s involvement in the UGRR.

“Amongst the members of our meeting were the famous abolitionists Isaac T. Hopper & Thomas Garrett, Jr. These men alone helped nearly 6,000 freedom seekers; but it was not a story associated with these two that I chose to represent the Meeting.

“Instead, I chose the story of Allen Ricketts. Allen was an eleven year-old boy in 1831 when he took his own freedom,  escaping with other family members from their enslaver near Baltimore, MD. His well-documented story chronicles the outcome of the values of the community as displayed in his finding safe harbor among them, his education at the Darby Friends School, and the support the Darby Quakers provided to rescue him from a later kidnapping [during which he] was taken to Baltimore to be sold on to the slave market in New Orleans. His Friends had 4 days to raise the equivalent of $30,000 to buy his freedom.

“You can read more about it here: https://www.swarthmore.edu/friends-historical-library/underground-railroad-and-sharon-female-academy-delaware-county

“The Darby Quaker community had a long tradition of advocacy, dating back to at least 1694,  for anti-slavery causes. They simply saw the idea of Equality & commitment to the Golden Rule as a core values of their beliefs.

“I have put a power point presentation together with the facts of the matter.  So far, I have shown it about a half a dozen times, with many descendants of Allen present. Before my contacting them, they knew nothing of the ordeal of their ancestor. I have found the experience healing and cathartic for many … to learn what their ancestor did, what he went through, and what the community sacrificed for of one of their members who wasn’t special, just a simple farmer. Nonetheless he was a member of the community and a person of dignity and worth.

“I think it is a lesson about what Equality truly means and how we should behave to one another today. Ms. Christina Sharpe is Allen’s 3rd great granddaughter.

“Your website was instrumental in helping me make that connection and reach out to her to tell her the deep history of her family. I wanted to let you know what a positive impact your labors have brought.”

Thank you, Mr. Finigan, for your kind words and, most importantly, for the vital work you do to research historic Darby Friends’ role in abolition and to link freedom seekers with their descendants.

Happy anniversary, Black Wide-Awake. May it continue to be a bridge.

Email reproduced with permission.


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