Meet The Father of the “Underground Railroad” Conductor William Still

4 Posted by - September 13, 2018 - Black First, BLACK MEN, LATEST POSTS

played an important role to hundreds of slaves during his life time. Still was a conductor of the Underground Railroad. He was also a writer, historian, and civil rights activist. Not only did he help the fugitive slaves but he kept records on their lives, so that they would be able to reunite with other family members who made the travel. However, the records were even more useful when was abolished. His records entitled “The Underground Railroad Records” were published in 1872. Still worked with other Underground Railroad agents operating in the South and even those in counties throughout Pennsylvania. He often used his home as one of the stations to help hide slaves. His network to freedom also included agents in New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada. Harriet Tubman knew Still well, she would travel through his office with fellow passengers on several occasions during the 1850s. After John Brown and his insurrection at Harper’s Ferry failed in 1859 Still sheltered some of his men and helped them escape capture. It is estimated that between 1845-1865 Still helped anywhere from 50-60 enslaved men and women escape to freedom each month.



It is believed Still was born around 1821 in Burlington County, New Jersey. His father purchased his freedom in 1798, and his mother escaped into freedom with her two young daughters. Still was born the youngest out of 14 children. He worked most of his childhood helping his family on their farm. He would often do work as a woodcutter. He had very little formal education, but he did learn to read and write which helped him a great deal later in life. Still married in 1847 to Letitia George, they had four children. In 1847, three years after settling in Philadelphia, Still began working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. When Philadelphia abolitionists organized a Vigilance Committee to directly aid escaped slaves who had reached the city, Still became its chairman. By the 1850s, Still  was well-known throughout the community, and he was also one of the leading Black men as well. He challenged the segregation laws of the city’s public transit system, and in 1865, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law to integrate streetcars.

William Still worked with the Black youth, and was concerned about those who were separated from their families, and had nowhere to go. He helped establish an orphanage and the first YMCA for Blacks in Philadelphia. Still was recognized in 1997 as a leading Underground Railroad agent in a major center of abolition by the House of Representatives. Still died in 1902 apparently from kidney failure. He is buried in Eden Memorial Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania.




  • Lyndia Black September 14, 2018 - 11:50 am Reply

    William Still’s mother, had to leave 2 sons behind when she made her escape. William, was helping slaves escape, however, he came across one of the sons, that he mother had to leave behind. After listening to the man’s story, and from his looks, he determined that was his brother. They to the man to his aged and blind mother. She felt his hand and immediately knew that was her son. They other son had died. At that point, William, begin writing the stories, of men and women, that were escaping slavery. When the Civil War began, he hid those narratives. After the war, as they were closing out the records, William were told he should publish those stories which he did. The Underground Railroad, is a very informative resource. It use to be an Ebony Classic, and I have a copy of it. Great reading.

  • Lyndia Black September 14, 2018 - 11:53 am Reply

    Fourth sentence should read: He took the man to his aged and blind mother.

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    Thank you for this additional info. I would love to read this book. Amazon, maybe?

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