United States’ slave trade

In the early days of our country, I thought most of the transatlantic trips of slave trading were made to the United States. However, the United States received only a fraction of the slaves.

…the United States imported only about 6 percent of the slaves…¹

but that still is over 600,000 Africans!

According to Bordewich, “During the entire span of the transatlantic slave trade, the vast majority of slaves, perhaps as much as 85 percent were taken to Brazil, the various European colonies in the Caribbean, and Spanish South America. The British colonies of North America and the United States imported only about 6 percent of the between ten and eleven million slaves that were brought from Africa. More than 40 percent of all slaves sold in North America were imported through Charleston, South Carolina.”¹

On the plantations the slaves were treated like tools. However, the manual labor they provided came at a price. “To return maximum value to their owners, slaves, like expensive tools, had to be properly maintained. They had to be fed, clothed, housed, and kept in work.”²

Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves - Library of Congress

Trying to stop the slave trade but the slave population continues to grow

In 1807, Jefferson signed in to law a bill that the 9th Congress passed – the Act to Prohibited the Importation of Slaves³ that would take effect
January 1, 1808. (Click here to read the document in text form.) “The total number of slaves swelled due to natural increase from just under 900,000 in 1800 to about 1.2 million in 1810, to slightly more than 2 million in 1830…and would double again by the outbreak of the Civil War.4

Even with the natural increase in slave population, there was little enforcement of the Act. According to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture website “Africans continued to be deported to the United States until 1860.”5 This website is extremely interesting which highlights essays, timelines as well as images, maps and events regarding the slave trade around the world.

¹Fergus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan. The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2005), 20.

²Ibid., 23.

³Paul Finkelman,  “Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves.” Schlager Group. accessed November 29, 2010. http://www.milestonedocuments.com/documents/view/act-to-prohibit-the-importation-of-slaves.

4 Bordewich, Bound for Canaan, 43.

5 New York Public Library, accessed November 29, 2010. http://abolition.nypl.org/.

Published in: on November 30, 2010 at 11:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

On The Underground Railroad poem

My research has led me in different directions, much like a map with different routes to take. On one of the “paths” I took during this journey, I found was a poem by Frances C. Taylor. This is from her book, The Trackless Trail Leads On.¹ Ms. Taylor writes about the Underground Railroad in Kennett Square, Chester county and surrounding communities in eastern Pennsylvania. Kennett Square “is the city known as the hub of the Underground Railroad activity in the important Chester county.”²

On The Underground Railroad

On and on in the dead of night
The weary slave seeks
Freedom through flight.
His clothes are tattered,
His feet are bare;
They bleed from frostbite.
Does no one care?

He follows the Star
With a hope that shines
As dark, through the night,
The trail he finds.
“The Underground Railroad”-
He’s heard its name
This railroad to freedom
Is not in vain.

“As God as my witness,
I’ll follow the Star
O’er the Underground Railroad
Though I know it’s far
To Canada’s shores.
But I’ll then be free
With manumission papers
Issued to me.

Many hands have guided
These weary feet
From station to station
May I repeat –
The conductors that guided me
Have been led by God
By a faith
That is free.”

The Underground Railroad continues to evoke imagery in many forms. Stories, family lore even poems like this one.

¹Frances C. Taylor,  The Trackless Trail Leads On, “On The Underground Railroad,” (Privately published, 1995.)

²James A. McGowan, Station master on the Underground Railroad: the life and letters of Thomas Garrett, accessed October 29, 2010. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2005.)

Published in: on October 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm  Comments (2)  

Freedom Center’s Free Press

Last month while perusing the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center‘s website for material to use in my thesis proposal, I came across their “newspaper”. It is more of a newsletter with some interesting articles and photographs, some from this century and some reaching back to the 1800s.

The article on Carl Westmoreland, senior historian is the person I spoke with last October. (See October 2009.) The subscription for the newsletter is free, as delivery is via your email as a PDF.

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm  Comments (1)  

National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center

On my way to western Pennsylvania, I made a few stops to visit locations that had information on Underground Railroad activities. In Indiana I visited the Levi Coffin house. (More information on that visit in later blogs.) Going through Ohio, one of my stops included, albeit briefly, at the National Afro-American Museum.

According to the Green County (OH) Convention and Visitor Nat'l Afro-American Museum & Cultural CenterBureau’s pamphlet the museum “focuses on African-American life between 1945 – 1965…This museum is the nation’s premier facility dedicated to the interpretation and preservation of the African-American experience in the US.” It is located in Wilberforce, OH (937) 376-4944 or 1-800-752-2603 x 114 and is adjacent to Central State University.

I wasn’t able to Stone outside Nat'l Afro-American Museum & Cultural Centerspend much time as it was late afternoon on a Friday. As a quilter, I wished I had more time as their main exhibit was “The Journey of Hope In America.” These were quilts inspired by President Obama. This exhibit will remain up until December 18, 2010.

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 3:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Quaker repository in Richmond, IN

I spoke with a genealogical researcher who lives in western PA in the area I’m researching, and told him about my project. When I mentioned the family ties to the builder of the Latta stone house as being Quaker, he told me that Haverford College (370 Lancaster Avenue  Haverford, PA 19041-1933) was a repository for Quaker records in Pennsylvania (on the eastern side.) He thought there was an additional repository in Indiana.

Googling for the website of Haverford College netted me an email address of the  Coordinator for Collections and Head of Special Collections – John F. Anderies janderie@haverford.edu. He told me that Earlham College (801 National Rd W  Richmond, IN 47374 (765) 983-1310) was the nearest place in Indiana for Quaker records

UPDATE: When I visited Earlham College and met Thomas Hamm, he gave me some Meeting Minutes books to look through. I was able to trace information on Thomas Stockdale and his family. He started in eastern Pennsylvania (his family was from England) and moved to western Pennsylvania after his wife died shortly after giving birth.

Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Heinz History Center curator gives direction to research

January 31st marked the end of the month but the beginning of a new branch of research for my thesis project. I spoke with Heinz History Center curator Samuel W. Black on Sunday after emailing him information regarding my thesis project.

When asked how he researches topics like this, he said he tries …

“to identify who was involved and looks for ways to prove that involvement.”

Mr. Black confirmed that knowing the ownership of the house is a key point. From there I should look at plat maps and deeds from county records for neighbors and gather other names to research their activities and associations in the community.

Two associations during that era were mentioned to research.  Information on the Western Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society is at the Heinz History Center. Mr. Black suggested I check into membership rosters to see if the owners of the Latta house or their neighbors were participants.

The other association he suggested was the American Colonization Society founded in 1816 by Robert Finley. This was an organization divided …

“…One group consisted of philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa. The other group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America. “

With free people of color not in the area, fugitive slaves would have greater difficulty in their quest for freedom.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Indiana Repository for Washington County, PA

When I started my search for the owner of the Latta stone house I talked with people that had worked with genealogy. Some directed me to various sites like ancestry.com, rootsweb and geni. One individual, Jan Slater,  suggested connecting with my local Latter Day Saints group.

However, several others told me that Ft. Wayne (Ind.) public library was a great source for genealogy research. Some had taken bus trips to the library. So Saturday 1-30 I checked into the website for Allen County Public Library.

Being a novice to researching records, I contacted the librarian for that area and started asking questions via email. They were quite helpful and gave me the URL for searching records in Washington County, PA.

“..go to our website www.ACPL.info click on Search Catalog, then Advanced Search. Type Washington County in Subject line and the word Pennsylvania in “Words or phrase.” Select Genealogy Department for “library,” and click Search.”

I scrolled through over a hundred record titles, picking out 60 I thought would be applicable to my research about the individuals of the Roscoe area during the 1820s – 1860s.

They have a service where the librarians will look up the information for an hourly fee but living in Elkhart, Ind. I will make a trip there on a weekend.

UPDATE: I found tax records on microfilm for where the Stone House was located. It did not prove who actually built the house but it showed Thomas Stockdale, father to Allen, had large tracks of land and animals.


Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 9:58 am  Comments (3)  

The turning point of assisting runaway slaves in PA

I found this quote on a website and thought it summed up how the people of Pennsylvania were transformed from a slave holding state to helping the fugitive slave.

“In the treatment of the Pennsylvania negro after 1800 there is seemingly a strange contradiction, for he was the victim of violent prejudice at the same time that he received the liveliest sympathy and aid. During the whole period, while funds were being raised to ship negroes to Africa, while the Legislature was overwhelmed with petitions for their exclusion, while one race riot followed another, and while everything was done to convince the world that Pennsylvania desired no negroes, or at least no more of them, there was witnessed the curious spectacle of action on the part of the state, which betrayed an apparent desire to have them after all. From 1830 to 1860 almost never was assistance refused to a fugitive slave from the South, even when he was known to be such; and during this time it was with the greatest difficulty that a master could recover his property. In the course of this conduct men and women of Pennsylvania went any length of risk and self-sacrifice to assist runaways. Toward the end of the period the state was brought to the threshold of nullification. –Edward Raymond Turner, “The Negro in Pennsylvania 1639-1861,” Washington, 1911, p.227

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Source for newspapers to reveal activities and associations

While looking at various sites, I found some newspaper sources to check for obituaries of people in the Roscoe, PA area after 1865. Obituaries sometimes described the activities and associations of individuals.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the area did not have a local paper. Some of the surrounding communities, i.e. Pittsburgh did have obituaries, but I found nothing of the area or people in which I was looking. With this community being so small and rural, I was unable to get any information using this type of source. I was given various libraries to contact such as the State Library of Pennsylvania and some college archive locations, which I did. Again, it was like looking for that “needle in the haystack” for individuals in a small town that may or may not have been involved with the Underground Railroad.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fall lead follow up

Last September I contacted the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA as a possible resource for my project since I heard they were working on an exhibition – Western Pennsylvania and the Underground Railroad. At that time I spoke with Art Louderback, the center’s chief librarian who suggested I speak with the curator of that exhibit, Samuel Black as well as a history professor at University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Laurence Glasco.

Since I’ve put the title search in the hands of someone else, I decided to explore the area’s resources on the Underground Railroad. On Friday, January 29, 2010 I called Dr. Glasco’s office and briefly explained what I was trying to do – namely search for information that could lead to the conclusion the Latta stone house could have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. I asked when a good time to talk about this and he suggested the next day.

I caught up with Dr. Glasco on January 30th and had a nice discussion. Dr. Glasco told me he was more knowledgeable about 20th century blacks in Pittsburgh than in the area and century I was researching. He co-authored WPA History of the Negro in Pittsburgh (2004). He mentioned the Heinz exhibit “Free at Last?” that just ended in October 2009 but directed me to the University of Pittsburgh site saying that it was in their digital collection.

Although Dr. Glasco area of expertise was not in the area I needed, he did give me names of other individuals to contact. He suggested Marilyn Holt at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (412) 622-3154. She is head of the Pennsylvania department and genealogy at the library. He thought she could help with information the owner of the house as well as its neighbors.

In regards to finding court cases involving abolitionists being tried for helping fugitive slaves, Dr. Glascoe suggested contacting Paul Finkleman (pfink@albanylaw.edu) whose background involves slavery and the law.

For the Roscoe area and information on historical preservation, Dr. Glasco suggested I contact Carmen DiCiccio.  A quick Google search on Dr. DiCiccio told me he taught history at the University of Pittsburgh and at Carlow University in Pittsburgh and his latest book is  Coal and Coke in Pennsylvania.

Published in: on February 3, 2010 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment