When people talk of slavery and the “Underground Railroad”, it’s difficult for many to understand the implications of what it meant – and what it means – to be free.
Sometimes, rather than focusing on the larger picture, it’s best to focus on just on person.
Ms. Jane Johnson was just one lady.
Ms. Johnson, pictured in the image above, had been a slave in Virginia. She and two of her three children (the third child stayed behind in Virginia) had been brought to Philadelphia by the man who owned them. Not a friend. Not a neighbor. Not a boss.
While in Philadelphia, she sought freedom for herself and for two of her three children.
In her quest for liberty, Ms. Johnson was helped by a number of people who believed no human being should own another person. She and her two children escaped North.
Some of the people who helped her were taken to court for violating the law.
At great personal risk, Ms. Johnson came back to Pennsylvania to testify on behalf of some of those individuals who had helped her and her children in their flight for freedom. Federal officials made it clear that they intended to take her into custody at the court in Philadelphia and then re-enslave Ms. Johnson. Nonetheless, she stood tall and testified on behalf of the abolitionists who helped her and her two children.
While back in Pennsylvania, Ms. Johnson was housed for a time by the Corson Family in Whitemarsh Township.
After her testimony in court, she then traveled on the Underground Railroad from Plymouth Meeting to “beyond Newtown” in Bucks County on her escape to Canada. There, in a nation where slavery was illegal, she was able to join her two children who had already been sent to that country.
Ms. Johnson was just one of a number of human beings who found refuge in the Freedom Valley.
Not everyone made it North. Not everyone broke the shackles of slavery.
Many did not.
But against great odds, a number of people did succeed in obtaining freedom because of people like Mr. George Corson and Mrs. Martha Maulsby Corson.
Two of the ordinary people who did extraordinary things to make the following words from the Declaration of Independence become reality:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
Mr. George Corson was one of early abolitionists living in Whitemarsh Township. He and his wife, Mrs. Martha Maulsby Corson, were leaders in a movement to provide freedom and liberty for all Americans. Many people became free because of their efforts.
Mrs. Martha Maulsby Corson helped to shelter human beings fleeing the bondage of slavery. She and her husband, Mr. George Corson, lived in Plymouth Meeting. Through their endeavors and with the assistance of a number of local folks, the Freedom Valley became a center of the abolitionist movement.
The top image is courtesy of The Underground Railroad by Mr. William Still, 1872.
The photos of Mr. and Mrs. Corson are courtesy of Mr. Roy Wilson.
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© 2018 Richard McDonough