Few things about slavery are as feared or needed as the truth. While some got rich–very rich–others were whipped, abused, tortured and killed. People fought back, winning themselves space in a war of constantly shifting lines of authority. Much of this history has been hidden, forgotten, or erased. But not here.
This website is filled with new research about the days of slavery in the northern United States—Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. It includes stories of survival, strength, and courage, and explores what this information means to us today.
America’s enduring heritage of slavery distorts our lives through lingering racism, misunderstanding, and fear. I had to learn to see the structural racism that surrounds us, and learn that it is still dangerous to talk about slavery in the 21st century. This has been a personal journey, and I will share my discoveries. But my mission is to make authentic stories of agency available to people who can use them. Take what you need, remember the courage of your ancestors, and tell your children.
Every story you read here actually happened. There is a source note at the bottom of each post showing you where to find the original documents. Much of the information comes from the rich historical record left by the Chew family of Philadelphia, whose papers are housed in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Chews are not exemplary or guilty to any special degree; they are an example of a prominent Philadelphia family—an American family. There were, and are, many others.
Let me know how I can make this site more useful for you. Your comments and feedback are welcomed.