UGRR - People



Both ordinary and extraordinary people made history during antebellum America. Key historical figures helped shape the course of action through their writing, decision-making, oratory, military involvement, actions, and everyday living. This section of the website highlights key individuals who contributed to the abolitionist cause and clandestine Underground Railroad activity.

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William Still

William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey on October 7, 1821. Still moved to Philadelphia in 1847 and became a mail clerk for the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Within a few years, Still became its secretary and chairman of the organization’s Acting Committee. He kept records of hundreds of fugitives that he and other members helped reach freedom. In addition to his work on the Underground Railroad, he also actively fought for civil rights for free people of color as a member of the Committee of the Car, which protested against segregation of African Americans on Philadelphia’s new streetcars.

William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown was born in 1814 near Lexington, Kentucky. In his twenties, he was hired out to an innkeeper named William Freeland. After working for Freeland, he was hired out to work for other cruel men. Brown later decided to run away with his mother. They made it to central Illinois before they were captured. Before his mother was sold down the river, she encouraged her son to make another attempt at freedom; they never saw each other again. Soon after, he made his escape and began his life as an antislavery orator, author and lecturer. He traveled throughout the United States and Europe lecturing on the evils of slavery and telling his story.

William Whipper

African American entrepreneur William Whipper used his influence to protect runaway slaves and helped them find their way to freedom in the North. Whipper was born near Lancaster, Pennsylvania either in 1804 or 1806. By 1828, William Whipper was living in Philadelphia and quickly became active in the city’s black reform societies. He also opened a free labor and temperance grocery store next door to the Bethel Church in Philadelphia in March of 1834. By his own account, Whipper aided hundreds of runaways escape to the North and provided thousands of dollars annually to the Underground Railroad.


© 2012 Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. All rights reserved. 315 East Warren Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201 | (313) 494-5800 |

This program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural Program.