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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: BURRIS, Samuel D. 1808-1869 ?

There is a published account of Samuel D. Burris. It is found in the book, "It Happened on the Underground Railroad" by Tricia Martineau Wagner, pg 87. The book states that he was a free, educated black man born in Willow Grove, Delaware in 1808. As an adult, he moved to Philadelphia and was active in a community of abolitionists. He partnered with Thomas Garrett of Wilmington, Delaware and John Hunn, a Maryland Quaker in helping slaves to escape. In time, he was a recognized agent of the Underground Railroad. He would often go deep into Maryland to bring groups of slaves out. In 1848, he was caught with a group of slaves and jailed in Dover, Delaware. His partners contacted the Anti Slavery Society and they tried to help him. He waited in jail for months for a trial. A law enacted in 1937 stated that if any free black person was convicted of helping slaves escape, they would be sold into slavery for a time determined by the courts. The judge sentanted him to seven years in slavery. In Septmenber 1848, he was put on the auction block with the very people he had tried to save and was subjected to the humiliation and degradation that came with the sale of human chattel. There was nothing he or his friends could do about it. Two slave traders from Baltimore haggled over with with a new slave trader. He was bought for $600. As the trader led him away, he told him, "You have been bought with abolition gold." The new trader was really a fellow abolitionist in disguise. It's good the bidding stopped when it did, as the abolitionist had limited funds. That same year, Burris' partners were tried and fines. They were nearly bankrupt, but kept up thier work on the Underground Railroad. After a few years in Philakephia, Burris took his family to California in 1852. He still did what he could to help the Underground Railroad and helped any former slaves that made their way to California. After the Civil War, he raised money in San Franciso to help the freed slaves in Washington DC. He died in 1869 at the age of 61.
Wow! What a fascinating story.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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