Historians have traditionally recounted the history of the Underground Railroad in Chester County and elsewhere in Pennsylvania as the work of heroic Quakers. When African Americans are included, for example, in R. C. Smedley’s History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, they are nearly always mentioned only by their first names or have often been reduced to the role of “assistants.” Smedley overlooked the important function of free Black churches and residential communities. This article illuminates the stories of African American abolitionists in Chester County, including their part in assisting fugitives escape and the various forms of resistance in which they engaged. Utilizing original documents, letters, archival records, census data, newspapers, and the perspectives of recent historians, this article provides a frame and a context by which to understand the contributions of local Blacks to the larger story of abolition and the Underground Railroad.

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