The Story of William Still

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The Story of William Still

One of the most influential heroes of the Underground Railroad, William Still, was born in Burlington County, New Jersey on October 7, 1821. He was a an African-American abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist. His parents, Levin Steel and Sidney Steel, parents to four children when they became runaway slaves were fortunate enough to be able to escape from slavery. Unfortunately, the Steel family was unable to escape slavery together. Levin, Still's father escaped slavery in Maryland and was able to purchase his freedom in New Jersey. Still's mother escaped much later with the children, changing the family name to Still and her first name to Charity. It took two attempts before they were able to join Levin in New Jersey. In 1821, William was the youngest of his parent’s eighteen children.

In 1844, at the age of 23, William Still left his family’s farm in New Jersey and set out for Philadelphia. “He arrived, friendless with only five dollars in his possession. Still taught himself to read so well, that in three years he was able to hold the position of secretary in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society” (Hamerstrom).

“William worked as a Philadelphia clerk who risked his life guiding runaway slaves to freedom in the years leading up to America’s Civil War” (Underground Railroad, web). In 1844, William migrated to Philadelphia, and three years later, he was selected to be the secretary of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. “He was such an asset to the group, that he was elected chairman in 1851 (William Still, web.).” He became a significant part of the Underground Railroad, helping Blacks flee to Canada to escape slavery via the Underground Railroad. “Still began campaigning to end racial discrimination on Philadelphia streetcars (William Still, web.).” William wrote a description of his movement in, “Struggle of the civil Rights of Colored People of Philadelphia in...
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