The Manumission of Samuel Stephens

In 1783 Stuart George Dallas and his wife Elizabeth, formerly of the island of Jamaica, filed a manumission contract in Philadelphia for enslaved 12-year-old Samuel “Sammy” Stephens. George Bryan of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered a writ of habeas corpus for Samuel Stephens to be brought before him on July 1, 1786. The manumission contract, pictured here, is preserved in the Pennsylvania...
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From the Executive Director

Places can change you. Ordinarily, I write about Pennsylvania history here. But I recently returned from a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, and I came home a different person. Montgomery was not on my radar as a destination. Having little time to prepare for my trip (and consequently few expectations) left me wide open to surprise and to change. The city is home to two of our nation’s most...
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Three Generations on the Underground Railroad: The Gibbons Family of Lancaster County

Shortly after sunset, a fugitive slave from Maryland tapped on a window of a modest farmhouse near Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. Daniel and Hannah Gibbons walked swiftly to the door. The Quaker couple escorted the young man to the barn to sleep and in the morning summoned him back to the house. If the fugitive’s owner was in close pursuit, they would send him to another farm. If there seemed to be...
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To Form a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Murals in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber

At breakfast tables on Sunday morning, December 3, 1911, readers of The New York Times were confronted with a surprising headline running across the magazine section: “A WOMAN CHOSEN TO COMPLETE THE ABBEY PAINTINGS.” Four months earlier, the news that the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852–1911) had passed away in London raised speculation about who would receive the remainder of his...
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Shippensburg’s Locust Grove Cemetery

The town of Shippensburg, in the heart of the Cumberland Valley, was first settled in the 1730s. Some of the Europeans who moved into the area brought African American slaves with them. The exact number of slaves is unknown; it was not until after Pennsylvania’s 1780 Act for the Gradual Emancipation of Slavery that the numbers of slaves and slaveholders were recorded. Nevertheless, Shippensburg,...
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The Fearless Benjamin Lay by Marcus Rediker

The Fearless Benjamin Lay The Quaker Dwarf Who Became The First Revolutionary Abolitionist by Marcus Rediker Beacon Press, 224 pp., cloth $26.95 Who cares about Benjamin Lay (1682–1759), a 4-foot-tall, malformed, 18th-century member of a minority religious network known as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)? Until recently, not very many people. But in seven gracefully crafted chapters...
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Editor’s Letter

“Persons and places conceive each other.” While preparing this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, I was reminded of this quote from the preface of an American studies textbook I read as a graduate student, American Ground: Vistas, Visions and Revisions, edited by Robert H. Fossum and John K. Roth. It continues: “No people would have become American without a place of their own. Nor would any...
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Julia C. Collins

Recognized as one of the first African American women to have published a novel, Julia C. Collins is an enigma. Little information is available about her life. Her maiden name and the date and place of her birth are all unknown. Her education is a mystery. One record that does exist appeared after her marriage to S. (Stephen or Simon) C. Collins of Williamsport, Lycoming County, indicating that...
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Pennsylvania Heritage Recommends

The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience Samuel W. Black, editor of a collection of eight essays comprising The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience (Senator John Heinz History Center in partnership with Pennsylvania Civil War 150, 2013, paper, 239 pages, $29.95), contends, “In various ways African Americans have been fighting for freedom for several...
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News

Ancestry.com Pennsylvania In an innovative partnership with Ancestry.com the Pennsylvania State Archives is making family history records available free of charge to Commonwealth residents. Ancestry.com began digitizing selected collections held by the State Archives that are of interest to genealogists four years ago. To date millions of pages have been digitized at no cost to the Pennsylvania...
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