Who was abolitionist William Still and what did the New York Times say about him in his obituary? It turns out that Still was a leader in the fight against slavery. The Times coverage of his death, from July 15, 1902, actually called him the “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Yet today he is almost totally obscure. Students seeking out information about Still can pretty easily discover information about his life with any typical Google search, but actually obtaining an image of the obituary itself would normally require using a subscription database, either direct from the New York Times or from a service such as ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available via the Dickinson College Library databases). However, the House Divided Project has posted a transcript of the obituary for anyone to see.
Still was important for many reasons, but foremost among them was his collection of records from the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. Nobody in the history of the Underground Railroad preserved more documents and better information about the operations of the fugitive aid network than William Still. That’s why some people in his lifetime considered him the “Father of the Underground Railroad.” Here are some digital links to his incredible documentary legacy:
- William Still, Underground Railroad (Porter & Coates, 1872) (Slavery & Abolition in the US, Dickinson College)
- Journal C, Station No. 2, Philadelphia Vigilance Committee Records (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
- Lesson Plans: Fugitive Slave Notices (Underground Railroad Digital Classroom)