William Still: The Underground Railroad and the Angel at Philadelphia

Univ. of Notre Dame. Apr. 2021. 356p. ISBN 9780268200367. $35. BIOG
William Still (1821–1902), the famed abolitionist known as the “Angel of Philadelphia,” worked tirelessly from his Philadelphia home coordinating transportation, passing information, and raising funds to assist enslaved people in escaping. He coordinated efforts between the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, consisting primarily of white Quakers, and its Black-led Vigilance Committee, of which Still was the chairman. As part of his work, Still interviewed nearly a thousand formerly enslaved people, recording over 20 pieces of information (e.g., name, age, skin color, place of origin, mode of transport), with hopes that this rich database would help reunite separated families. In the first scholarly biography of Still, Kashatus (history, Luzerne County Community Coll.; Before Chappaquiddick) highlights the critical roles Still and other Black Americans played along the entire Underground Railroad, and the risks they took to aid enslaved people. A penetrating analysis of Still’s interviews reveals new and important insights into the enslaved people who made the journey into freedom.
VERDICT Based on extensive primary research, this biography adds a much-needed layer to existing scholarship about the era. An essential work that is a must-read for those interested in the Underground Railroad and Black history in the U.S.
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