Characters

Glory Road

HARRIET TUBMAN

Harriet Tubman was active in helping hundreds of slaves to escape. She might well be called a second Joan of Arc. She would go fearlessly into the Slave States, talk with the slaves, tell them how to escape, direct them on the road, and thus during one visit would start numbers on their way to freedom.

Large sums of money were offered for her capture, but all in vain. She could elude patrols and pursuers with as much ease and unconcern as an eagle soars through the heavens. She “had faith in God;” always asked Him what to do, and to direct her, “which He always did,” she said. She would talk about “consulting with God,” or “asking of Him,” just as one would consult a friend upon matters of business.

After escaping from bondage herself, she set about assisting others. She brought away her brother, with his wife and several children and her aged parents from Virginia. She continued making these trips at intervals for several years.

When the Civil War broke out, she felt, as she said, that “the good Lord had come down to deliver her people, and she must go and help Him.” She went into Georgia and Florida, attached herself to the army, performed an incredible amount of labor as cook, laundress, and nurse, and still more as the leader of soldiers in scouting parties and raids. She seemed to know no fear, and scarcely ever fatigue. They called her their Moses. Because of the services she rendered, several Union officers testified that she was entitled to a pension from the Government.

NATHAN EVANS

The anti-slavery cause and the slave fleeing from bondage had no more staunch friend than Nathan Evans of Willistown, Chester County. Living in a conservative neighborhood, his labors in that vicinity in behalf of African-Americans had but few sympathizers. His honest opponents disparaged him; the bigoted decried him; but “like a firm rock that in mid-ocean braves the war of whirlwinds and the dash of waves”, he persevered.

He was a minister in the Society of Friends. His discourses were pure, earnest, solid and instructive, but he would introduce into them the subjects of slavery and temperance. These were not popular, and his persistence in speaking of them made him also unpopular. The Meeting admonished him to cease from bringing these subjects into his sermons. But he paid no heed, believing that people must be spoken to before they would learn. Even if the evil received the sanction of Government and was legalized by statutes, the church should exclaim against it, and the people be instructed to oppose it.

The opposition to him, however, was so strong that he was disowned from membership in the Meeting. But he continued to attend Meeting as before, took his accustomed seat and preached as usual.

JAMES LEWIS and JAMES T. DANNAKER

In the latter part of 1837, James Lewis, currier and tanner, in Marple Township, Delaware County, felt constrained to give his support to the anti-slavery movement. He was joined by James T. Dannaker, an intelligent, radical thinker then residing with him. Such was the opposition to this “new departure” of James Lewis that some of his customers withdrew their patronage.

Lewis soon found gathering around him new friends. Among these were the younger members of the Sellers families, in Upper Darby. They held private meetings at each others’ houses for counsel and encouragement. Finally, they decided to have a public meeting. After considerable effort, they obtained the use of Marple schoolhouse #1.

When the appointed time came the house was crowded with friends and foes, a large number being left outside. A gang came expressly to break up the meeting when anything should be said that they could use as a provocation.

The speaker, Thomas Earle, arrived and moved through the crowd to the platform. Earle said that he had come there to talk about slavery, but having heard on this way that there was some opposition, he proposed that James Lewis take the sense of the meeting whether or not he should speak. The vote was almost unanimous for him to proceed. He spoke nearly two hours. He pictured the life of the unrequited laborer, of families separated at the auction block. He brought this condition of servitude directly home to the hearts of his audience, remembering those who were in chains as bound with them. Among the first to take the speaker by the hand and thank him for the light and the instructions given were some of those who had come to disrupt the meeting. This meeting was followed by others, and by debates in different parts of Delaware and Chester Counties, which largely changed sentiment in favor of the abolition of slavery. James Lewis now became known as a firm and earnest abolitionist.

About the year 1839, Nathan Evans called on James Lewis to ask if he would make his place an intermediate station. This was agreed to, and James T. Dannaker accepted the position of “conductor” on that part of the route. Fugitives were sent to his place from West Chester, and from the western and southern parts of Chester County. Evans frequently said that a great calamity would yet befall this Nation if the sin of slavery continued to be upheld by the people, and sanctioned by the Government. His predictions, even to the details of the war and its consequences, soon came true.