THE REVERSE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
By the late 1700s the institution of slavery was declining in Delaware. A changing economy and the active efforts of Quakers and Methodists had led to the manumission of many slaves and dramatic growth of the state’s free black population. Though Congress outlawed importation of slaves in 1808, demand for slave labor in the expanding states of the Deep South continued to grow. A nefarious criminal element sought to fill this need by kidnapping free blacks for sale into slavery. Such was the case in Delaware, where countless numbers of innocent persons were abducted and sent to the South via secret networks operated by criminal gangs. The Abolition Society of Delaware worked tirelessly against the practice, and many brave men and women, both black and white, actively opposed the gangs. Among these was Wilmington resident Thomas Garrett, the legendary Underground Railroad conductor who dedicated his life to the abolition of slavery after the abduction of a woman employed by his family. Despite the efforts of Garrett and others, and the enactment of harsh punishments for kidnappers, Delaware’s black residents continued to live in fear for their safety until the Civil War.
This memorial is dedicated to the victims of this evil enterprise, and those who struggled against it.
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The Delaware Public Archives operates a historical markers program as part of its mandate. Markers are placed at historically significant locations and sites across the state. For more information on this program, please contact Kate Fair at (302) 744-5016