Bella Vista, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

William Still

Recently discovered was the exact address of William and Letitia Still’s home at 625 South Delhi Street in Philadelphia. The house was placed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. Still has been described as second only to Harriet Tubman in the number of people he helped escape enslavement via the Underground Railroad.

William documented his work on the Underground Railroad in a journal, turned book, titled, “Still’s Underground RailRoad Records.” In it are many fascinating stories but the story of his mother’s escape to freedom is stirring. His father worked hard to purchase his own freedom. He then endeavored to help his wife and 4 children escape. They did but were eventually enslaved again by slave-hunters. Not to be deterred she planned and executed a second escape but this time with only two of her children leaving behind the two oldest.

As William, the youngest of 18 children, began helping more people escape enslavement he could have only imagined the following scenario. As he was questioning another weary traveler who, at the age of 50, purchased his freedom for $500. William would quickly learn that this man was his older brother Peter. Peter was totally unaware of William’s existence. Although Peter was now free he had to live with the knowledge that his wife and three children were still enslaved in Alabama.

William’s bravery is unquestioned. His desire to document the lives of those he assisted was transcendent. An action that, if discovered, would result in either enslavement or death for himself and those recorded in his journal.

PBS produced a video about William Still titled, “Underground Railroad: The William Still Story.”

William Still