In 1780, Pennsylvania was the first state to introduce anti-slavery laws. Although most of the northern states enacted similar laws in the late 18th century, southern politicians used the Constitution’s “Fugitive Slave Clause” (Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3) to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. The Constitutions states that, “no person held to service or labor” would be released from bondage in the event they escaped to a free state making it illegal for any citizen to harbor escaped slaves.
Often times it is assumed that because we are situated in the north our communities were on the right side of history. As easy as that narrative is to teach, it is not always the case. In fact, James Dill, son of Dillsburg’s founder Matthew Dill, is listed as owning three slaves in a tax record from 1781-83.
The letter above is addressed to Dr. George Shearer who practiced medicine in Dillsburg from 1825-1878. It’s advertising a reward of $100 for the return of Harriet Thompson who is believed to have escaped north with another woman. Harriet Thompson’s fate is unknown and her story was almost forgotten from our records. Our mission is “to inspire by connecting the lessons of the past to the challenges of today”. By listening and learning from forgotten and marginalized voices we can better our understanding of who we are as a community.
#BlackHistoryMonth #BlackHistory #Emancipation #Slavery #Dillsburg #DillsTavern