We have made several visits and interviewed many, many Rangers and historians at or about Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, PA. There are so many stories to be told about this seat of freedom and independence for the 13 colonies that became the United States that it's difficult to choose what to cull. But we're doing it with great deliberation for your enjoyment and enlightenment.
Sad notes to the freedoms declared: they did not include black African slaves, who continued to be "owned property" for more than another century. They did not include Native Americans who were pushed off of their lands, lost their honored resources and buried ancestors, and who were treated dishonorably and violently by the military and political powers across the land, in perhaps the most horrendous and ruthless genocide in the long history of humankind. What price freedom? For these peoples, a price too high to bear.
In November of 1775, the royal governor of Virginia, Lord John Dunmore, made this proclamation guaranteeing freedom to slaves and indentured servants; "...I hereby declare all indented [sic] servants, Negroes, or others free, that are able and willing to bear arms, they joining His Majesty's Troops..." We are preparing a Stories and Legends audio conversation segment with Prof. Gary Nash, Historian at UCLA Berkley, in which he discusses this and other oppressive measures heaped onto blacks in the colonies, and the infant U.S.
In another part of the conversation with Prof. Nash he offers us insight into two different groups that were formed around 1775 to assist slaves: The Pennsylvania Abolition Society, in which Benjamin Franklin played a prominent role, and the Free African Society of Philadelphia. Mutually exclusive, the former wrote their own proposed Constitution in 1787 and also adopted an aggressive strategy of litigation on behalf of free blacks; and they petitioned the Constitutional Convention delegates to prohibit the slave trade.
Several members of religious groups supported abolition, among them Unitarians, Wesleyan, Presbyterian and Quakers. At risk to their own safety and freedom, many of them actively aided runaway slaves