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William Parker (Bordewich, 2006)

Scholarship
Fegrus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement (New York: Amistad, 2006), 327.
Slave hunters also had to contend with a secret black militia led by William Parker, which mobilized on short notice to fend off slave hunters, and recovered kidnap victims, by force if necessary.  Parker, twenty-nine years old in 1851, was born a slave in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and had escaped to Pennsylvania in 1842 by following the railway tracks from Baltimore to York.  He had spent the intervening years working on farms in Lancaster County.  In 1843, he underwent a transformative experience at an abolitionist rally where he listened raptly to an oration by Frederick Douglass, whom he had known years earlier in Maryland as the simple slave Frederick Bailey.  "I was therefore not prepared for the progress he then showed," Parker later wrote.  "I listened with the intense satisfaction that only a refugee could feel."  Parker became a fighter in the tradition of Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner, although unlike them he operated in a free state and was supported by an interracial underground that recognized both his personal courage and his strategic skill.  He acknowledged no federal law. When a Quaker neighbor urged him and the other fugitives to quietly head for Canada, he replied that if the laws protected black men as they did whites, he too would be a pacifist.  "If a fight occurs, I want the whites to keep away," He told her.  "They have a country and may obey the laws.  But we have no country."

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How to Cite This Page: "William Parker (Bordewich, 2006)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19554.