Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Mon, 02/25/2013 - 12:00am - 1:00am

Pictured: William Still is reunited with his long-lost brother Peter who has been “sold down the river” after Still’s mother escaped to the North.

Credit: Courtesy of 90th Parallel Productions Ltd

The first generation of his family born free, abolitionist and historian William Still (1821-1902) was determined to get as many runaways as he could across the U.S. border to Canada.

The compelling story of one of the most important, yet largely unheralded heroes of the Underground Railroad, comes to life in the 60-minute documentary Underground Railroad: The William Still Story, airing Monday, February 25 at 12 a.m. (midnight of Sunday, February 24) on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). It also explores the major role Canada played in the complex humanitarian enterprise that helped deliver tens of thousands of men, women, and children from bondage.

William Still accepted delivery of transported crates containing human “cargo” and helped smuggle them to “Freedom’s Land.” Still risked everything to keep detailed records of individuals’ stories, eventually compiled into a book recognized as the most authentic account of the inner workings of the Underground Railroad and the plights of those who used it. 

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story uses these powerful diaries, evocative reenactments, historical perspectives and moving accounts from the day to re-create one of North America’s greatest sagas.  Scenes were shot on "living history" plantations in the South and in locations in Southern Ontario. 

After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, bounty hunters could legally abduct former slaves living in the so-called free northern states, but under the protection of the British, Canada provided sanctuary for fugitive slaves. While Still’s home base of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was on the front lines of the struggle over slavery, he considered Canada the ultimate destination for the fugitives he was helping liberate.