Professor to discuss Patty Cannon Oct. 5 at Delaware Public Archives

September 25, 2013

In the early 19th century, Patty Cannon was the alleged leader of a notorious gang in Sussex County that was known for kidnapping possibly hundreds of free African-Americans for sale into slavery. Featured on an episode of the PBS series “History Detectives” and the subject of numerous fictional and nonfictional accounts, Cannon's life and the gang's exploits have become the stuff of legend.

Dr. Carol Wilson of Washington College will present a program at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Delaware Public Archives that will focus on the life of this infamous villain in Delaware history. Wilson will discuss the many archival sources that exist which have enabled her to sort fact from fabrication.

Equally important, Wilson will use the story of Patty Cannon to examine the way historical memory is created and changes over time, especially when the complex issues of border-state slavery, race, and gender are intertwined.

Wilson is the Arthur A. and Elizabeth R. Knapp Professor of American History at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. She has taught for more than 20 years and has served as chair of the history department. As a specialist in early national and antebellum African-American history, her work has centered around the boundaries of racial identity and status.

Wilson is the author of two books, "Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865," published in 1994, and "The Two Lives of Sally Miller: A Case of Racial Mistaken Identity in Antebellum New Orleans," published in 2007.

In 2012, Wilson worked as a consultant for an episode of the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?” in which actor Blair Underwood explored his ancestry. Wilson was also featured on the PBS program “History Detectives” in an episode on Patty Cannon.

The program is free to the public. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers, 302-744-5047 or email

For more information about the Delaware Public Archives, go to Become a follower of the Archives Facebook page at and read the Archives blog at

The Delaware Public Archives is at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. North in Dover. The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room is open to the public 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday to Friday. On the second Saturday of every month, the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.



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