Underground Railroad exhibit in Dover extended to Dec. 7

August 20, 2014

The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has announced that the closing date for An Illegal Activity: The Underground Railroad in Delaware has been extended to Dec. 7.

The exhibit, on display at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dover, has been open since Oct. 16, 2013 and had been scheduled to close July 31. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday; and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 302-744-5055.

Planned and created by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Management Organization and the Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware, the exhibit explores the First State’s role in the pre-Civil War network of secret routes and safe houses used by black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause.

The exhibit explores the actions of a number of brave people who made principled decisions to follow their consciences rather than what they viewed as the unjust laws of the state and nation. Among them are Samuel D. Burris and Thomas Garrett.

A conductor on the Underground Railroad, Samuel D. Burris was the educated son of George Burris, a free black man. After an 1847 attempt to bring a young woman, Maria Matthews, out of Kent County to Pennsylvania, Burris was found guilty of aiding in the escape of a slave and was fined, sentenced to prison and thereafter sentenced to be sold into slavery.

After being purchased for $500 by Wilmington abolitionist Isaac S. Flint, he was taken to Philadelphia where he was reunited with his wife, children and friends. He continued to work for the abolitionist cause until his death in San Francisco in 1863.

Garrett was born Aug. 21, 1789 to a prominent Quaker family in Upper Darby, Pa. After moving to Wilmington, where he was an iron merchant, Garrett operated as the stationmaster on the last stop of the Underground Railroad in Delaware, collaborating with a number of noted conductors including Harriet Tubman and Samuel D. Burris. He is credited with helping over 2,500 fugitive slaves escape to freedom.

Housed in the Delaware Public Archives building adjacent to Legislative Hall, the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries serves as an entrance portal to Delaware's state capital and the historic city of Dover. The center offers easy highway access and plentiful parking. Visitor services include tours of the center's exhibits, and extensive information on local and statewide attractions, events and activities.