The Story of William Still on PBS

America’s PBS network will present the Underground Railroad: The William Still Story beginning Monday, February 6.  Check your local listings.

Beginning February 7 you can watch the program on line.  The link is listed below.

Quote by Dr. Bryan Walls:

Peter Still and Seth Concklin, as well as Harriet Tubman and William Still himself, underscore the deeper significance of the Underground Railroad freedom movement. It was about radical justice and equality for all. Blacks are equal to Whites, women are equal to men, and all races and faiths deserve freedom and mutual respect.

Instead of asking, “If I help the enslaved and oppressed what will happen to me?” Good Samaritans of that historical period turned the question around and asked, “If I do not help the enslaved and oppressed what will happen to them?” They have sent a message to us today about the importance of compassion, mutual respect, and reconciliation.

Peter Still was six years old when he was separated from his parents and siblings.  He held to the promise that one day he would be reunited with his family in Philadelphia.

He saved and eventually for $5000 he purchased his freedom from his master.  Leaving his wife and children behind with the promise of his return to get them, he headed to find his parents.  He met William Still and discovered that he was a younger brother.  The story appeared in the Philadelphia Freeman where Seth Concklin read about the Still Family.

Seth Concklin was a Quaker who vehemently opposed slavery. He volunteered to retrieve Peter’s family. He died in the process of rescuing Peter Still’s family from their Alabama master. He got them to Indiana where he felt they would be safe, but it was not to be.  Arrested and shackled Seth drowned in chains on the way to Alabama.

It has been the reality on this planet traversing the cosmos that there always been masters and slaves.  Sacred texts refer to the institution.  The history of nations is a sad commentary of the enslavement of men, women and children.

The slave trade of Africans to the British Empire was an evil unmatched in the annals of human progress on this earth.  People ripped from their villages, homes and families just because of their tribal association and skin color.

Today, glimpses of history tell the remarkable stories of the men and women who risked everything for freedom in a nation founded on the principles:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It would take decades for these words to apply to the black man.  These decades would be soiled with the blood of many people who sought this reality for all people of this nation. The revolutionary war will not end until all men, women and children in this country are free and equal.

Equality is not just a noble aspiration.  It is required of a great civilization to grant all of its citizens their unalienable rights and to protect and nourish those rights which are part of the cosmic order.


G. D. Williams       © 2012

Seth Concklin

While Concklin’s tragic death was a personal matter for William Still, the story had broader implications. Still believed the vicious attack on Concklin illustrated the depth of human depravity in the same way that Concklin’s effort represented the height of selfless sacrifice.

On one level, Still no doubt wished to memorialize a man of “noble and daring spirit,” while on another he wanted to acknowledge the white abolitionists who willingly risked their own lives to free the unjustly enslaved African-Americans.  SARAH SMITH DUCKSWORTH