PA State Reps Introduce Transcontinental Underground Railroad Month

Transcontinental Underground Railroad MonthSubmitted Image

PENNSYLVANIA — State Reps. Christina Sappey, D-Chester, Donna Bullock, D-Phila., and Christopher Rabb, D-Phila., have introduced H.R. 229, recognizing September 2022 as “Transcontinental Underground Railroad Month” in Pennsylvania.

Sappey had introduced resolutions commemorating the month in previous legislative sessions and this year was joined by colleagues Bullock and Rabb. The language of the document was drafted with support from the Legislative Black Caucus and the House Equity Committee.

“The Underground Railroad is a significant freedom movement in American history and an integral component in the advancement of African Americans,” said Sappey. “I am proud to reintroduce this resolution and pay tribute to those who have taken great risks for freedom.”

The trans-Atlantic slave trade began as early as the 15th century, introducing a system of slavery that was commercialized, racialized and inherited. People were forcefully abducted from Africa, enslaved in the American colonies and exploited to work in the production of crops, such as tobacco and cotton.

During the era of slavery in the United States, the Underground Railroad served as a route to freedom for enslaved African Americans from throughout the United States, including Pennsylvania. While the Gradual Abolition Act was adopted by the Commonwealth in 1780, it required individuals who were slaves before 1780 to remain enslaved, allowing the practice to continue well into the 19th century.

A multitude of safehouses, hiding places and escape routes operated covertly throughout the state, and a multiracial network of Pennsylvanians risked their own freedom to help their compatriots escape bondage. Events and sites associated with the Underground Railroad can be found in every county in the Commonwealth.

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Sappey introduced the legislation because of freedom seekers frequent use of Chester County as a route north to free territories. Figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman passed through the region on multiple occasions while assisting others to freedom.

Today, the Kennett area serves as stops on the Harriet Tubman Byway and the Underground Railroad Freedom Trail, a network of designated sites, trails and roadways highlighting the historical significance of the region.

“It is essential that we recognize the impact of the Underground Railroad, as well as the inspirational efforts of the freedom seekers and abolitionists of Pennsylvania. This resolution will honor all those who have fought and continue to fight for their freedom,” Sappey said.

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