Williams Parker (1821-1891)

Unsung Hero : William Parker
William Parker (1821 – 1891) was a former slave who escaped to Pennsylvania, where he became an abolitionist and anti-slavery activist. He was notable as a principal figure in the Christiana riot in 1851, also known as the Christiana Resistance. Inspired by the speeches of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, Parker encouraged members from the community to form a mutual protection society. Slave catchers would often come into the area seeking escaped slaves to return to their slaveholders. Parker and other members of the mutual protection society were well known for using whatever force necessary to prevent the recapture of blacks in the area. The christiana riot occurred on September 11, 1851 when a slaveholder from Maryland, Edward Gorsuch, came bearing a warrant to recover his slaves. Gorsuch had information that his slaves were at Parker’s farmhouse. Parker had received intelligence that Gorsuch, a federal marshal and others were on their way to his farmhouse. So when Gorsuch arrived, Parker and his cohorts were prepared. Eliza, Parker’s wife, sounded a horn alerting neighbors that slave catchers were out and that help was needed. Both sides were resolute in their determination to prevail, Parker convinced of the immorality of slavery and Gorsuch confident in the law and his right to own slaves. There are conflicting stories of why and how the shooting started but in the end Gorsuch was dead and his son severely wounded. Following the incident Parker and his family fled to Canada via the Underground Railroad where he continued his activism against slavery. He turned his attention to acquiring new skills in the fight to gain freedom and improve the race. Not able to read or write, he attended school in Buxton to become literate. Shortly thereafter he became the Kent County correspondent for the North Star, Frederick Douglass’ newspaper published in Rochester, New York. It promoted freedom, and the intellectual and moral improvement of blacks.

 

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