Robert Smalls

1839 - 1915

Years of working on ships around Charleston, South Carolina, paid off for Robert Smalls and twelve other enslaved people. On May 13, 1862, Smalls, his wife and two children, and twelve other slaves took over the Planter, a steamboat built to haul cotton.

Rev. John and Jean Rankin

This Presbyterian minister was one of the earliest voices in the country against slavery. Rankin's "Letters on Slavery" - written to his brother in Virginia - greatly influenced William Lloyd Garrison and many other abolitionists. Reverend Rankin severed ties with several religious congregations due to his vehement antislavery stand.

Margaret Garner

Enslaved with her four children on the Archibald Gaines farm in Boone County, Kentucky, Margaret and her husband, who was enslaved on a nearby farm, broke away one January night in 1856. Crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot, Margaret and her children went on to the home of a black man.

John Parker

1827 - 1900

Born enslaved in Virginia, Parker was sold away from his mother at age eight and forced to walk in a line of chained slaves from Virginia to Alabama. After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally bought his freedom with the money he earned doing extra work as a skilled craftsman.

Henry 'Box' Brown

Brown, enslaved in Richmond, Virginia, convinced Samuel A. Smith to nail a box shut around him, wrap five hickory hoops around the box, and ship it to a member of the Vigilance Committee in Philadelphia. The box was 2 feet 8 inches wide, 2 feet deep and 3 feet long.

Harriet Tubman

1822 - 1913

When, as a young child on a plantation in Eastern Maryland, Tubman tried to protect another slave, she suffered a head injury that led to sudden blackouts throughout her life. On her first escape, Tubman trekked through the woods at night, found shelter and aid from free Blacks and Quakers, and eventually reached freedom in Philadelphia to align with William Still and the Vigilance Committee.


A common thread running throughout the long story of abolition is the courageous individual standing up for freedom and justice. These heroes aren't all famous, wealthy or in high office. You don't even find them in every history book. They're everyday people, like you and me, from every corner of the globe who choose to demand freedom.


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